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 that you should consider as you make your decision.
- 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, bunkering up 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 that 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 that you can prepare to be a respectful seller or otherwise mindful when talking shop.
Pros and Cons of Selling Your Home Over the Holidays
Much lower competition from other sellers
More time for showings
A less-busy agent
Harder to keep your home looking good
Fewer buyers looking
Holidays slow lenders down
Potentially harder to find an agent
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, and then be pleasantly surprised if not all of these negatives apply to you.
- Low offers: First-time home buyers, 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 feel that you always need 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 the 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 lenders down: 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.
Some sellers insist on leaving their home on the market through the holidays. That can work out great in some cases, but it all depends on factors such as local customs, what neighbors are doing, and how others in your area view real estate activity during the holiday season. Every town is different.
- Much lower competition: Reduced inventory over the holidays generally means less competition from other sellers. You may well 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.
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 feel 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. Furthermore, 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 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 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 four-foot version.
- Stack wrapped presents in one corner or a closet.
- Resist the urge to hang banners, and 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.