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Should You Put Off Listing Your Home Til Spring?

Boston SpringAs the holiday seasons gets well on the way, there are numerous reasons why you, as a property owner, might not be thinking of cashing in on your investment right now - winter weather, timing in general, and time as a whole being the top-most reasons. If you are on that boat, then rest well that you're not alone. In fact, Thanksgiving Day usually marks the end of the U.S. fall house-hunting season, leaving sellers whose homes didn't attract buyers unsure whether to keep their properties on the market over the winter or pull the plug and start again next spring. But no longer the case, with buyers sprouting out left and right, braving the wintriest of conditions and carving out time away from their Christmas schedules just to visit open houses.

The old thinking was that if you wait until spring, you'll probably have higher demand and could get a little bit more for your house. But the question nowadays is whether that justifies the time you'll save if you get an offer over the winter.

Winter is the slowest time of year in most U.S. housing markets, meaning sellers face pros and cons if they leave properties up for sale during the cold months. However, the recent uproar in the real estate business has caused many savvy buyers to look for creative means to get properties that are otherwise difficult to snag during the spring and summer.

Since the start of the winter months, we've recommend that our clients keep properties listed for sale all winter long, since we have strong indications that the market is currently built to ride out the usual bumps that the winter market brings. We do however, admit there are also some advantages to waiting until spring, which is typically the busiest house-hunting season. So, here to enlighten you are the two sides of the coin:

winter-south-end-1024x768Potentials downsides include:

  • Inconvenience. Who wants to keep a place spotless while cooking for the holidays or cleaning up after family members who've tracked in salt and snow? Having your home off of the market in the winter means you can take a break from having your place ready for viewings at a moment's notice.
  • Reduced curb appeal. Your manicured lawn might enhance your property's value in May, but it won't do much good if it's under a foot of snow in January. Short winter days also mean many homes' interiors look darker than usual.
  • Low-ball bids. Many house-hunters assume anyone who's kept a property on the market over the winter is desperate, so they'll price any offers accordingly.

home-sale-winter-163x142Of course, there are also advantages, which include:

  • A holiday feel. There's nothing like a warm, friendly residence at holiday time to attract buyers. Psychology tells us that people buy on emotion, and if they go to a house that's decorated for Christmas or another plain old any holiday, it can become very emotional for some people. Buyers think about living in the home the next Christmas, and we think that makes for an easier albeit smoother sale.
  • Out-of-town house-hunters. People who grew up in your community but moved away in adulthood often come back for the holidays -- and sometimes decide to check out local real estate as long as they're around. Think about it this way: if someone has come from out of town to visit mom and dad and are thinking about moving back, you don't want to lose them as potential buyers.
  • Motivated buyers. It's true that some sellers who leave places on the market this time of year are frantic, but Nelson says winter house-hunters are often just as anxious to buy due to job transfers or similar reasons.
  • Potential cost savings. Some people who keep properties listed for sale during the winter have already relocated to new homes, so finding buyers before the spring can save them from having to make mortgage payments on two residences

Weighing all the factors, we generally recommend that people with unsold homes leave them on the market throughout the winter - it does, after all, only take one buyer to take a property it off the table, and in a seller's market, the season really isn't much of reason.

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