If you've been active in the market for long, you know that the real estate pauses for no man, woman or life event. Nor does it pause for any season; while the market usually does a major slowdown around the winter holidays, the very most motivated buyers and sellers are still doing deals.Â If your home is currently listed for sale, here are some tips for showing - and selling - your home during the season of peace, love and joyous overeating/overspending!
1.Â Don't, if you don't have to. During the holidays, the pool of qualified and active buyers shrinks - dramatically.Â The cold, wet weather in some areas makes buyers hesitant to come out and view properties, and holiday travels cause others to put their house hunts on hold. Buyers also know that many sellers take their homes off the market during this period, so the forecast for receiving lowball offers is: highly likely. Taking your home off the market during the holidays and relisting it after New Year's holds the potential of exposing your home to a fresh set of buyers motivated by a fresh set of resolutions. Plus, many sellers simply don't want to deal with buyers' muddy feet and scheduling intrusion while they are at home on vacation or hosting holiday dinners or guests. (Note: Most of these issues are slightly less impactful in warm-weather climates.]
With that said, there are some advantages to having your home on the market at this time of year, too. Although there will be a larger pool of buyers out and active after the first of the year, the ones who are out in the wet and the cold right now tend to be really motivated to buy.Â Holiday house hunters usually fall into two camps: they either plain old need a place to live, fast, or they need to close escrow on their new home by year's end for tax reasons. Given that post-tax credit buyers have been characterized by an almost stunning lack of urgency, keeping your home on the market over the holidays is one way to try to capitalize on the urgency this season's motivated buyers face, due to their circumstances.
2.Â Ditch the holiday decor or make it meticulous.Â No Charlie Brown trees, people. Staging your home at its festive holiday best can truly backfire if your seasonal staging comes off as amateurish or overdone. if your living room is already small and your marble mantel is the main selling point, crowding the room with a massive arboreal masterpiece (i.e., big tree), piles of gifts, life-sized reindeer-and-sleigh set and covering the entire mantle with faux snow and stockings will do more harm to a prospective buyer's first impressions than good.Â Â
If you DO decide to decorate, rethink it as staging with some holiday cheer; this will help you follow the staging mandates of depersonalizing and decluttering your place. If you have a dining room, stage it for a holiday dinner - many a buyer has bought a whole house around their holiday dinner fantasies. Help them visualize their first Hanukah, Christmas or Kwanzaa hosted at their new home (psst - that's your home, in the vision).
But keep your holiday decor somewhat secular and ethnically neutral, if possible. Trees, garlands, lights and bulbs are great - but if I personally were selling my home during the holidays, I'd probably pack my family's nativity scenes away. You might not want your cherished family heirlooms exposed to the public, in the first place. And you definitely don't want to let your ethnic or religious stuff interfere with the buyers' ability to envision their own holidays in your home.
3.Â Set a few, clear "no show" dates and times. There is no faster way to lose a potential buyer than to make it difficult for their broker or agent to schedule a showing for your home. Sellers seem to forget that most often, buyer's brokers are scheduling multiple properties to be shown in a couple of hours'-long-showing - if the other 3 dozen homes for sale in your neighborhood are vacant or very easy to show, and yours has a bunch of random black out times or dates that the agent can't figure out without making multiple calls to your agent, who then has to call you and call the other agent back - geez, I'm exhausted just writing that!Â Imagine how tiring it is for buyer's brokers to do that on 5 or 6 properites per showing. This is an easy way to tip buyers toward a competing property.Â
By the same token, it's understandable that you may need to blackout showings on particular hoildays or times when you're hosting guests. So, rather than going through the drama and frustration of back-and-forth scheduling arrangements around your vacations and obligations, give your listing agent a couple of clear guidelines around holiday season showings (e.g., no showings on12/24, 12/25, 12/31 or 1/1) and ask your agent to include these dates in the confidential remarks for buyer's agents on MLS.Â The keyword here is "a couple" - keep these "no show" slots to an absolute minimum.Â If there are multiple, whole weeks or lots of half-day time slots during which you don't want your home shown, consider taking it off the market and relisting it in the New Year, rather than running the risk of getting bumped to the bottom of buyers' brokers' "show" lists.
4.Â Expect some inconvenience and irritation. Selling during the holidays can be rewarding, but smart sellers approach it knowing it won't always be fun. Go in with realistic expectations. Some buyer is highly likely to track rain, mud or snow into your house, at some point. If you're home for a long staycation, chances are good that someone will interrupt your Zen for a showing. It's even possible that some buyer will leave your front door open longer than you'd like, letting your expensively heated air seep into the great outdoors (on your dime). These things will happen, but the upside is that an uber-motivated buyer-to-be may also come see your place. Avoid the emotional rollercoaster and irritation by expecting these issues and chalking them up as par for the course. It might not hurt to flex your holiday shopping muscles to invest in a $50-ish hand-held carpet cleaner, either!Â Expectation + preparation eliminate irritation, I like to say. (Seriously - I made that up!)
5.Â Engage in safe, sensory staging.Â Holiday food smells ike spiced cider, pumpkin pie and baked appley/cinnamoney things are about as universally comforting as smells get. It certainly wouldn't hurt to do some sensory staging to create a sense of comfort and cheer.Â Also, remember that dreary winter weather can make even the loveliest house and showing take on a gray cast; counteract this by making sure your home is well-lighted and -heated.Â One thing, though - if your holiday home is a candle-lit home, make sure you leave no candles burning if you clear your family out for showings.
Agents:Â What holiday tips do YOU have for buyers or sellers this holiday season?
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