My good friend Owen Riess calls and says he’s doing a piece about whether or not I advise my clients to keep their homes listed over the holidays. I say let’s talk and the following is what he comes back with. I hope that you will find the information useful. As always, call me anytime because we make it happen, and you make it home. Roxie
by Owen Riess
Here come the holidays. Football is getting interesting, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I’m having a pre-holiday planning conversation with my family who says “not at our house this year, it’s listed for sale.” Which got me to thinking, how do other folks handle the holidays while trying to sell their homes?
I mean, there are cookies to bake, gatherings to host, presents to buy and that darn ‘to do’ list that appears out of nowhere as a magic never ending scroll from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. For many, the idea of keeping the home clean and presentable for potential buyers on top of all that seems daunting.
“Some clients don’t want to be unnecessarily interrupted during their holiday traditions,” said Roxie Robertson, a Realtor with RE/MAX Advantage Plus. “There’s enough going on with the holidays, I think it gets to the point where they are simply overloaded with so many things to do.”
Roxie goes on to say, “despite the higher levels of activity around home and family it’s not impossible to sell a home during this time. In fact, some real estate professionals look at it as an opportunity to separate themselves from the crowd.”
“You can either be in a big pool of sellers come the spring season because everyone is waiting for that,” Marcia McLean of RE/MAX Results said. “Or you can stand out and have fewer homes as competition during the holidays.”
Robertson agrees. One year she sold 12 houses during the month of December, including a property on Christmas Eve Day.
“A lot of agents don’t work in December, they just take time off,” McLean said. “But those who work can be very busy.”
Apparently, there are two specific demographics that show up in force in November and December to look at houses. Business executives traveling through the area who want to check out prospective places to relocate; and folks visiting relatives over the holidays who are considering returning to their roots. “They may be less serious buyers, but buyers nonetheless,” Robertson said of the latter group. “They will go out and look at homes as they consider the move back home.”
McLean, who has worked in real estate for six years, said there are several ways sellers can help their home take center stage during the holidays. For example, simply adding a wreath and some greenery at the front door can make a big difference in that ever important first impression.
“It puts people in a buying mood; it puts people in the holiday atmosphere,” McLean said. “That’s why they do that at department stores.”
If their home is a great place to entertain during the holidays, sellers can use that as a marketing point and invite agents and their clients to a holiday themed house. “Twilight opens are fun.” Robertson said. “You can have cookies, hot cider or sparkling water.” If there’s a piano in the house, Robertson recommends hiring a pianist to play holiday music during the event. And, since this is Minnesota, why not hire a barista to serve up piping hot eggnog lattes and other popular espresso drinks?
I asked McLean and Robertson for some holiday dos and don’ts for home sellers:
- Create warmth. “If you have a gas fireplace, make sure that’s on,” McLean said. “Even for showings, it creates a nice ambiance.”
- If the home is vacant, keep the thermostat set at a comfortable level. “Buyers won’t stay in a house if it’s cold,” Robertson said.
- Bring in the light. Winter days are short enough. Take advantage of all available natural light by keeping curtains pulled back during daytime showings. “Using soft incandescent light bulbs may not be as energy efficient as compact fluorescent, but they create a nicer, warmer look for a home,” Robertson said.
- If the home is vacant, use automatic timers on lamps inside the home, both for security reasons and to create a better curb appeal for potential buyers. Consider using solar walkway lights and a timer for the front porch light, as well. “There’s nothing worse when you’re trying to find an address and you can’t see it, or you’re walking up unfamiliar stairs in the dark, McLean said. “It just really needs to be light, bright, warm and inviting.”
- Accommodate appointments. After comparing your home with other listings in the same size and price range on the internet, a potential buyer has probably driven by and checked out your home from the curb. An interested buyer will want to schedule an appointment to view your home. It’s not likely they will want to wait for your out-of-town visitors to leave, or you to finish sewing costumes for the church’s Nativity play. “A lot of home owners will shut their house down during the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s, and potential buyers can’t get into their house,” McLean said. “And, when that happens, those buyers usually move on to other properties.”
- It can be a hassle to maintain a home’s presentation, especially during the holidays, but sellers should keep the big picture in mind, said home staging professional Chad Neiberger, owner of Ambiance at Home. “Maybe the best holiday gift we can get this year is a buyer,” he said.
- Overdo holiday décor. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another faith based holiday, prominently displayed menorahs, angels and other religious symbols can be a distraction for potential buyers.
“There’s a small percentage of the population who could possibly be offended by that, or might not share your belief,” Neiberger said. “But that being said, it’s the holiday season and most everybody understands that.” For those who can’t resist the urge to decorate for the holidays, he recommends concentrating all of that energy into a festive tree. “Make it a gorgeous tree, but then maybe ease up on everything else,” Neiberger explained. “Maybe this isn’t the year to put all the striped candy canes up and down the walk.”
- Add mess to your stress. Fresh Christmas trees and wreaths smell great and look beautiful, but they’re also high maintenance. “Go, perhaps, with a high-quality artificial tree or wreath to keep it fresh all the time.” McLean said. “And, you won’t have to worry about that unexpected showing when you haven’t vacuumed all day.”
- Let clutter creep in. The holiday season is a popular time for collectors to display their prized treasures. But, collections equal clutter. “Please keep your nutcracker collection safely packed for your new home.” Robertson said.
- Go overboard with holiday aromas. From candy cane hand soap to gingerbread candles, there are literally dozens of ways to bring the scent of the holiday into your home. But a potential buyer may not share your passion for pine, peppermint or the popular orange-clove-cinnamon trio. Not to mention how the competing scents from candles, room sprays, and potpourri mixes can overwhelm the sense of smell. It’s nice to have some attractive holiday scents in the house, but you don’t want to go overboard,” Robertson said. “People might think you’re trying to cover up things like pet odors.”
- Be a scrooge. With less competition during the holiday season, some might assume it’s easier to command a higher price on a property. But that probably won’t work, especially since home values have fallen in the last year. Price and presentation are the two main pillars in real estate, and that’s especially true for sellers who want to stay competitive during the holiday season, McLean said. “You have to have a compelling price,” she said. “If you are overpriced, it could be a long dark season.”
Find industry experts McLean, Neiberger and Robertson on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and follow their blogs on WordPress.
Owen Riess is a twenty-five year Twin-Cities mortgage industry veteran, freelance writer and published author.