The best time to sell a house is in the spring, according to conventional wisdom. Flowers are blooming, the trees are filled with leaves and buyers have plenty of time to decide on a house and then get settled into a new home before a school year starts.
But what happens if you want to sell your home in late fall or winter?
Not to worry, says Margaret Rome, broker and owner of Home Rome Realty in Baltimore. “The time to list your house is when you both you and the house are ready,” she says. “The calendar should not be the deciding factor.”
In fact, she is ready to rewrite what she sees as the myth of the month and declare her favorite time to sell as late October and into November. Think about your own family, she says. “From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, that’s when families get together. You sit around the table together. You start thinking you need a bigger place when you’re all together.”
Or conversely, a seller thinks it’s time for to downsize and let someone else host the holidays, Rome says.
For those sellers, the market is theirs because there is not much inventory. At the same time, holiday home buyers are “serious buyers,” she says. They may be shopping this time of year because of a work relocation or because their business is slower at the end of the year and this is when they have enough time to look.
“There’s not a month in the year when I don’t sell,” Rome says. “There’s not a holiday I haven’t sold on either, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s to Passover to Fourth of July.”
But there are some practical tips to keep in mind for a house on the late fall/winter market, says real estate agent Barbara Cox with the Baltimore-based O’Conor & Mooney. Make sure sidewalks and porches are frequently cleared of snow. If you have already moved away, hire someone to keep your walkways snow-free. Winterize your house or — while this may sound obvious — keep the heat on.
“Your house needs to be comfortable, because people want to picture themselves in your house,” Cox says. “You want it to be warm and welcoming.”
Her colleague David Curtin agrees, adding that people buy houses for aspirational reasons. For instance, they have a new job or are starting a family, so seeing a house around the holidays gives them a chance to ponder what it would be like to cook big family meals there or throw a New Year’s Eve party in that space.
“When are you happiest in your house?” he asks. With holiday energy, “everyone’s house looks good.”
Buyers who are trading up from a first house are looking for “their perfect home.” If that house goes on the market on Dec. 24, they will visit on Dec. 26, Curtin says.
“There’s never a bad time to sell a good house,” he says.
Missy Conway, broker owner at Conway Real Estate, also advises sellers to decorate for the holidays they celebrate if selling their house in December.
“I think it would be weird for a house to be devoid of any holiday decoration,” she says, adding that less is more, of course. “No blow-up reindeer on the front lawn.”
Like the other agents, she agrees that the big advantage to selling around the holidays is that “if you must sell, you will have very little competition.”