When it comes to real estate, the ideal time to sell your home often falls in the spring months, or is it?
After all, many people hunker down during the winter months or are too busy with the holidays to think about purchasing a new home. And don't forget, people like to start shopping in the spring to make sure they are settled in their home before the start of a new school year.
On the other hand, some people do need to sell over the holidays, and some buyers have no alternative but to buy a home during the holidays. Whether or not it's best to keep your home on the market will come down to personal preference, but there are some benefits and drawbacks you should consider as you make your decision.
The best time to sell a house, by the numbers
Spring is typically thought of as the best time to sell a house since historically this is when most transactions occur and when homes sell the fastest. Seasonality impacts how supply and demand in the housing market change at different times of the year. Homes also tend to sell faster in the spring and summer months. The median days on market, which represents the median number of days a home is actively listed on the market before an offer is accepted, tends to be significantly longer in the winter.
But what if you can't wait until the weather warms up to get your house on the market? Have you ever considered putting your house up for sale around the holidays? It may not seem like the most ideal time, but it does have its benefits—provided you position your home in just the right way. Sure, you may not get in the middle of a bidding war, but you are going to deal with serious buyers who are ready to pull the trigger.
There’s Less Inventory
Conventional wisdom says people should wait until the spring to get the most from a home sale. After all, inventory normally picks up in the spring when the weather starts to get warmer. This often leads to price wars breaking out in coveted neighborhoods. A home in a great area with a lot of potential buyers can sit on the market for just a few weeks or, in some cases, even days.
But that doesn't mean people don't look—or buy—at other times of the year. In fact, there are plenty of homes listed around the holidays that may command more money, even if the inventory is limited. If you play your cards right, you may even be able to sell your home quicker than ones listed in the spring. One of the reasons is the lack of competition during the holidays. There are so many different reasons why people won’t list their houses just before or during the holidays—some don't want people tracking in snow and dirt during each showing while others just want to relegate the holidays to family time.
Whatever the reason, don't discount the holidays because serious buyers won't have an endless list of homes from which to choose so there's more time for them to focus on yours. Furthermore, the limited range of options available to a buyer means you may be able to command a higher asking price for your property. If you do your research, stage your home properly, and price it right, you could attract the perfect buyer and be on your way out the door into a brand new home.
Buyers Are More Serious
Most open houses take place during the spring and early summer. It isn't unusual to see people saunter into a property without a clear plan to buy. People often check out homes just for the sake of looking. After all, hitting open houses is a favorite pastime for many real estate interested buyers.
But if your house is up for sale in the winter and someone is looking at it, chances are that person is serious and is ready to pull the trigger. Anyone shopping for a new home around Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s is undoubtedly going to be a serious buyer—they aren’t going to spend their precious time around the holidays seeing how the other half lives. Putting your home on the market at this time of year and attracting a serious buyer can often result in a quicker sales process.
That Warm and Cozy Feeling
The holidays are often a time when people gather around fireplaces, have hot chocolate, and make nice smelling cakes and pies. Homeowners who put their houses up for sale during the winter months can stage their house to give off the comfy and homey vibe that appeals to many buyers. Some people may argue that showing a house in the winter is hard to do because there’s snow on the ground, the house is drafty, and the curb appeal is lacking.
But keeping the heat up, having a pie baking in the oven to give off a pleasant smell and keeping the sidewalk and driveway clear of snow and ice can boost a home’s appeal. Not to mention that buyers tend to be more emotional during the holidays and will make decisions based on the feeling a house conjures up. During the spring, there is a lot more foot traffic in homes that are up for sale. Buyers may not be able to do a thorough walk-through with so many distractions. Or they may feel uneasy about the number of people looking at it and can leave with a bad feeling about the home.
An Appealing Neighborhood
One of the staples of the holiday months, particularly around Christmas, is that many people adorn their homes with festive lights and decorations. That is also true of local communities where lit-up snowflakes and wreaths can be found on lamp poles up and down the main streets. People purchasing a home during that time may see the neighborhood in a different light—more festive and cheerful—and may be more willing to consider an area that they may have been on the fence about. Again, this is all about tugging on the heartstrings. People who buy during this time of year may be more prone to emotional purchases, so it bodes well if there's a lot of triggers that can reel them in from an emotional standpoint.Duty Calls
Another good reason is timing. The end of the year is typically the time when people get notified that they will be moving because of a job transfer, or perhaps another offer comes through from another company that's just too good to pass up. Those people are going to need a home sooner rather than later, and as a result, they'll be hunting for a new home during the holidays. These buyers can’t wait for the spring, which is why listing during the holidays can get the home sold and sold quickly.
