Survey: Holidays Are 'Good Time to Sell'

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By Inman News

Most real estate professionals always advise sellers to list their homes during the holiday season rather than waiting, citing more serious buyers and less competition among properties, according to a recent survey from Realtor.com.

The property search site's Holiday Home Selling Survey gathered responses from 429 real estate professionals surveyed online between Oct. 26, 2011, and Nov. 8, 2011. The "holiday season" was defined as Nov. 23, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012.

Among respondents, 60 percent said they would always advise a seller to list a home during the holiday season and agreed that "it's a good time to sell," while 30 percent said they would sometimes advise it if the seller were motivated. Only 1 percent said they would never advise it because "selling during the holiday season is always a bad idea."

The vast majority of respondents, 79 percent, said more serious buyers were one of the biggest benefits of listing during the holidays, while 61 percent said less competition among homes was a plus. Only 17 percent said cold weather making homes look cozy was an advantage.

Indeed, 39 percent of respondents cited winter weather as one of the biggest challenges to putting a home on the market during the holidays. An equal share said buyer vacation and celebration schedules were a problem.

But the biggest challenge, noted by 63 percent of respondents, was keeping a home "open house ready," meaning clean and staged, during this time of year.

Selling a home during the holidays requires employing different strategies from selling a home during other times of the year, according to the survey.

More than eight out of 10 respondents said online listing photos were particularly crucial for homes listed during the holiday season. The main reasons cited were that buyers attend fewer open houses because of busy schedules or winter weather, while sellers also host fewer open houses during this time.

The majority of respondents, 74 percent, said pricing a home to sell was even more important during the holiday season, and 40 percent said staging a home was more important at this time of year. Nearly a third said being flexible with contract terms such as move-in dates and when closing costs were paid was more essential during the holidays.

The way a home is staged during this time of year is also significant, according to the survey. Almost all respondents said they advised sellers to put up some seasonal decorations, though there were differing opinions on the types of decorations.

A 37 percent plurality said homeowners should put up some nonreligious holiday decorations to make a home feel inviting, while 28 percent said sellers should put up all of their holiday decorations, including religious ones, to make their home feel festive, the survey said.

A similar share, 27 percent, said sellers should put up seasonal decor that is not suggestive of specific holidays, while 8 percent of respondents advised sellers to stage their home without any decorations at all.

Eighty percent of respondents said they encourage sellers to light their fireplace when staging a home during the holiday season, while 62 percent said they suggested sellers update outdoor lighting because the buyer is more likely to see the home at night due to shorter days.

Other popular staging advice for sellers included using winter-scented home fragrances before an open house, making the home feel more cozy through reading nooks and blankets on couches and beds, setting the table to showcase holiday entertaining, and playing seasonal music that is not specific to a particular holiday, the survey said.

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Survey: Holidays Are 'Good Time to Sell'

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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