Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

Will holiday decorations help or hurt a sale at Christmas?

Couple standing in front of a new home with agent. They are standing next to a for sale sign with a sold sticker.
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Selling your home during the holidays can be tricky. Your agent may recommend keeping your home on the market because "you'll know the buyers are serious." That may be true in some areas, but keep in mind that real estate agents always want your home on the market, regardless of whether it's the right time to sell or not. If your home isn't on the market, agents don't have the opportunity to make a sale. They could also worry that if you cancel a listing during the holidays, you might relist with a different agent in the new 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 winter. Whether it's best to keep your home on the market will come down to personal preference, but there are some benefits and drawbacks to consider as you make your decision.

Key Takeaways

  • The holiday season is not traditionally a lucrative time to sell a home, but it can work to your advantage if played right.
  • Holiday decorations can work against your home's appeal to potential buyers.
  • If you do decorate for the holidays, be sure not to obscure or overwhelm attractive and valuable features.

Housing Market Trends During the Holidays

Historically, home sales fall in the winter months. It makes sense, as people are traveling, hunkering down with family, or celebrating holidays. Most real estate agents are aware of that and can either fall into step with the market or work harder to combat the trend. If you do decide to sell your home over the holiday season, take note that it is a buyer's market, meaning there will likely be fewer offers on your home than during other times of year, and they may be lower.

Also worth noting is that while Christmas may be the most prominent holiday in the U.S., there are many others that follow religious practices or decorum. If you are entertaining potential buyers during the season, it may be worthwhile to learn about different holidays and practices so you can prepare to be a respectful seller or otherwise mindful when talking shop.

Pros and Cons of Selling Your Home Over the Holidays

Pros
  • Much lower competition from other sellers

  • Eager buyers

  • More time for showings

  • A less-busy agent

Cons
  • Low offers

  • Harder to keep your home looking good

  • Fewer buyers looking

  • Holidays slow lenders down

  • Potentially harder to find an agent

Pros Explained

  • Much lower competition: Reduced inventory over the holidays generally means less competition from other sellers. You may benefit from the lack of inventory on the market through the holidays.
  • Eager buyers: If someone is buying in the winter, it's probably because of a sudden change in their circumstances, such as a job change or moving to be near an ill family member. They're probably motivated to get the deal done quickly.
  • More time for showings: Many people take time off over the holidays, so you may find it easier to squeeze in showings during off-hours than you would during the summer, when everyone is working or taking vacations.
  • A less-busy agent: Fewer homes to sell means more time for your agent to dedicate to selling yours. If your agent isn't on vacation, they may have extra time to make sure you get the best offer for your home.

Cons Explained

  • Low offers: First-time homebuyers, not knowing any better, could think you are desperate. Buyers might try to negotiate or give you a lowball offer.
  • Harder to keep your home looking good: The holidays are an inconvenient time to 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, and outdoor curb appeal is much harder to achieve in the winter.
  • Fewer buyers looking: You're appealing to a much smaller list of buyers who have specific needs that your home might not match.
  • Holidays slow down lenders: It's almost impossible to close a financing 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.
  • An agent could be harder to come by: 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.

Scale Back the Holiday Decorations

If you decide to keep your home on the market, though, this is the year to back off on the decorations. Too many decorations can be overwhelming and distracting. Don't make the mistake of thinking that buyers will "see past it," because they can't.

Minimizing decorations will make your home appear more spacious and will keep pathways clear. When buyers enter your home, you want them to imagine putting their furniture in each room and making the place their own, and they can't do that if your holiday decorations dominate the stage. Further, by avoiding excessive family pictures and personalized decorations, you protect your privacy during home showings.

One popular saying among real estate agents is "The eye buys." That essentially means that first impressions and visual appeal can make or break a potential buyer's interest in your home.

Holiday Decorating Compromises

You don't have to completely avoid putting up a Christmas tree, menorah, or any other seasonal display, but you should aim to keep the decorations to a minimum. Here are some tips for winter home 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 or 4-foot version.
  • Stack wrapped presents in one corner or a closet.
  • Resist the urge to hang banners; use greenery instead, such as evergreen or rosemary garlands.
  • Display centerpieces made from pinecones 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.

Article Sources

  1. St. Louis Federal Reserve. "One New Family Houses Sold: United States."