Holiday home sale can work in seller’s favor

Slim inventory and low interest rates bring out the serious buyers

Year end seems like an odd time to sell your home. However, it has been a long time since we’ve seen a home sale market that approximated normal. So, I wouldn’t necessarily abide by the guidelines that applied to another time.

2011 was a lackluster year for the housing market. The spring and summer markets, usually a busy time for home sales, were sluggish. The market picked up in November 2011. Many sellers who chose to sell then had a successful result.

Several factors contributed to this. Interest rates were low. The bad global news — the catastrophic earthquake in Japan, Greece on the edge of bankruptcy, problems in the eurozone, and a stuck-in-the-mud unemployment rate — had been absorbed and digested by consumers. Buyers began to believe that home prices were bottoming; there were years’ worth of pent-up demand.

Sellers in some areas who sold at the end of last year presented their homes well and priced them right for the market. Some received multiple offers, although this didn’t always result in a higher price. Many were sold and closed by the end of the year.

The dynamic that contributed to this seemingly unusual phenomenon was a high demand from buyers who’d been waiting for years for the right time to buy and a paucity of homes listed for sale at that time.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Most sellers aren’t inclined to sell their homes during the late fall and winter months, so they wait until spring. But then they are confronted with more sellers bringing their homes on the market. Buyers have a choice. You aren’t the only game in town.

Some sellers worry about the holidays. If you travel during the holidays, this might be a perfect time to have your house on the market. You won’t be inconvenienced by showing activity and open houses.

Sellers who are home for the holidays can ask their agent to remove the lockbox and have showings made by appointment through their listing agent.

The showing activity will be slower during the holidays, but the buyers who are looking are serious. Sometimes, buyers who have been transferred will take the opportunity of time off over the holidays to go house hunting.

The other alternative is to ask your agent to remove your home from the active market, but make sure the real estate agent community knows that the home is still for sale. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a good opportunity. The best bet is to keep your home actively listed. Most homes look festive and inviting at this time of year.

Depending on weather conditions, which can put a damper on showing activity, early in the year before the spring season is often a good time for sellers, particularly when interest rates are at historic lows, buyers are out in force and most sellers are waiting until April or May to bring their homes on the market.

Some sellers are inclined to wait until spring to sell because they think that the improved housing market will result in a higher sale price. There’s no way to know. Hopefully, prices will be higher then. But in most areas it will be only marginally higher.

The spring market is bound to have more inventory of homes for sale than we’re likely to see between November 2012 and March 2013. More homes for sale could dilute the buyer pool for your home. When your home is one of the few on the market, you have a better chance of a quick and profitable sale.

THE CLOSING: If you and your home are ready for sale, and the weather isn’t slowing the market down, go for it.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."

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