Selling Your Home? Buyers Don't Hibernate in January Anymore

woman in winter clothes holding keys to the house
Aleksandra Gigowska/Getty

By Brendon DeSimone

Thousands of homeowners speak to real estate agents this time of year to consider their sale options -- typically for the spring. It takes a few months for the agent and seller to plan and prep to list the home, so starting now makes sense.

Over the years, I've asked sellers if they would consider listing their home in January, right after the first of the year. At first, they look at me like I'm crazy. "Who sells a home in the dead of winter?" they ask.

As it turns out, many sellers not only successfully make it happen, but actually end up better off. Here's why.

Buyers Are Out 24/7/365

In the past, buyers waited for spring to start their shopping because that's when the majority of listings hit the market for the spring selling season.

Today's buyers look at listings all day, every day. They have apps on their phone, get listings texted and emailed to them, and don't care about the time of year.

They're looking for inventory and will buy homes well before the spring. List your home in January, and you will have a captive audience.

Bonuses, Inheritances and Tax Implications

Each year, real estate agents' phones ring come January. Previously active buyers want to re-engage, and new buyers come out of the woodwork. What causes this yearly phenomenon?

The end of the year often brings family events, financial activities and discussions about gifting for tax implications. Conversations about inheritances and taxes, money and homeownership seem to occur at many families' holiday dinners.

Additionally, at year's end, people take stock of their incomes, find out about work bonuses, and start thinking about whether they want to spend another year renting. Buyers start to take a second look at the tax implications of homeownership, too.

Whether it's a new buyer who moves quickly or a previously active buyer who re-engages, these house hunters are around in January and will look at your home if it's for sale.

Where's the Competition?

Typical sellers wait until spring to list. There's no doubt that grass, blooming flowers, and a spotlight on outdoor areas make houses more inviting.

But that also means there might be two or three similar houses for sale in your neighborhood or school district in the same price range. That changes the supply-and-demand balance.

You're better off being the only game in town when it's time to sell. The more homes on the market, the more the buyers spread out.

Buyers shopping in January understand that the home won't show as well as it does in the spring and summer months. Many of them don't care. Having photos of your home during these times of year will help them envision it in the warmer seasons.

If you're a flexible seller -- meaning that you aren't under any time restrictions or time frames to sell, and your home is already in showing condition -- consider listing in mid-to-late January. You can always control and negotiate your closing deadline with a buyer. If someone falls in love with the home, they may not mind waiting until April to close.

Also, many buyers have been at it for many months (sometimes years). So, come January, they are tired of Sunday open houses and the hunt for a home. This is your target buyer and, in part, those buyers are why it's better to list in January than to wait until spring.

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

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