Expert Advice for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

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As the holiday season arrives, with its twinkling lights and festive cheer, you may be wondering if it’s the right time to sell your home. While selling during the holidays presents unique challenges, it can also offer unexpected advantages.

Waiting until the spring to put your house on the market can be a missed window of opportunity. While there are more listings in the spring and early summer, winter buyers are typically highly motivated to make an offer.

“Life events trigger someone to buy or sell,” says Rick Ruiz, a 21-year veteran Realtor® who sells homes 47% quicker than the average Las Vegas agent.

“Someone is having a baby, someone is getting married, getting a promotion; somebody is outgrowing their home or needs to downsize after retiring,” explains Ruiz. “Any life event that triggers someone to move happens year round and also during the holidays; it’s all about when somebody has the need and when that’s going to happen.”

Work with a Top Agent to Sell Your Home in Winter

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We dug into the research and tapped Ruiz for his insight about why it can make sense for owners to sell a home during the holidays, and how to position their sale for success.

Reduced inventory means less competition for sellers

Traditionally, the holidays have been a slower selling season than other times of the year such as spring and early summer. People in the Northeast take vacations to second homes in warmer climates. Others who aren’t in a hurry to sell opt out because they don’t want buyers and agents interrupting their holiday festivities or tracking mud, snow, and sleet throughout the house.

However, listing a home during winter can work to your advantage because competition is lower. It’s important to note that real estate has seasonal preferences that vary by region. For example, when you look at HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator, you’ll find that the best time to sell a house in Nashville, Tennessee is between October and December. However, if you own a home in San Diego, you’ll likely have more offers between March and June.

This doesn’t mean you can’t sell your house during the off-season in San Diego. If you position your house for success, you can find a buyer any time of year.

In winter, you typically see decreased activity in a four-season climate like the Northeast than you would in spring and early summer. However, buyers looking during the holidays tend to be serious and are ready and able to make an offer.

Who exactly are holiday buyers?

Buyers during the winter months are willing to take time out from holiday festivities and face icy roads, muddy walkways, and inclement weather to find that perfect home. The following buyers are likely who you’ll meet at showings around the holidays.

Buyers experiencing major life events

Important life events cause people to move at all times of the year, says Ruiz. Life events that spur buying or selling could be divorce, job relocation, or loss of a loved one. Other reasons include:

Millennials and single women

Two demographics of people that Ruiz has come across lately are millennials and single women. Statistics show there are more millennials than baby boomers, so that’s not unusual. “Millennials are starting to put their footprint on the market of homeownership, which is expected and well-celebrated,” says Ruiz. He’s seen all types of millennials, including childless couples and millennials with families.

But a factor in the market that wasn’t as expected, says Ruiz, is the purchase of homes by single women. “We’ve seen a rise in homeownership by single women.”

Buyers who want year-end tax breaks

Buyers who purchase a home by the year’s end can take advantage of 13 tax breaks. This makes buying a home during the holidays a sound financial decision. Tax incentives for winter home buyers include deductions and credits, including but not limited to the following:

  • Mortgage interest deductions: Buyers who are married filers can deduct a mortgage interest deduction of up to $750,000. Single filers, or married couples who file separately, may deduct up to $375,000 off the interest of a new home purchase.
  • Real estate tax: The IRS allows most homeowners to deduct their property taxes for the year.
  • Mortgage points deduction: Buyers can deduct their mortgage points in the year that they’re paid.
  • Home improvement tax credit: When a buyer takes out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), they can deduct the interest. However, the home improvements must add value to the home or be medically necessary to qualify for the credit.

Buyers who lost bidding wars in a hot market

Another type of buyer we’re seeing in winter is buyers who couldn’t compete in the post-pandemic housing boom. This buyer got pushed out of the bidding wars — perhaps because they didn’t have the capital for escalation clauses, appraisal gaps, or have the cash to compete with multiple offers.

“Those buyers who were at the back of the line before still want to be homeowners,” says Ruiz. “People who have been planning and saving for a long time don’t want to hesitate.”

Types of homes that sell well during winter (and those that don’t)

Detached single-family homes continue to be the type of home that sold the most going into winter at 79%, followed by townhouses or row houses at 8%, according to a November 2023 report by the National Association of Realtors. The report concluded that 87% of buyers purchased pre-owned homes while only 13% purchased new construction.

