The winter holidays may be the busiest shopping season of the year, but that certainly doesn’t hold true for real estate – while the crowds flock to the mall, they’re much less likely to hit your open house.
Aspiring buyers tend to shelve their home searches as family time and vacations beckon, and some agents will say to avoid listing if you can. However, sometimes circumstances can’t be helped and a seller may find themselves with a December listing, and a time sensitive one at that.
But even if you have no choice but to list over the holidays, it doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. In fact, a perk of selling during the off-season is there’s less competition and inventory, meaning your home can really shine.
Here are some tips for making the best of your holiday season listing.
1) Target motivated buyers
There may be fewer home hunters this time of year, but those who are on the prowl are serious shoppers. They may be on a deadline to make their purchase, or want to score a savvy deal before the market heats up in the spring.
Appealing to the psychology of a motivated buyer goes a long way – they may be more willing to work with a seller who can offer a speedy closing and flexible terms to get the deal done. Discuss with your agent how your home can be best marketed to this buyer group, and what concessions you feel comfortable with should you receive an offer.
2) Confirm your agent clocks holiday hours
Speaking of your real estate agent, ensure you’re working with one who doesn’t mind logging hours during the holidays. Be upfront about your expectations when meeting prospective listing agents, and confirm they’ll be available to give you full service when you need them.
Some agents are willing to work during the holidays while others may intend to take time off, so it’s important to know they’ll be accessible should a buyer come knocking.
3) Be strategic with open house timing
While it may be obvious to avoid Christmas Eve or Day, don’t rule out a Boxing Day open house; your agent can market your home as a blockbuster deal to entice sale seekers and because it’s a statutory holiday in Ontario, you can take advantage of the brief daylight hours.
As well, the week immediately following New Year’s Day is often a mini buying boom, as buyers who held off over the holidays plunge back in.
4) Make the most of winter curb appeal
Winter sellers also face the challenge of less than delightful weather conditions; it can be hard for buyers to appreciate your home’s beautiful lawn if it’s brown or heaped under snow. A pop of colour on your porch or balcony, like a bright pot with small evergreen foliage, can break winter’s bland visual monotony.
Salt stains and ice can also mar your entry’s appearance (not to mention pose a safety hazard), so be sure to keep all walkways and stairs well-shoveled and clear. Protect your floors and avoid front hall clutter by offering hooks and waterproof mats so buyers can shrug off their outwear without hassle.
And just because your garden isn’t in commission doesn’t mean you can’t show it off – display your outdoor attributes in a photo album visitors can browse to get a better idea of what the property looks like in warmer months.
5) Be the shelter from the storm
Once your buyers are inside, your home should feel like a welcome respite from the cold. Get inspired with the Danish concept of hygge – which means all things cozy – when staging your home.
Foster a feeling of wellbeing with luxe plush or flannel throws, twinkling candles, and a cranked thermostat. Add extra flair with baked goodies and mulled cider (be sure to list any allergens) and buyers will associate your home with the warm and fuzzies. Have a fireplace? Ensure it’s crackling in all its glory when guests walk through the door.
6) Be tasteful with holiday decorations
Listing your home for sale doesn’t mean banning Santa from the premises, but go easy on the tinsel. Overly large trees, for instance, can make your living space look smaller so keep things scaled back with a few conservative, festive touches. Overtly religious symbols could make some buyers feel uncomfortable, and personal décor items such as kid’s crafts or handmade ornaments can look cluttered– it’s best to keep these boxed up for next year.
7) Work with a star
Regardless of the season, working with a knowledgeable and ethical listing agent is your best bet. They should be hands on with your selling strategy, including deciding on the most advantageous time to list your home.
Don’t be afraid to be picky when choosing your real estate professional – communicate your expectations with a prospective agent and discuss your needs at length before you sign a listing agreement to ensure you’re in the best hands during the holiday season.
Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of Zoocasa.com, a leading real estate resource that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse Toronto real estate listings, as well as the Hamilton real estate market, including detached homes, townhomes, and condos in Hamilton.