With so much to do during the holidays, having to buy or sell a house can seem like one monumental project you don’t need to add to your to-do list. But, it turns out it may not be a bad time to put your home on the market — or find a new one. Check out all the reasons that both buyers and sellers can benefit from a holiday sale, and a few potential pitfalls to be aware of before you take the plunge on either side.
If You’re a Prospective Buyer
“If you’re buying new construction, a lot of builders are closing their books for the end of the year so there’s often more room for negotiation at this time of the year,” says Nicole Rader, a real estate agent with Mainframe Real Estate in Orlando, Florida.
That said, negotiating and scheduling showings could take a bit longer than usual as many people, including builders and representatives, travel or take time off during the holidays. “People have a lot going on during the holidays, so patience is key,” Rader adds.
There’s also a limited amount of inventory during the holidays, unlike other times of the year when market listings can be quite high. But lower inventory is not all bad news for buyers, however. Having less foot traffic as you walk through homes makes it easier to notice details with fewer distractions. Touring a home while Mother Nature is lowering the thermostat is actually great timing, as you’ll be able to test things such as how the heating and plumbing keep up with the colder months before you sign on the dotted line.
Competing with fewer buyers also increases the odds that you’ll be able to negotiate a favorable price, which can add up to significant savings. In fact, prices overall tend to be lower at the end of the year as builders look to move inventory before the year’s end.
Another boon to buying a home on or before December 31 is that buyers can take advantage of deducting mortgage interest, property taxes, and the interest costs of a loan, which can be significant. This can reduce the overall property tax bill, making it worthwhile to shop for a home during the holidays.
Finally, while interest rates always fluctuate and are difficult to predict at any time of the year, historically, they tend to be lower during the holidays because of lower demand. Financing, in general, tends to be more favorable, too, simply because there are fewer transactions taking place overall.
If You’re a Seller
Sellers are likely to face less competition during the holidays, which is perfect if your home is harder-to-sell than most, or if you simply don’t want the pressure of it being compared to others in your neighborhood. “If you put your house on the market now, you’ll be competing against a smaller number of houses, which means you might be able to sell without having to update your home with a slew of improvement projects,” Radar says. You’ll also likely have more of your agent’s time since chances are they have a smaller pool of homes they’re trying to sell during the holidays,
It’s not just less competition that’s in sellers’ favor during the holidays. As busy as the holidays can get, peoples’ time tends to be more flexible during the holidays; they typically have more time off from work than at any other time of the year, creating a pool of buyers who may be ready to see your home at a moment’s notice.
Of course, that means you may want to hold off on any holiday decorating bonanza you normally do. “Sellers need to keep their homes show-ready, which means you might have to restrain your decorating while your house is on the market,” she adds.
If you live in a market that enjoys a lot of seasonal tourism and second homeownership, the holidays are a great time to sell because buyers who are on vacation tend to look for homes while off work. “In Florida, for example, we have a lot of snowbirds who come down during the winter for the mild climate and start looking to buy,” Radar says. “They use their vacation time to look for houses, so it can get very busy during the holidays.”
Sellers are still on the hook for good curb appeal and a clean, neat, comfortable home, something that can be hard to do when the weather is chilly, the days are shorter, and you’ve got family members in from out of town. Check if your outdoor lighting needs a boost, keep your sidewalks clear of snow and slush if you live in a chilly climate, and try to keep your home at a comfortable temperature for showing.
Armed with these tips, plenty of patience, and good intentions, there’s no reason why buying or selling a home during the holidays should scare anyone — if you play your cards right, it might even be the best time to make that move.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.