The temperature isn’t the only thing that cools down during the winter — home sales activity usually slows during the latter months of the year, leaving sellers with cold feet about their decision to list. However, not all is lost.
With some patience and strategic marketing, the perfect buyer could come down your client’s chimney just in time for Christmas. Here are some pros (and cons) to discuss with your seller before taking a listing off the market.
Pro: There’s potentially less competition from other sellers.
Don’t be discouraged by your sellers’ sudden lack of faith — there are plenty of other sellers who want to pull their homes off the market as well. Instead of allowing your seller to succumb to the trend, point out the opportunity in staying the course: less competition.
“Come spring, other sellers will flood the market and your home will be just another fish in a great big pond,” read a blog by financial advisor Dave Ramsey. “But right now, you’ve got a limited number of sellers on the market.”
“For perspective, 210,000 homes for sale dropped off the market from November to December in 2018,” Ramsey added. “If that pattern repeats this year, you’ll have 12 percent less competition on the market if you list your home during the winter.”
Pro: Wintertime buyers are usually more motivated to make a deal.
It’s easy to shop around when the weather is warm and pleasant, so it shows some serious grit when buyers are still hitting the pavement despite freezing temperatures.
“The people who are out there looking at homes during the holidays are serious buyers,” Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage managing broker TG Glazer told realtor.com in November. “And in areas where you have bad weather, these buyers are going to weather the storms—pun intended—to visit your property.”
New York City-based Douglas Elliman broker Lindsay Barton Barrett echoed Glazer’s sentiments, saying she’s closed plenty of deals during the holidays for clients who have flown to the city specifically to buy a home for their child or for themselves, and Thanksgiving or Christmas is the only time to do it.
“People make decisions in all different manners when they’re buying a home, but it is not infrequent to have family members involved in that process,” Barton Barrett said. “Because it’s the time that people are spending with family, it may be a time that people get focused on buying.”
Pro: You have an opportunity to play up holiday nostalgia with your staging.
The homebuying process is just as much an emotional decision as it is a practical one, and the holiday season offers a unique opportunity to help buyers imagine what their first holiday in your seller’s home could look like.
Beyond the normal to-dos of staging, such as making sure everything is tidy and well-lit, make sure your sellers simmer spices on the stove, hang garlands and lights, leave some freshly baked cookies on the kitchen counter, or even offer hand warmers as a parting gift.
“You want rooms to appear especially warm, cozy, and inviting,” Lyon Real Estate broker-associate Elizabeth Weintraub told The Balance. Make your living room romantic by placing two champagne glasses near a champagne bucket on the coffee table; toss afghans or throws across the arms of your sofa.”
“Hot apple cider and cocoa make great beverage choices,” Weintraub added. “Creamy soups and stews are delicious on a cold day; to avoid dealing with utensils, serve them in shooter glasses or paper cups. Otherwise, stick to finger foods.”
Con: Buyers are more apt to haggle on your listing price.
Just like there are fewer sellers to compete with, there are fewer buyers out making offers, which could give a buyer more leverage in their offer especially if your home has already been lingering on the market.
“Listings do drop by a couple percentage points, but it’s not a massive price cut,” Compass broker Owen Boller told Inman. “But, as the listing stays on the market longer, we do encourage a price reduction anyway.”
Boller’s estimate falls in line with an Attom Data Solutions analysis that revealed seller premiums are slashed from nearly 6 percent during peak homebuying season to 1.6 percent from October to December.
If your seller values selling quickly versus selling for the highest price, then keeping the listing on the market may be the best move. On the other hand, if they have a more flexible timeline, then pulling the home off the market could give you and the seller time to restrategize.
“It’s not an uncommon thing to do,” Barton Barrett said of re-listing during the spring.
The broker said re-listing in February or March gives sellers the opportunity to catch buyers who have a New Year’s resolution to buy a home, buyers who received a sizable bonus or raise over the holidays, or who are ready to move to a neighborhood with better schools and resources.
Furthermore, waiting a few months to re-list can give agents time to update the staging, commission new listing videos and photos, or urge sellers to make upgrades or repairs that could garner higher offers in the spring.
Con: You’re taking a big gamble with the closing process.
Between bank holidays and short-staffed mortgage and title teams, the closing process could take a little longer than normal. However, this situation can be mitigated or avoided altogether with some careful planning.
“This can be a wonderful time to be a buyer, so when you do write an offer be sure to make sure your deadlines do not end up on any big holidays, and give the lender and title company extra time since their offices might be a bit under staffed,” Live Urban Real Estate brokers Kelly Kozlowski and Susan Adams told Inman in a previous article.
However, Re/Max Executive Realty agent Bill Gassett told realtor.com there’s a chance that things could actually move faster: “I’ve seen from personal experience that because of the low volume of business, things move quicker with lenders.”
At the end of the day, Barton Barrett said there’s no perfect solution to this holiday selling dilemma as each seller has different needs and circumstances.
“I have to be honest, I think there are pros and cons [of a seller taking their home off the market],” she said. “I’m not a firm believer that you have to leave it on the market at all costs.”
She added, “When you’re selling an occupied home, you have to respect that your clients have real lives and they deserve to be able to enjoy the holidays the way they want to enjoy them.”