Should You Buy or Sell Real Estate During the Holidays

Posted by Nicole Pandeloglou on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 8:06am.

The holidays are a fun and festive time, but what about buying a house?  Should you try to do that in November or December?  If you're not picky about the home you intend to buy, the answer might be yes.

Sellers tend to avoid the end of the year due to the short days, wintry weather and the conventional wisdom that says buyers are otherwise occupied. But for those who do choose to sell at year end are often under pressure and highly motivated to cut a deal and that's why it might be a smart time to buy. Determined househunters can take advantage of sellers' urgency.

The biggest downside is the limited supply of for sale homes, which occurs mainly because sellers are so uninterested, but a couple of things are working to your advantage. There will be less competition for any house you do find and fall in love with and less competition should translate into a bigger discount. Prices are typically at a 12-month low in December, according to Realtor.com. Less competition from other buyers during the holiday season might mean you'll be able to negotiate a favorable price for a home you want to purchase. Still, with fewer homes from which to choose, you might have to lower expectations.

If you're a serious buyer, don't be shy about intruding into sellers' homes at a time normally reserved for family and friends. If a home is for sale, presumably the owners want sincerely interested buyers to see it. Indeed, sellers willing to keep their house on the market in winter may be more flexible in negotiating the terms of an offer; extending the time to close or agreeing to other cconcessions.   

Of course, the downside to this end of the year shopping is diminished selection. The number of listings that come to market in the spring is 65% higher than October, November and December. Many people just don't want to focus on showings during the holidays. However, if you do see something you like, it's a good time to pull the trigger. With rates near record lows, you might be able to afford more house now than you would be able to in the spring when rates are expected to edge up. And lenders may be more willing to shave down fees at this off-peak time to gain your business.

Selling during the Holidays is also not all bad. The holiday season is generally known as the worst time to sell a home. While sales do tend to drop off between November and January, there are actually some good reasons to sell your home during these months:

Buyers are more serious. Anyone shopping for a home during the holidays probably has to buy before a certain deadline. January is a popular month for job transfers, so some buyers may be looking to relocate before the New Year. Investors may also want to close before the end of the year for tax reasons. If you live near a university, students and staff may be looking for homes between academic sessions. In Hampton Roads servicemen and women may be moving to the area. Work with your agent to target these motivated buyers.

Buyers have more time to househunt. Some buyers purposely wait until their families are together for holiday vacations to start looking for a home.  

Lots of sellers take their homes off the market during the holidays, assuming no one will be buying at this time. But with serious buyers still out there and a lower inventory of homes, your home has a good chance of standing out. 

Services are more available. Business slows down for real estate agents, lenders, home inspectors, appraisers and title companies during the holidays, so they all have more time to spend with clients.

Homes also show better in the winter. Decked out in lights and garland, homes often look their best during the holiday months.

The holidays are stressful enough without having to think about staging and open houses, so if you’re not truly motivated to sell, it’s probably best to wait a few months. But if you absolutely have to sell, don’t be discouraged. A good agent can take the burden off of your shoulders, giving you more time to enjoy the season. 

If you do decide to buy or sell... good luck and happy holidays!

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