You can try to avoid it, but at some point in your real estate career, it will happen: someone will ask you to list their home during the holidays. Don’t despair, though. There are ways to work around the inherent challenges of selling a home during that magical period between Thanksgiving and New Year.

  • Be proactive about planning for your holiday listing shoot: prepare for bad weather, take a walk in the photographer’s shoes and think long term for the photos and your clients.

You can try to avoid it, but at some point in your real estate career, it will happen: someone will ask you to list their home during the holidays. Don’t despair, though. There are ways to work around the inherent challenges of selling a home during that magical period between Thanksgiving and New Year.

You have to start, of course, with getting the home ready to go on the market — including getting ready for the listing shoot. That comes with its own specific set of challenges: working around your client’s holiday activities, avoiding photos that scream “listed at Christmas,” the unpredictability of the weather and more.

To ensure the best possible results, be proactive about planning for your shoot. Keep these tactics close at hand so you can get photos, video or 3-D content that grabs the attention of winter buyers.

Do: Make a foul-weather plan

At this time of year, especially in northern areas, snow and ice can interfere with the best-laid plans of agents and photographers.

Familiarize yourself ahead of time with your photographer’s weather policy, and monitor the weather before your shoot. Talk with your sellers, too, to make sure you are all on the same page regarding inclement weather.

If you proactively decide how you’re going to handle it, you’ll be less likely to make last-minute decisions, which often result in hefty cancellation fees.

Do: Allow extra time for staging and photography

Getting a property ready for market can be challenging any time, but the holidays can make it especially so. There are likely to be more people in the house, thanks to time off work, school breaks and visiting relatives.

Pets that normally live outdoors may have moved inside to avoid the cold. Plus, your clients are likely to be juggling a calendar full of special events and holiday preparations.

If you can, plan further ahead than usual for your staging and photography appointments. Ask your sellers whether it will be easier if you book the appointments back-to-back, so they only have to leave the house once.

And call your stager and photographer earlier in the process than you usually do, when it will be easier to get your first choice of date and time. This will also give your sellers some much-appreciated extra notice for getting everyone out of the house.

Do: Minimize decorations

Nothing dates a listing like holiday decorations in listing photos. Hopefully, the home will sell quickly, but if it is still on the market in February or March, evidence of a holiday debut will work against your ability to garner top dollar for your sellers.

Either book your listing shoot before the holidays, so your clients can decorate afterward or encourage them to keep decorations simple, tasteful and unobtrusive.

Do: Make sure the property is safe for the photographer

Many of the season’s usual features can be a safety hazard for photographers. Imagine trying to navigate around icy steps, piles of presents and wandering strings of lights while carrying a heavy (and very valuable) 3-D camera or DSLR rig.

Before the shoot, clear any ice or snow to give the photographer a clear approach to the house — and a clear shot of key exterior features.

Try walking through the house while staring at your phone, the way a photographer would have to navigate the space while staring at the camera.

Are you bumping into or tripping over anything? Do your best to make sure any obstacles are picked up or tucked into corners.

Do: Budget for extra editing

Depending on the norms of your local housing market or the value of the listing, it may not be acceptable to list the property with snowy exterior photos. At minimum, you may need to provide a couple of exteriors showing the home as it looks in fair weather.

There are two ways to deal with this: either have exteriors taken before snow falls or pony up for some photoshopping. If you take your own photos, you can send them to an affordable photo editing service for this.

If you use a pro, you’ll likely get a better rate on extra editing if you ask for it when you book the shoot (instead of tacking it on after the fact).

Don’t: Call your photographer at the last minute

Photographers take time off for the holidays, too, especially because the end of the year tends to be their slow season.

If you wait until the last minute to schedule your shoot, you may run up against limited availability.

Especially try to avoid booking right around the primary holidays: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Don’t: Do the minimum

Remember, the holidays tend to be busy at best — and chaotic and stressful at worst. Go into the situation prepared to be extra helpful, particularly when it comes to getting the home ready for the listing shoot and showings.

Consider providing a gift card to a local coffee shop so the sellers have a warm, comfortable place to wait during the listing shoot.

Arrive early before the shoot to help with tidying the holiday clutter, or give the gift of a cleaning service to help prep the home. Your clients will remember that you went the extra mile.

Don’t: Be a scrooge

Yes, you need to encourage the sellers to reduce their holiday décor, but don’t expect them to do away with it entirely. Especially because this is likely to be their last holiday season in their home, be respectful of any desire to continue with key holiday traditions.

Find a way to accommodate major holiday symbols such as a menorah or Christmas tree — maybe you can help the sellers find a smaller version that will fit on a side table or in the corner.

And ask your clients up front about their holiday schedule, so you can avoid booking the listing shoot at an inconvenient time.

Don’t: Leave breadcrumbs for burglars

Even outside the holiday season, plenty of sellers are sensitive about privacy. “Are burglars going to see all my stuff online and try to rob my house?” is a common concern.

Although this is unlikely to happen, it is wise to follow commonsense precautions. The holidays usually bring a surge in burglaries, and you don’t want to add motivation for a thief to visit your seller’s home.

So even if your sellers put out decorations, encourage them to keep presents and any packaging (the shipping box for a large-screen TV) out of sight the day of the listing shoot.

Holiday listings can be challenging, but they’re also an opportunity to display your professionalism. Your clients likely understand that this is a particularly difficult time to sell a home.

Make the process run smoothly for them, and they’ll be doubly impressed by your skill!

Kathryn Royster is the marketing director for HouseLens, Inc. You can follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathrynroyster. HouseLens is on Facebook.

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