Selling a home from November to January isn’t at the top of anyone’s holiday wish list. But a last-minute job transfer or the desire to get kids moved and settled mid-school year sometimes necessitates just that. While the mere thought of selling your home during the winter months may bring out your inner Scrooge, it has some distinct advantages.
Because some buyers take their homes off the market during the holidays, and others delay listing until spring, you won’t have to compete with dozens of other homes just like yours to get buyers’ attention. Reduced inventory means more buyers checking out your home.
Another pro is that anyone who takes time out of their hectic holiday schedule to go on showing appointments is probably serious about buying. Perhaps they are buying a home now for tax purposes or are relocating to start a new job in the new year. But whatever the reason, as a general rule, buyers who are on the hunt for a home during the holidays are motivated and ready to buy.
So how do you sell your house while decking the halls—without losing your holiday spirit? I give my clients a few tips that help keep the holidays merry and bright while maximizing their home’s potential.
Keep Décor Simple
Tasteful decorations and a minimum of clutter allow buyers to see their own families celebrating the holidays in your home next year. Think about your home’s best feature, and highlight it. Dangle mistletoe in a graceful arched doorway, or display your menorah on the ledge of a bay window.
Use Lighting for Emphasis
Keep lighting simple, and use it to highlight unique and interesting parts of your home’s landscaping. Twinkling white string lights can make any home entry sparkle during the holidays, or draw attention to your beautiful live oaks.
Don’t Hide Gifts in the Closet
Buyers always open up and look in closets. The fewer hanging clothes, luggage or random objects tucked away, the better. Get a storage unit, or ask family or neighbors for a corner in their closet or garage.
Consider Hiring Help
The holiday season is hectic enough without having to spend time keeping your home immaculate for showings. One solution—hire help. Most national cleaning services offer short-term cleaning options.
When I’m working with sellers over the holidays, I stress the importance of staying flexible with showings while still blocking off a few dates that will allow them to enjoy their home and celebrate the season with friends and family.
Above all, I tell my clients to relax. My team and I are there to help make the entire selling process run smoothly from listing to close. It’s really can be “the most wonderful time of the year”—to sell your home!
When I help my clients prepare their home for sale, one of the topics I discuss is staging. Not every home needs staging, but over the years, I have found most homes photograph and show better with a little professional editing. I work with an experienced interior decorator with a knack for making little changes that create a dramatic impact. It’s surprising how simply turning a sofa or moving a rug or a lamp can make a huge difference in a room, and my clients often remark that they wish they had thought to make the changes years earlier.
Helping buyers fall in love with a property takes more than making the beds and running the vacuum. It requires decluttering, depersonalizing and styling. So what common mistakes do stagers see and address with my clients? These top offenders seem to come up most often:
Mistake: Decluttering into Closets. Most clients have momentos, collections, extra clothing and furniture that will need to be removed. But cramming all of that clutter into every corner of every closet is a major problem. Storage is an important consideration for most buyers, and overstuffed closets give the wrong impression. Sellers can streamline the moving process by donating or throwing out unwanted items, and consider renting a storage unit or using a corner in a friend’s garage for the excess.
Mistake: Lawn and Patio Neglect. Withering plants give buyers pause; if a seller doesn’t take care of the landscape, what else aren’t they maintaining? Trim the bushes, keep the lawn mowed and edged, and add new blooming plants in large pots near the door or on the patio. Get rid of rotted or rusty furniture, and power wash patios and walkways.
Mistake: Misused Space. Bedrooms should be bedrooms, not closets. Dining rooms should contain a table and chairs, not the children’s video game equipment and a sofa. Although a non-traditional arrangement of space might have worked wonderfully for the seller, to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, each room should have a clear, traditional function. An easy rearrangement of furniture is usually all that is needed to give buyers a clearer picture.
Mistake: Hunting Trophies. Although many sellers and buyers are avid hunters, especially here in Texas, a wall full of deer heads is a turnoff for some. Now is the time to remove the trophies and put them in storage, then patch and paint walls.
Mistake: Getting Personal. Buyers have trouble picturing themselves in a home if the seller’s interests and opinions are represented in every corner. Ditch the kitsch, remove university affiliations (this means you Aggies and Longhorns), take down political signs, and store family photos, awards and collections.
Mistake: Forgetting about Fido. Pets are like family members, but even buyers who adore animals don’t want to smell them in their potential new home. Sellers should ask a trusted friend to give their home the sniff test. Cleaning carpets, repairing any damage pets have done to moulding or door frames, and moving kennels and extra-loved doggie toys to the garage can go a long way towards easing buyers’ concerns over lingering pet problems.
