Myth vs Reality: Selling a Home During the Holidays

Friday, December 16th, 2011


Is it smart to sell your home during the holiday season in December and January?

It’s the slowest time of the year, and the number of house listings takes a steep dive. Last year in Metro Vancouver, for instance, both new listings and active home listings dropped by 43 per cent in December.

But’s survey of recent and future home buyers and sellers surprised us!

Despite the busyness of the season, despite cold weather and early darkness, despite fewer house listings, about two-thirds of our survey respondents said they would buy a home during December and January.

9 Tips for Holiday Home Sellers

It’s a common belief that December and January aren’t a good time to sell your home, but our first annual consumer survey found that buyers in the Lower Mainland don’t believe it. Over two-thirds of them see no problem in house hunting during the so-called down times of December and January. In fact, the majority think that’s a good time to buy… and that means a new opportunity for both sellers and Realtors.

Here are some seasonal strategies to make your home stand out in the December/January market.

Tip 1. Be prepared to negotiate

You’re going to be dealing with serious buyers. Many people who want to buy in December and January are aware that there are bargains out there. Consult with your Realtor to determine the ideal price for your home and make a plan for negotiating to reach it. Initial lowball offers shouldn’t necessarily be rejected. They may be just a starting point.

Tip 2. Add curb appeal

How do the front and back yard look? It’s winter and the garden is sleeping, but can you make it look better with pots of attractive winter-hardy plants? If you’re planning on selling, it’s probably worth the investment to hire people who can add curb appeal to your home.

Tip 3. Stage it and pare it down

This goes for any time you’re selling your home. Eliminate all clutter, remove personal touches — make your home as neutral as possible so buyers can imagine their own lives in your space. If you can’t bear to part with your personal decorations or clutter, hire a stager. Getting rid of stuff adds huge value to your home

Tip 4. Decorate with discretion

Much as we love to lay it on thick during the holidays, decorations equal clutter, and clutter is a bad thing at an open house (see Tip 3). Instead of decking the halls to the hilt, just put up a few dramatic but simple decorations.

Tip 5. Go with nature

Avoid overtly religious seasonal decorations during the holidays. The Lower Mainland is home to so many cultures. House hunters have their own religious and cultural ideas. In our multicultural region, you’re best to decorate with a nature theme: evergreens, rosemary branches, candles, berries, pinecones, lights. A few dramatic sprays or a small tree are festive without being overbearing.

Tip 6.  Don’t block anything

House hunters want to see everything, so don’t use holiday decorations to hide some flaw. Cracks, mould, water stains, whatever.. it’s better to fix them than hide them. Otherwise, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, they’ll come back to haunt you.

Tip 7. Make it smell delicious

This is the season when you can really appeal to the most primal sense: smell. For open houses, simmer a big pot of some kind of punch with apple and spices on the stove to make the space smell like everyone’s best memories. Or bake some special cookies just before you leave.

Tip 8. Keep it minimal

You’re busy, your Realtor is busy, everybody’s busy — you can get away with just a couple of open houses during the holiday season. There are interested buyers out there. They’ll come because they’re serious.

Tip 9. Gift wrap your home with a great online listing

Buyers will be doing much of their house hunting online, so work with your Realtor to make your listing really sell your home. Remove all clutter from areas being photographed, and use throw pillows or other small decorative accents to add drama. Include lots of photos — even a virtual tour — so viewers can get a real sense of your home. Include a couple of summer photos so people can see what the garden looks like at its best. In the listing itself, include key words that people will use in their online search, including the neighbourhood, the schools nearby, and the style of home. Use these more than once so the search engines will give your listing a better position in the search results. Finally, check the copy for spelling and grammar so it looks professional.

The Internet makes house hunting a lot easier, no matter what the season. No need to slog around checking out dozens of homes when you can eliminate the non-contenders while sitting in your La-Z-Boy with your iPad in your lap. And that’s changing the conventional wisdom about buying during the busy holiday season.’s Ian Martin discusses the survey with Simi Sara on CKNW 

Looks like taking a house off the market during December and January is one holiday tradition that can be forgotten.

© 2011 REW. All rights reserved.

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