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Selling Homes During the Holidays
The weather might be frightful, but the market is delightful for motivated agents.
By Heather R. Johnson
Has the local real estate market ground to a halt during the year-end holidays? It doesn’t have to be that way. While the competition is distracted by the holiday festivities, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate with successful closings. Although it may take some creative scheduling to balance personal commitments with showings, listing a home during the holidays can yield nice gifts for both REALTOR® and client alike.
Although the number of prospective buyers tends to diminish between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, those shopping for a home have purpose and often a deadline. “Buyers who look at this time of the year are serious,” says Aurora, Ohio-based REALTOR® Kathleen Novak, CRS, of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “Buyers, like all of us, are pulled in so many directions during the holiday season. You know when an appointment is made to show your house that the buyer is ready to move.”
Investors, people relocating for jobs, and international buyers ensure a year-round buying season. In addition, much of the U.S. population works longer hours and spends more time on their computers and smartphones. Prospective buyers may browse home listings while they shop for Christmas gifts.
Despite a motivated market, many clients still prefer to wait until February to sell. The resulting inventory shortage means less competition for holiday sellers. “Clients [sellers] who wait are missing a good opportunity,” says Southwest Florida-based REALTOR® Denny Grimes, CRS. “People who keep their hooks in the water benefit because there aren’t as many hooks.”
Ann Buchanan, CRS, a REALTOR® for Keller Williams based in middle Tennessee, says agents should price homes to sell during the holidays. “Homes don’t typically move as quickly in the winter, so if a client doesn’t have much time, price the home aggressively,” she says. “Price is the best marketing tool we have.”
JUST THE RIGHT SEASONING
Keep these tips in mind to win over holiday shoppers:
Grimes adds that accurate, if not aggressive, pricing alleviates the need for a second photo shoot. “Photos of the Christmas tree in July are not a good thing!” he says.
The spirit of the season may also ease negotiations. “If someone is difficult to work with most of the year, they will be less difficult during the holidays,” Grimes says with a laugh. “People will generally give you more grace and cooperation.”
Scheduling around holiday parties, family commitments and other seasonal obligations requires such cooperation. Buchanan discusses time commitments with her clients up front. “We know these are busy times for everyone, but clients do need to have their home ready to show, especially on the weekends,” she says.
Novak agrees. “I always tell clients to make themselves as available as possible,” she says.
“If there are times that they absolutely can’t show their home, we block them out.”
The darker winter months, however, naturally lend themselves to a lighter weekday schedule. “People don’t tend to look at houses after dark,” says Buchanan. “Usually I’ll suggest Saturdays and Sundays to my buyers. That way we don’t intrude on somebody’s after-work holiday party.”
Deck the Halls, but Not Too Much
Homeowners like to decorate for the holidays, and agents need not prevent them from doing so. “The decorations, the smell of cookies baking and the Christmas music, all appeal to the emotions,” says Novak.
“I give grace to owners with children and visiting grandchildren that have their home decorated, but a Christmas tree on November 1, or worse yet, in February, is unacceptable,” says Grimes. “The window of acceptance for less-celebrated holidays, such as Halloween and the Fourth of July, is far narrower.”
If a client goes overboard with the décor, an agent can tactfully ask them to tone it down. “What one person sees as decoration, an agent or prospective buyer might see as clutter,” says Novak. “Gently let the seller know that the person coming to see the house wants to picture it as their own, so maybe we need to tone down the collection of 500 Santa Clauses.”
Cookies for Clients
Although a jumbo, inflatable snowman on the front lawn may distract a prospective buyer, other holiday-themed touches can enhance an agent’s marketing plan. During the holidays, let your generosity shine. Cookies and hot chocolate can charm prospective buyers. Buchanan sometimes serves hot cider and creates themed marketing materials for a “Holiday Open House.”
“Traditional advertising is not as effective this time of year,” says Grimes. “Invest the money you would spend on a newspaper ad into a more personal one-on-one approach. Bake cookies for clients. Invite families to the office and let the kids sit on Santa’s lap. Let your customers know that you’re thinking of them, because you are.”
“The holidays are a time when agents can personally thank clients for their contributions for the year,” adds Novak. “They should also keep looking for new ones. Take your business cards along and talk about real estate at every party or event. The fourth quarter is the time to make sure the pipeline is filled for January and February.”
The year does not have to slow down at the end. With a motivated market and less competition, agents can celebrate the season with stellar sales. Because, as Novak says, “A house never looks better than when it’s dressed up for the holidays.”
Heather R. Johnson is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California.