A great tip on the Do's and Don'ts of Holiday Listings:
Listing and selling a house during the holidays is different from the rest of the year. Sellers’ lives are more chaotic when they’re focused on buying gifts, hosting parties, entertaining out-of-town family and friends, and, maybe, coping with bad weather.
In fact, many home owners’ first inclination is to take their house off the market until after the new year. Advise them not to go that direction.
In years past, the spring buying season kicked off in February; nowadays, buying takes place year-round.
“Anyone who’s willing to brave 16 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures during the Christmas and New Year’s season is serious, and I’d advise sellers to let them in,” says Jason Abrams, sales associate with Keller Williams in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Jennifer Schneider, broker-owner of AMSI Real Estate in Southern California sees the motivation from the sellers’ point of view as well. “I tell buyers that any sellers willing to open their house to strangers [during the holidays] are motivated,” she says.
Stephanie Mallios of Towne Realty Group in Short Hills, N.J., says it’s also a good time for buyers relocating from out of state to look at homes since they may have more vacation time to travel.
And yet one more reason to encourage sales during the holidays is that many lenders typically have less volume, so approvals may go faster, says Schneider.
Here are a baker’s dozen ideas for your sellers consider when it comes to the holidays. In the spirit of the season, recommend that they check the list twice!
1. It may be inconvenient to show a house with family and friends visiting, but if buyers can’t view a house, they may go elsewhere. Schneider suggests sellers provide a schedule of good days and times that show their flexibility.
2. Photos may need to be taken multiple times, which may be intrusive, yet essential. Images on a website or MLS listing can’t reflect holidays past: no pictures with Halloween pumpkins or Thanksgiving decor come Christmas, and after January 1, no signs of Christmas or Hanukkah, says Mallios.
3. Even though relatives and friends may visit and bring suitcases, gifts, and lots of stuff, sellers must still keep homes as neat as at other times. “If they host a big party one night, don’t show their house that day or the next,” says broker Cannon Christian with Renovation Realty in San Diego.
4. A house without any holiday decoration looks unfriendly to some, yet going overboard can be equally bad. What’s a good balance? Sellers should focus on a hotel lobby look, says Schneider, which can translate to a classy tree with limited ornaments, a wreath or two, some garlands, but not too much of anything. Excess may camouflage architectural features such as a beautiful mantel or banister. And definitely have sellers avoid over-the-top touches such as giant inflatable reindeer pulling a sled across a front lawn, says Mallios.
5. Tell sellers to put away excessive personal touches — family photos and holiday cards. Those make it tougher for buyers to imagine themselves in the house.
6. They should also be neutral when it comes to religious symbols — discreet signs are OK, but don’t put a giant manger or menorah on a front lawn, says Christian.
7. Even though it might seem Scrooge-like, have them curtail presents under a tree, especially small ones, which are easy to take. “Why tempt anyone?” says Schneider.
8. Minimize smells. Few buyers object to yummy odors of cookies baking, and having something for them to munch on offers the potential to get them to stay longer, says salesman Bill Golden with RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside in Atlanta. Too many fragrant candles or room sprays can be a turn off, especially when there’s a different smell in each room, Abrams says.
9. Since darkness settles in earlier during winter, be sure sellers use sufficient lighting to illuminate the exterior and For Sale signs, says Abrams. Advise that they use white lighting rather than Christmas red and green. Again, they should err on being conservative rather than mimic a shopping center look.
10. Remind sellers living in cold climates to shovel walks and driveways, have a place for boots and coats inside, and maybe offer slippers for cold feet. Although entering through a garage or back door and not the front is taboo at other times, during the holidays it offers a place to leave winter belongings, says Abrams. “Some home owners might even let them park a car in the garage,” he says.
11. Advise they avoid starting major construction projects before the holidays since they may not get finished on time, says Christian, also a contractor. “A quick remodeling change is different,” he says.
12. Suggest a nice token gift for sellers to give potential buyers, such as a holiday card with a candy cane that thanks them for taking the time to look. “It will be remembered as a great send-off at this time of year,” Abrams says.
13. The day after New Year’s Day, all decorations come down, Abrams says.
And to all, a happy and healthy holiday season, peace, and prosperity in the coming year.