Although the Washington, D.C. area tends to be fairly transient, with people moving in and moving out throughout the year, there are also very clear seasonal changes in the real estate market, which are good predictors of sales price and time on market.

  • Timing is everything. Sellers want to make sure they list during the best months so their properties don't become "bargains."
  • The holidays are a great time to decorate, but if you're selling your home less is more: too many lights and holiday decor can turn off potential buyers.
  • Lighting matters. Unless you have a "smart home" make sure someone is there to flip the switch during the dark winter months.

Although the Washington, D.C. area tends to be fairly transient, with people moving in and moving out throughout the year, there are also very clear seasonal changes in the real estate market, which are good predictors of sales price and time on market.

In our area, the “best” market for sellers to maximize price and minimize days on market is from Super Bowl Sunday to Mother’s Day (so from the end of January to early May.) We often encourage our seller clients to be ahead of the market and hit the earlier side of that timeline when there is less competition from other sellers.

In the past, we have had amazingly good results with properties on the market in February, even during snow falls. Conversely, the hardest time to be a seller in the Washington, D.C. area is in the summer months and then again from mid-November until the end of January.

Here are three tips to weather the seasonal market shifts:

Wait and see!

Would-be sellers looking to remain in the area by either moving up or downsizing are now in a unique position. If they can afford to buy now and wait until February or March to sell, they may find that they can “buy low and sell high.” In a best case scenario, the replacement property could go under contract in December or January with a 60 day close, allowing that time to make the necessary property improvements on the current home.

If all goes as planned and there is a quick sell, the owner could end up with two properties for as little as 30 days. We have easily seen price fluctuations between the late fall market and the early spring market of 5 percent to 10 percent, which more than makes up for the carrying costs of two properties for a short period of time. Of course, not all sellers can quality to hold two properties — but for those who can, the opportunity is there in the Washington DC area and the “savings” are real.

Don’t “over-deck” the halls

For those who have homes on the market over the holidays, the best way to not become one of these “bargains” is to take advantage of the season. Holiday decorations, if not overdone, can make a home feel warmer.

Just remember that “less is more” when you’re a seller — so if you are putting up a Christmas tree or any other holiday ornament, you want to make sure that it doesn’t make the room feel small or cluttered. If it does, then it’s time to move out some of the other furniture.

Daylight matters

Given the time of year and the shortness of the days, lighting and heat become absolutely key. Someone should be at the house prior to a scheduled showing to make sure that all lights are turned on and that the interior temperature is comfortable. Of course, a “smart” house can do this on its own.

Housing inventory is typically at its lowest level over the holidays — so sellers who keep their homes on the market during this time period will be facing less competition. And buyers who enter the market during this time are normally very serious about making a purchase.

Gretchen Koitz is Principal at The Koitz Group.

Email Gretchen Koitz.

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