Location, location, location may be the mantra of a successful real estate sale – but timing is a close second. Most real estate agents suggest listing your home for sale either in the spring or fall, when decent weather and a motivated buyer pool make for peak season in the housing market.
Selling your home in the winter – and especially during the holidays – is generally not recommended as cold weather, travel, and family time put most home searches on hold.
However, some sellers simply have no choice but to list in December and January, often prompted by changing life circumstances such as divorce or the need to relocate. But while it’s true winter sellers are often under tight time constraints, that doesn’t mean they need to sell short their listing expectations.
Here are five tips for selling your home successfully during the holidays.
Take Advantage of Less Competition
One of the perks of listing in the winter is – unlike in the spring market – you may be the only ‘for sale’ sign on the block. With fewer listings to go up against, your home can really shine in the eyes of an equally motivated buyer. Discuss targeting this specific buyer group with your real estate agent, and appeal to their psychology (those shopping this time of year are likely under similar time constraints). Being able to offer them a shorter closing timeline or being flexible on conditions can make all the difference.
Confirm Your Agent’s Availability
Speaking of your real estate agent, make sure they’ll actually be on the clock during the holiday season – after all, they’re people too, who may want to take a few days off during this festive time of year. If you require hands-on support and service even on statutory holidays, be very clear about this before you sign a buyer’s representation agreement. If your prospective agent won’t have the availability you need, ask if there’s someone else at their brokerage who will be on hand, or move on to another professional altogether.
Pick the Perfect Open House Time
A downfall of selling your home in the winter is the limited amount of sunlight – it’s hard to show off its best attributes when the sun sets before most people are out of the office. However, the holidays are the perfect time to take advantage of everyone’s time off and host your open house during daylight hours.
And while you should obviously avoid Christmas Eve and Day, Boxing Day can provide a great opportunity to welcome prospective buyers into your home – after all, everyone is already in the buying spirit and looking for a great deal! As well, the week immediately following New Year’s Eve often sees a sharp uptick in buying, as those who postponed their home purchase decide to jump back into the market.
Sorry Santa… You’re Not Invited
Not to sound like a complete scrooge, but when staging your home to sell it’s best to play up its best visual attributes… and that’s kind of hard to do when there’s a massive tree taking up most of your living room. This doesn’t mean you need to completely cast the holiday spirit out of your home, but scale it down for your visitors’ sake. For example, overtly religious decorations can be uncomfortable for some, while homemade crafts and ornaments can clutter a space and distract your prospective buyer.
Instead, focus on neutral décor items and furniture accented with cozy textures, such as plaid throws, candles, and strategically placed greenery. It’ll still lend a warm and fuzzy feeling to your home without covering up its selling points.
Do Your Holiday Homework
As with any time of year, it’s important to work closely with your agent to determine an effective selling price and strategy. Review comparable sold prices for similar homes in your neighbourhood (or units within your building if selling a condo), and discuss at length whether this is truly the best time to sell your home; if moving quickly is a necessity, another option could be leasing your home out to a renter for additional income until it’s a more advantageous time to list.
About the Author: Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of Zoocasa.com, a leading real estate resource that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse Toronto real estate listings, including Toronto townhouses, detached homes and condos.