So what can my sellers expect when working with a stager? Most staging appointments last between 1 to 2 hours. The stager will walk through the house with the seller, and make most of the necessary changes right on the spot. Most of my sellers have a notebook handy, and make notes about any staging tasks, such as taking boxes to storage or rehanging artwork, that will need to be completed as “homework” after the stager leaves. Once the staging is complete, we schedule our photographer, and then my sellers can relax—their home is ready to impress at its first showing!
Buying a home can be difficult, but try selling your home and buying another at the same time. Two major life events at once—talk about stress! But it’s a situation that most homeowners will face at some point in their lives. So which comes first—the sale or the purchase?
In a perfect world, most buyers would prefer to sell their home first, then immediately use the equity in that home for a down payment on a new one. It certainly simplifies financing, but in reality, it is hard to pull off simultaneously. Closings can be delayed, and deals can fall through. When you sell before you buy, there is less financial risk, but more logistical hurdles. Where will you live if the house you are selling closes before you are able to complete the purchase of the new one?
But buy before you sell? You will certainly have someplace to send your furniture, but you could get stuck paying two mortgages…for a very long time. That is, if you can find a lender to finance that purchase in the first place.
If it sounds like a catch-22, it is. But it’s far from impossible! I have successfully helped clients buy and sell (or sell and buy) throughout my 17 years as a realtor, and I’ve learned a few strategies along the way that help make the whole process go smoothly.
Know your financials
It’s a rare client who is able to buy a new home with cash and sell the old home at leisure. That means you will be dealing with financing, and the first step here is to have a good grasp of your financial picture. Know your credit score, and clean up any discrepancies that may be lowering your credit. Look at your debt-to-income ratio. Build a relationship with a lender, and get prequalified for a mortgage. Assess whether you can swing two mortgage payments at once for a few months.
Know the market
This is where I come in. In a buyer’s market, with falling house prices and lots of inventory, selling first may make the most sense. The last thing sellers want is to be paying interest costs on two loans. To help speed up the process, I work with my clients on paring down belongings and staging their home so that it will appeal to the widest range of buyers possible. I also suggest they do any quick fixes—taking care of that toilet that has run off and on over the last year—that may come up during an inspection and possibly delay the process unnecessarily.
In a seller’s market, buying a home first might be the best option, as your property would likely be sold more quickly. Sellers may have more power when it comes time to negotiate a timeline that is favorable to them, as buyers are generally more willing to accommodate sellers’ needs when inventory is low.
No matter which side of the transaction the market seems to be favoring, pricing the home right for market conditions is vital. I stay current on citywide statistics, changing local conditions, and neighborhood inventory to help my clients set a price that is competitive.
Don’t rely on timing
Closings get delayed. Buyers might have difficulty securing a mortgage, or a home inspection might bring to light issues that will need to be fixed. My clients are only part of the equation, and I help them prepare for setbacks. Preemptive planning may include contingency clauses, renting back the home after sale, extending the closing timeline on the purchase, or using a bridge loan to cover expenses.
Check back next week as I discuss the pros and cons of these preemptive planning strategies.
If you’ve ever moved, you already know that half the battle is giving away all the things you’ve accumulated but no longer need. And that includes those 24 mini cans of tuna with pickles that tasted great at Costco but now no one wants to eat, or the pumpkin pie filling you were sure you needed at Thanksgiving until you realized you hate making pies. So I was excited when the Council of Residential Specialists (CRS), of which I’m a member, recently announced a very cool partnership with Move for Hunger, a non-profit that works to combat the growing hunger problem across the country. With 50 million Americans—that’s one in six—facing hunger every day, CRS and Move for Hunger saw a perfect way to lighten your moving load while also fighting hunger in the community. Simply head to Move for Hunger’s website and enter your zip code to get a list of movers in your area who will pick up any food you don’t want to move and take it to food pantries around the city. It’s that easy.
According to the San Antonio Food Bank, most food pantries can’t take items in glass containers, but would love to have your non-expired canned and boxed goods, especially any of their “Most Wanted” items:
- Peanut Butter
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Canned Stews
- Canned Soups
- Canned Luncheon Meats
- Full Meals in a Can/Box
- “Pop Top” Food Items
To date, Move for Hunger has collected more than 7 million pounds of food.