Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays
Will Holiday Decorations Help or Hurt a Sale at Christmas?
Selling your home during the holidays is loaded with pros and cons, don't make any mistake about it. If you ask a real estate agent, "Should I keep my home on the market over the holidays?" an agent will tell you, "Yes, absolutely, because then you know buyers are serious." You know what I think about that? I'll cut to the chase. It's hogwash. If you don't really have to sell between Thanksgiving and New Year's, take your home off of the market, and enjoy some peace and quiet with your family.
Now, we can expect that hundreds of thousands of real estate agents want to argue. That's because real estate agents always want your home on the market, regardless of whether it's the right time to sell or not. Don't blame them for being blindsided. It's the way of the profession. If your home isn't on the market during the holidays, agents won't get a sale, and it's as simple as that.
Not to mention, you might decide to list with another agent if the listing is canceled. That's a real possibility for many agents, and it's a real fear.
On the other hand, some people really do need to sell over the holidays. And some buyers do need to buy a home during the Christmas season, for example, and they don't have any other alternative. But the fact remains there are not as many buyers in the market in December. Whether holiday season buyers are more "serious" than springtime buyers remains to be seen.
Reasons You Might Not Want to Sell Your Home Over the Holidays
- First time home buyers, not knowing any better, could think you are desperate. Buyers might try to negotiate.
- It's inconvenient during the holidays to always be ready for home showing at a moment's notice. Not everybody wants to keep the house spic and span when cooking, wrapping gifts, throwing parties.
- The offers you receive might be for less than list price, and you could receive a lowball offer.
- You're appealing to a much smaller inventory of buyers who have very 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.
Some sellers insist on leaving their homes on the market, regardless, and that's OK, too. The deciding factors depend on local custom, on what neighbors are doing and how real estate activity is viewed by others during the holiday season in your area. Every town is different. There are neighborhoods in California where, if you didn't spot plastic Santa Clauses tied to palm trees, you might never know it was Christmas.
Still, reduced inventory over the holidays generally means less competition. However, when the pool of buyers drops, the remaining balance of inventory might not make much difference. In parts of the country where it snows, buyers think twice about bundling up in heavy coats, boots and gloves to trudge through snow banks to go looking at homes when they'd rather be out shopping or staying at home in front of the fireplace.
Selling during the holidays tip: if you have a hard-to-sell home with drawbacks and defects, maybe a bad location, 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.
If You Plan on Selling Your Home During the Holidays
Back off on the decorations. Should you put out those blue and white candles and prominently display your menorah? What about hanging a wreath on your door or showcasing a Christmas tree in front of a window? What's overdoing it? What's not?
People carry biases and prejudices with them. Why give them more information than they need to know about you? By not decorating, you are protecting your privacy during home showings. You are also making your home feel more spacious without blocking pathways. When buyers enter your home, you want them to imagine putting their own furniture in each room, making it theirs, and they can't do that if your holiday decorations dominate the stage.
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 an agent I know from Massachusetts says, "the eye buys."
Holiday Decorating Compromises for Stubborn Sellers
If you decide you cannot live through a holiday seasons without decorating your home, at least keep the decorations to a minimum. Don't block or cover up important selling features such as fireplace mantels, stairs, stained-glass windows. Consider hiring a home stager to do home staging with the buyer in mind.
- Tone down the size of tree. In place of a 10-foot tree, try decorating a table-top, four-foot version.
- Stack wrapped presents in a closet or in one corner.
- Use more splashes of red than green because 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.
- Never leave candles burning unattended.
- 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 utensil.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.