As we head into the last month of the year, sellers usually wonder if they should take their home off the market for the holidays. While no one has a crystal ball, there are many good reasons to consider leaving your home on the market until it sells.

Granted, there will be fewer buyers looking for homes in December than there are during the spring and summer months. However, those buyers who are looking to buy a home during the winter months are often serious buyers and not casual lookers. And, it only takes one good buyer to achieve a sale.

There will also be less competition from other home sellers. By the end of the year, many sellers who have been unable to sell simply give up and take their homes off the market. Less competition increases the odds of a sale for sellers whose homes are on the market.

Interest rates are another factor that could work in your favor. Interest rates were tame during the September and October, which was the opposite of what was expected.

Most economic forecasters thought earlier this year that fixed rate mortgages would increase to 7.5 percent by the fourth quarter of 2004, but this has not come to pass. In fact, as short terms rates increased during September and October, long terms rates actually decreased. In mid-October, the interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages was well under 6 percent.

When interest rates are low, and there seems to be no threat that rates will rise quickly, buyers tend to become complacent. They don’t feel pressure to buy now. But, if rates start an upward climb again as they did earlier this year, we could see a spurt in home sales. When this happens, homes that are listed for sale, particularly in a market that’s low on inventory, tend to benefit. It’s difficult to time the market, so the way to take advantage of a surge of activity is to have your home on the market.

Some sellers think that their chances of a good sale will be better in the spring. But there’s no guarantee that next year’s market will be better than this year’s. We’re winding up one of the best years for home sales on record.

Forecasters are mixed on how next year will compare. The range of opinions varies from a somewhat slower market next year to a flat market. A lot will depend on the overall economic condition and on the direction of interest rates. If rates spike, home sale activity will wane. If you wait until next spring to bring your home back on the market, you’ll surely face more competition and possibly a softer market.

Another argument against keeping your house on the market during the holidays is that it’s darn inconvenient. You may have houseguests, parties and sundry other commitments. Keeping your house ready for showing, and abiding the interruptions could add to an already hectic schedule.

HOME SELLER TIP: One way to minimize the disruption of having your home shown during the holidays is to set up a modified showing procedure. Rather than have a lockbox attached to your front door knob, ask your real estate agent to remove the lockbox and leave it with you. After an agent has made an appointment to show your home, you can leave the lockbox in a suitable place, like on the front porch. This gives you more control over the showing process.

THE CLOSING: There’s no way to know when the right buyer will come along, so it’s usually advisable to keep your home on the market until it sells. 

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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