Consider waiting until the spring to sell your second home

During winter, you see a slow down with second home purchases such as vacation residences, says Ruiz. “This is the time that people are enjoying them; they travel to their beach houses and mountain cabins, so in winter, you don’t see a lot of those destination houses go on the market, ” says Ruiz. “Those tend to slow down during the winter and during the summer when they’re being utilized.”

Holiday pricing strategies

Selling your home during the holidays requires a strategic approach to pricing. This time of year can be less competitive, with fewer homes on the market, but also sees a smaller pool of potential buyers.

How you price your home any time of year will always depend on how other homes are selling on the market, says Ruiz.

The key is to strike a balance that reflects the seasonal market dynamics without undervaluing your property.

Understand the current market: During the holidays, markets can shift, and it’s important to adapt your strategy accordingly. A knowledgeable real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis (CMA) that takes into account recent sales of similar properties in your area.

Set a realistic price: Buyers available during this time are often serious and may be looking for a quick transaction. Setting a realistic, competitive price can attract these motivated buyers. Overpricing in the hope of haggling down can deter potential interest in an already limited buyer pool.

Consider seasonal adjustments: In some markets, home prices can soften during the winter months. Be prepared to make seasonal adjustments to your pricing strategy. This doesn’t mean a significant drop in your asking price but rather a realistic acknowledgment of the season’s impact on buyer behavior.

Highlight holiday appeal: If your home has features that shine during the holiday season, like an inviting fireplace, ample space for entertaining, or energy-efficient heating systems, make sure these are highlighted in your listing. These features can justify a stronger price point by enhancing the home’s appeal.

Be prepared to negotiate: The holiday season can bring out more serious negotiations. Buyers may expect a holiday deal, so be prepared to engage in some back-and-forth. However, know your limits and have a clear bottom line defined with your agent.

Staging, curb appeal, lighting, and safety tips

Staging and curb appeal can always give a home that extra polish and make it stand out from other homes on the market. In winter, you’ll also need to consider lighting because “no matter where you live, during wintertime it gets dark earlier, so lighting is a big deal,” says Ruiz. Ensure your walkways are illuminated, that you have easy-to-find light switches, and that your backyard has ample lighting.

Create an emotional connection with holiday decor

Implementing some holiday spirit into your decor around the holidays can help attract buyers. Even if you’re not festive, adding some decorative touches will make your home stand out on the market.

“What we do differently is encourage sellers to decorate,” Ruiz explains.

“When someone’s purchasing a home, they’re envisioning themselves in this home,” he adds. Buying a home is an emotional experience, so it’s a good idea to make your house warm and festive to resonate with people.

“In my experience of working with buyers over the last 20 years, people feel like a house has a soul, has a feeling, and has a way to connect with people, so we’re making it very homey,” he shares. “We’re putting the fireplace on during showings and decorating to make it feel very warm and inviting.”

Minimize clutter

During the holidays, you’ll likely have presents under the tree, as well as personal items, old pictures, and heirlooms. But it’s important, especially during the holidays, to reduce clutter.

“There’s a thin line between making your home look warm, homey, and festive and making it look like a Christmas flea market. Be strategic,” advises Ruiz.

Work with a top agent

Partnering with a top agent for your holiday sale can make the home selling process easier and smoother. Agents have more time to spend with you during the holidays and can advise you on how to position your home for a well-prepared, well-maintained, and well-presented home, says Ruiz.

“Fewer people sell during the holidays because kids are entrenched in the holidays and activities,” says Ruiz. “Even the busiest agents slow down and have more time and bandwidth to spend with clients.”

Holiday challenges that agents can help with

Clients count on agents to be their eyes and ears, says Ruiz. There are a number of things that a top agent can help with during the winter, including:

  • Schedule initial showings on weekends when there’s plenty of daylight to see the roofline, roof tiles, stucco, the exterior, and concrete.
  • Advise sellers on how to properly prepare their home for sale, which can include painting and repairs.
  • Recommend upgrades that increase home value.
  • Suggest servicing mechanical and plumbing systems, so they pass inspection.
  • Provide tips for curb appeal, including lighting, pressure washing decks, walkways, driveways, and the exterior walls.

Final thoughts on selling a home during the holidays

While selling a home during the holidays is not for everyone, for some sellers it makes perfect sense. From creating a warm and inviting atmosphere to timing your sale strategically, we’ve explored how to turn the festive season into a selling point for your property. With the right pricing strategy, holiday decor, staging, and curb appeal tips, you’re on your way to a successful sale.

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