Should You List Your Home During the Holidays?

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winter home saleBy Brendon Desimone for Zillow

As the holidays approach, I'm always asked the same questions:
  • Should we keep our property on the real estate market or take it off?
  • Do we list now, wait until after the first of the year, or hold off until spring?
In the past, conventional wisdom said you shouldn't try to sell a home during the holidays. However, the old thinking doesn't really apply -- thanks to the Internet and hectic lifestyles, as well as traditional rules of supply and demand.

Whether to sell or not at the end of the year has to do with your particular situation and market. But in general, here's some real estate advice about why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Buyers are always looking for properties online.

Historically, potential homebuyers felt that the holidays were too hectic for home shopping. They were preoccupied with planning parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. Going out with a real estate agent to look at properties conflicted with a busy holiday schedule. This made perfect sense -- before the Internet, smart phones, and tablets came along.

Buying and selling seasons have changed as a result of instant, ubiquitous access to property listings. Someone who is serious today about buying real estate is always looking. They may check out the latest listings on their Zillow iPad app before bed or while waiting for their kid's soccer game to end.

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Our hectic lifestyles also play a role. Often, serious buyers are working hard and not shifting into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they're squeezing in work. They're already staying "on the grid," so why not continue monitoring the real estate listings in their area too?

The inventory - and the competition - is usually lighter during the holidays

Despite our always-on access to property listings today, there's still a lingering perception that the year-end holidays aren't a good time to list a home. Similarly, if your property has been sitting on the market for months, conventional wisdom says to give it a rest during the holidays. Given these factors, we end up seeing the inventory for good homes tighten up this time of year. But buyers are still out there looking at real estate and no doubt wishing there were more properties available.

If I have a seller who has been talking about selling, is truly motivated, is flexible on timing, and has a home that truly sparkles, I often suggest that they list right after Thanksgiving. There's still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kid's soccer game will be so excited to see something new and awesome hitting the market -- especially if there's a lack of good inventory in their area. Those motivated soccer moms and dads are the ones who'll take the time to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

Home been on the market too long? This could be a great time to lower the price or change your strategy

If your property has been sitting on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it -- no matter how great it is or how light the competition currently is.

In that scenario, it's time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a golden opportunity to shift course. Making a dramatic price reduction or overcoming some major obstacle that has been preventing the sale might be just the right thing to do this time of year. If you had lower offers early on but you weren't ready to accept them, or you keep hearing that there are issues with the way your property shows, this could be your chance to show the market that you're listening and serious about selling. The motivated buyers will notice you and take a look.

You even stand a chance of getting a sale closed before the end of the year; I've seen it happen. As always, before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent.

Don't want to be bothered during the holidays? List your property in January.

Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses, and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal-killer for some. If so, consider listing your property after New Year's Day.

Traditionally, we don't see much inventory coming on the market in January. It's cold in most places, and many sellers prefer to wait until the spring, a more conventional time to sell. As a result, we don't see much inventory in January. And yet, each January my phone rings with new buyers wanting to get into the market. Or I'll hear from on-the-fence buyers who may have lost interest earlier in the year and are now suddenly motivated again.

There's something about the beginning of a new year that galvanizes people. The motivation to buy could be due to year-end tax planning, with buyers seeing how much they owe and how owning a home could help. It could be because of New Year's resolutions to finally stop spending money on rentals and invest in property. Maybe a rich relative gave them money for a down payment. (Wouldn't that be nice?)

Whatever the motivation, for sellers it means one thing: There can be an increase in demand at a time when inventory is traditionally low -- resulting in less competition from other sellers. If you're motivated to sell your home, you'll have an even more "captive" audience in January.

Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor and real estate expert based in San Francisco and New York. He is a contributor to Zillow Blog, has collaborated on multiple real estate books and is often quoted by major media outlets. Follow Brendon on Twitter.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


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Should You List Your Home During the Holidays?

Home staging techniques can transform a ho-hum house into a buyer's dream, getting your property the attention and purchase price it deserves. Dress your home for real estate success with easy, low-cost projects you can accomplish in a few pre-sale weekends.

Grab a pad and pen--along with your digital camera or smartphone--and get outside for a buyer’s perspective of your home. The view from the curb often determines whether or not a shopper will even consider giving your home a closer look and any signs of neglect or clutter can instantly turn them away. Start your to-do list here, noting what needs to be cleaned up, repaired and repainted.

Next, head inside for a preview of what buyers will see during an agent’s open house. As you travel from room to room, try to step out of your usual traffic patterns and take note of the dominant features in each room. Plan touch-ups that will showcase your home in the best light.

A truly lived-in look is not a plus when it comes to selling a home, so clear away everyday clutter including paperwork, collections and personal photos. The buyer needs to be able to visualize themselves in the space, and they won’t be able to do that with constant reminders that you’re still very much in residence.

Rearrange furnishing schemes in every room by getting rid of worn pieces and items that make a space seem overstuffed. There should be enough furniture in place to suggest proper scale and capacity, but not so much that traffic flow is hindered and architectural features are obscured.

Every inch of your home should sparkle with the kind of clean that tells buyers the property is cared for and in tip-top shape. Remove corner cobwebs, keep windows squeaky clean and banish any odors resulting from pets, cooking, smoking and the like.

A bright-red living room may fire up your imagination, but soft, neutral paint colors will better serve the buyer. Replace patterned and boldly colored wall coverings with off-white paint, and install low-grade tan wall-to-wall carpet.

After you’ve cleaned, painted and repositioned furniture, carefully select the art and accessories you choose to replace in every room of the home. Remember the rule of threes to create pleasing, uncluttered groupings of items, and add welcoming vitality with a few thoughtfully placed plants. Stow away all personal items and limit wall decorations to fewer and larger pieces, including strategically placed mirrors that expand spaces and reflect your best assets.

Home shoppers consider the garage to be a major bonus space, so help yours live up to their expectations with a thorough cleaning and uncluttered view of work and storage areas.

Give your home’s interior and exterior details some TLC. Touch up trim, polish cabinetry, repair or replace inoperable hardware and secure handrails. Also add shine to light fixtures with a thorough cleaning and installation of brand new bulbs.

Get potential buyers in the door by creating a grand entry. A front door that’s energy efficient as well as beautiful makes a great impression, and polished hardware, a tidy new doormat and planters overflowing with colorful blooms complete the look. And don’t forget to trim the lawn and tend to landscape plantings, because these chores can bring you a different kind of green: according to the Professional Landcare Network, lush landscaping adds as much as 15 percent to the property value of a home.

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