The holiday season from November through January is often considered the worst time to put a home on the market. While the thought of selling your home during the winter months may dampen your holiday spirit, the season does have its advantages: holiday buyers tend to be more serious and competition is less fierce with fewer homes being actively marketed. Buyers can, and do, get serious during this busy time of year.
Buyers have more time to house-hunt. Some buyers purposely wait until their families are together for holiday vacations to start looking for a home.
There are fewer homes for sale. Lots of sellers take their homes off the market during the holidays, assuming no one will be buying at this time. But with serious buyers still out there and a lower inventory of homes, your home has a good chance of standing out.
Services are more available. Business slows down for real estate agents, lenders, home inspectors, appraisers and title companies during the holidays, so they all have more time to spend with clients.
Homes show better in the winter. Decked out in lights and garland, homes often look their best during the holiday months.
The holidays are stressful enough without having to think about staging and open houses, so if you’re not truly motivated to sell, it’s probably best to wait a few months. But if you absolutely have to sell, don’t be discouraged. A good agent can take the burden off of your shoulders, giving you more time to enjoy the season.
Try these tips to get buyers in the right spirit:
Price it to sell
No matter what time of year, a home that’s priced low for the market will make buyers feel merry. Rather than gradually making small price reductions, many real estate agents advise sellers to slash their prices before putting a home on the market.
Make curb appeal a top priority
When autumn rolls around and the trees start to lose their leaves, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important. Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice and leaves.
Clean, stage and clear the clutter
“Before you decorate, your house needs to be staged,” Powers says. If your living room is already piled high with clutter and tchotchkes, your ceramic reindeer collection is only going to add to the sense of overcrowding. A few decorations can stir the holiday spirit, but don’t feel obliged to hang every last ornament. “A lot of people, when they decorate, tend to use all the extra space in their house,” Powers says. “You still want each space to look as spacious as possible.” Limit yourself to a few hints of holiday flair, but stash the rest in the basement for now. If you start to miss your Santa figurines, just remember that with a little luck, you’ll be celebrating next year’s holidays in a new home. And you can decorate that place any way you please.
Give house hunters a place to escape from the cold
Make your home feel cozy and inviting during showings by cranking up the heat, playing soft classical music and offering homemade holiday treats. A few subtle touches like a bowl of pinecones, an evergreen wreath, or a pot of cider simmering on the stove can create a warm and festive feeling in your home. When you encourage buyers to spend more time in your home, you also give them more time to admire its best features.
Complement your palette
Before you start untangling your tinsel, make sure your holiday collection matches your current decor. If your living room is painted a soothing ocean-blue hue, skip the clashing red garland and opt for white snowflakes or a silver glass-ball wreath. If you’ve got an earthy color scheme, accent with rich tones like cranberries, forest greens and gold.
Accentuate the positive
Too many trimmings may distract buyers, but the right accessories can draw attention to your home’s best features. Dangle mistletoe in an arched doorway, or display your menorah on the ledge of a bay window; just don’t block a beautiful view with stick-on snowflake decals or clutter an elegant fireplace with personalized stockings.
Go light on lights
Step away from the inflatable snowman, Clark Griswold. One man’s “merry” is another man’s “tacky,” so tone down any garish light displays while your home is on the market. (No, your neighbors didn’t pay us to say that.) Instead, use simple string lighting to play up your home’s architecture or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard.
Be an equal-opportunity decorator
Leave the life-sized Nativity scene in storage this year, because overtly religious flourishes may be off-putting to some buyers. “You want to keep neutrality throughout, so you can attract any type of buyer,” Powers says. Not sure what qualifies? Powers adds, “No matter what your religion is, you’re not going to feel offended by a nutcracker.”
Mind the tree
A tall Christmas tree can help you show off your two-story great room, but make sure the wide base won’t overwhelm the floor space. If your living area is on the small side, save space with a skinny tree. Swap the gaudy heirloom ornaments and trim your tree in a cohesive theme such as icicle lights and silver tinsel, for example, or blue and gold glass balls.
Relax — the new year is just around the corner
The holidays are stressful enough with gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and relatives to entertain. Take a moment to remind yourself that if you don't sell now, there's always next year, which, luckily, is only a few days away.