End-of-Year Tax Breaks
Reducing the property tax bill may not be the main reason buyers purchase a new home, but it could be why serious buyers make a move during the holidays. That’s because buyers can deduct the mortgage interest, property taxes, and interest costs of the loan if a sale closes on or before December 31. The tax deductions can be significant and could prompt a buyer to move during the holidays instead of waiting until the spring.
The Bottom Line
Nobody wants their home to languish on the market nor do they want to have to lower their asking price. And while many fear that reality if they list their home during the holidays, this often that isn’t the case. When you sell your home during the holidays, you will face less competition, find more serious buyers, and may even be up for a quicker sales process. It also presents a unique opportunity to create a warm and cozy environment that you can’t present during the spring or summer months.
Drawbacks to Selling Your Home Over the Holidays
There are potential drawbacks to keeping your home on the market throughout the holiday season. Not all of them will apply to you, but it's best to be prepared for everything that could go wrong with a holiday home sale—then be pleasantly surprised when not all of these negatives apply to you.
- First-time home buyers, not knowing any better, could think you are desperate. Buyers might try to negotiate or give you a lowball offer.
- It's inconvenient during the holidays to always be ready for a home showing at a moment's notice. Not everybody wants to keep the house spic and span when cooking, wrapping gifts, and throwing parties.
- You're appealing to a much smaller inventory of buyers who have specific needs that your home might not match.
- It's almost impossible to close a financed transaction in December if the offer is received mid-month. Buyers who want to close after the New Year will probably make offers in January.
- If you remove your home from the market, it can return as a brand new listing in January, thereby drawing more traffic because it's fresh and exciting.
- Your agent might be on vacation in December and unavailable as the market moves into a seasonal slowdown. Other real estate professionals might be unavailable when you need them as well.
Benefits to Selling Your Home Over the Holidays
Some sellers insist on leaving their homes on the market through the holidays. This can work out great for sellers in some cases, but it all depends on factors like local customs, what neighbors are doing, and how real estate activity is viewed by others during the holiday season in your area. Every town is different.
Reduced inventory over the holidays generally means less competition. However, the pool of buyers also drops. In parts of the country where it snows, buyers may think twice about bundling up and trudging through the snow to go looking at homes, when they'd rather be gift shopping or staying at home in front of the fireplace. On the other hand, if you live in an area with a milder climate, buys could be undeterred, and you will only benefit from the lack of inventory on the market through the holidays.
If you have a hard-to-sell home with drawbacks and defects (like a bad location, for example), you might get shoved to the bottom of the showing list if you wait until spring to sell your home. There might be too many other much nicer homes for sale at that time. Your hard-to-sell home might rise to the top when there are fewer homes for sale over the holidays.
Scale Back the Holiday Decorations
If you decide to keep your home on the market, back off on the decorations. Too many decorations can be overwhelming and distracting. Don't make the mistake of thinking buyers will "see past it," because they can't. As agents sometimes say, "the eye buys."
Minimizing decorations will make your home feel more spacious and keep pathways clear. When buyers enter your home, you want them to imagine putting their furniture in each room, making it theirs, and they can't do that if your holiday decorations dominate the stage. Not to mention that, by avoiding excessive family pictures and personalized decorations, you are protecting your privacy during home showings.
Holiday Decorating Compromises for Stubborn Sellers
You don't have to altogether avoid putting up a Christmas tree, menorah, or any other seasonal displays, but you should aim to keep the decorations to a minimum. Here are some tips for sellers who can't resist the urge to decorate for the holidays:
- Don't block or cover up important selling features such as fireplace mantels, stairs, or stained-glass windows.
- Tone down the size of the tree, if you plan on getting one. In place of a 10-foot tree, try decorating a table-top, four-foot version.
- Stack wrapped presents in one corner or a closet.
- Use more splashes of red than green—red is an emotionally appealing color.
- Resist the urge to hang banners, and use greenery instead, such as evergreen or rosemary garlands.
- Display centerpieces made from pine cones or other wintry pieces of nature.
- Set a plate of cookies on the counter, next to festive paper napkins for guests.
- Simmer spicy apple cider on the stove, and set out cups and serving utensils.
- Consider hiring a home stager to do seasonal home staging with the buyer in mind.