No Home Sales for Xmas? Bah humbug!

Real estate Myth No. 1: Home sales are seasonal, and you don't have a prayer of Santa bringing you a buyer when everyone's busy celebrating the holidays.

While it's true that many families prefer to buy and settle into their new homes during the summer months -- all the better to get Junior settled into the new school --- it's an outright fallacy that people don't buy homes during the holidays.

The National Association of Realtors doesn't keep stats on how many offers are written on Christmas or New Year's Day, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that there is more than smooching going on under that mistletoe. In realty circles, it's known as the Christmas Miracle.

So ditch those long-held notions. "Seasonality is dead," says John R. Davidson, a Keller Williams Beverly Hills agent.

Davidson said he's seen a marked shift in the past few years, with buyers more willing to do business through the holidays.

On Christmas eve of 2006, Davidson recalls, he was summoned to the Hollywood Hills home of his clients, who were ready to make an offer on a $3 million house in Brentwood. When he arrived around 5 p.m., he found a family party, with some 40 revelers, in full swing.

Davidson and his clients sat down in the living room and wrote up the offer on a coffee table amid the clatter and chatter. Afterward, he joined them for dinner before heading home to his own family's celebration. The next week saw three rounds of counteroffers and a final deal inked on New Year's Eve. The sale closed 45 days later.

As it turns out, Davidson expects to be writing another offer this Christmas Eve, barring any last minute issues after the clients take a last peek at the home on Wednesday afternoon.

"When the right house comes along, people move on it -- whether it's a holiday or not," says Davidson. "Actually, it makes it more special to do it on a memorable day."

Agent Gracee Arthur of Ewing & Associates, Sotheby's International Realty, echoes the sentiment.

Several years ago, she had a listing on an unusual property: a round house with a large yard and ocean views perched on a Malibu cliff. Because of the home's unconventional shape, it was a hard sell with a $2 million price tag. The home had been on the market for almost a year, and the client made clear that he would yank the listing if it wasn't sold by Dec. 31.

"Then, on the day of my office Christmas party, the god of real estate smiled upon me," Arthur recalls. "I had nine showings on the property and after my last showing -- as I was rushing to leave -- a local couple asked if they could view the property. They had seen all the people coming and going and assumed that this was a really hot property."

"I showed them the house, told them my client was not flexible in price (as I was instructed) and then went to my office party -- an hour late, looking like a train wreck," she continued. "When I returned home that night, I had a message saying I was getting an offer!" The house sold for full price.

Whether you believe in holiday miracles or not, the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's is actually prime selling season in many ski resorts or Hawaiian vacation areas. Visitors are already there, spending money. Often, to rest their ski-weary knees or sun-burnt noses, they amuse themselves by looking at the local real estate. (And "just looking" can be a slippery slope.)

For ski areas, peak buying season is fall and winter -- holidays included. In the spring, ski trails are beginning to show rocks and dirt and mountain attendance tapers off. With fewer people coming, there are fewer lookers and fewer buyers.

So with that, we send good tidings to anxious home-sellers everywhere. There could be a Christmas Miracle for you yet.
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