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The Pros and Cons of Listing in Winter

House wrapped for the holidaysLet’s start by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

It looks like the  Thanksgiving holiday is a one-day event in real estate this year.  We have three listing appointments on Friday.  Why would you list a property for sale during the holiday season?  Why would you wait?  We’re not looking at interest rates or market conditions in this story.

For starters, buyers during the winter months are usually more serious as a group.  Running between a car and the front door in the pouring rain and dark to view a house with the heat turned off isn’t a lot of fun.  After a few houses it becomes a chore so its a clear indication that they are committed to finding a home.  It might as well be your home they find.

The decision should be easier with a vacant house.  A showing of a vacant property will not interrupt festivities or the half hour you had to wrap the presents while your kids are out with your spouse. You’ve got monthly holding cost regardless of whether the home is listed or not.  We do recommend keeping the heat at a comfortable level; not living temperature but at least warm enough where the buyer is likely to linger and not want to bolt for the car because it is warmer outside in the miserable weather than it is inside.  There also needs to be enough lighting that no one kills themselves trying to get to the front door so there are some extra utility costs involved during the winter months.  We’re considering  a seller owned sale, not a bank owned property. We want to stand out, not blend in with those properties.

As a seller in this market you’ve got to be willing to have your house shown when that call comes in and it might not be with that much notice. That can be a real pain.  I’m not saying that you have to stop the prep for your dinner party for 16 in three hours but you do need to work with the buyer’s agent to get them in the door.  Agents understand (at least deep inside) that your world does not revolve around them but they are also the bridge to connect you with the buyer so that you can move on with the next stage of your lives.  Working with them to get the buyer in is a lot more productive than blowing them off.

Try to “live in it like it is listed” for a week or two.  That means that each time you walk out the door the house is ready to show?  You don’t need to leave all the lights on or take the dog with you.  The idea is that you could run home, turn on the lights and pick up the dog without needing time to clean.  Try it.  If you’re like most of us it’s harder than it sounds and even harder during the holidays.  If you can’t do it you might want to wait until after the holidays.

During winter months buyers are more likely to overlook less than perfect landscaping.  If you have a stellar yard that blooms in the spring that’s a consideration.  If you have a yard that needs work you’re going to need to do a more through clean up in the spring than now.  Curb appeal matters more in the spring and summer.

With a vacant property, we usually recommend listing it as soon a s the property is ready to be on the market.  Real estate slows in winter but doesn’t stop.  People often have more time off or are in town for vacations during the holidays.  If you’re holding the property vacant and off the market you either have the utility costs to hold it safely or need to winterize.

If you live in the property you need to consider your lifestyle.  It is easier to step outside and go for a walk in the nicer weather months when you house is being shown.

An accurately priced and marketed home will sell at any time of year in any type of market.  If you are ready and committed to selling, go for it.  You might not be able to paint now but the price will reflect that.

There has to be some consideration to the fact that inventory is usually higher in the winter but that is usually not because the number of listings increases but the rate of sales decreases.  This in turn may result in more days on market.  Talk with us or your trusted real estate professional about what your goals are and make the decision that makes the most sense for you.

4 Comments on “The Pros and Cons of Listing in Winter

  1. What makes it a lazy season? If you are out looking at homes, at least in our climate, you’re not messing around for the fun of it.

  2. I would agree with you on some points, however in Baltimore the winter real estate season tends to be very slow. Sellers do not want to show their homes and buyer are generally not focused on moving. While you did point out the pros and cons…Would you list your home in the winter?

  3. Yes, I would list my home in the winter if my situation merited. We listed the last house we lived in Feb. 2. That’s winter by anyone’s standards.

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