5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season
Throw the idea that you have to wait until spring to sell your home out the window.
Sellers can benefit from serious buyers and less competition for their next house.(Getty Images)
You’ve got plans to sell your home, but as you approach the end of the year, waiting until spring seems like torture. The house is already prepped, and you’re eyeing a new house you’d like to buy. So why wait?
You don’t have to. Spring may be the strongest home-selling season, but that doesn’t mean selling your home at any other time of year is impossible, even in the chilly winter months.
In fact, selling your home in the winter is getting easier in many parts of the U.S. The median listing price nationwide in February was $274,900, a 10 percent increase from February 2017, according to real estate information company realtor.com.
As housing markets continue to struggle for enough inventory to meet buyer demand and prices continue to rise, serious homebuyers are widening their scope and choosing to shop throughout the year, not just during the warmer months.
“It’s a misnomer that the market doesn’t pick up until late spring,” says Gretchen Rosenberg, president and CEO of Kentwood Real Estate in Denver and a member of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. She says the Denver area doesn’t see much of a slowdown in winter, and sale prices often hit their peak in winter and early spring – during February, March and April.
As a seller, you can benefit from selling your home during winter rather than having to wait until spring. Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Orlando, Florida, even recommends putting your home on the market before the end of the year.
“If you’re going to want to sell it in the spring, it’s a good idea to put it on the market in November and December,” he says, because you don’t want to miss out on the right buyer who’s already looking.
The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can be tricky for just about any industry other than retail, but even when time constraints mean selling as soon as possible is necessary, there’s no such thing as an impossible time of year to sell. “I’ve sold a house once on Christmas Eve and once on New Year’s Eve,” Rosenberg says.
If you do have options, Rosenberg recommends putting your house on the market either by the first couple of weeks of November or waiting until mid-January.
New Year’s resolutions help many homebuyers get into the house-hunting groove after the first of the year. If you like the idea of marketing your home at the start of 2019, reach out to real estate agents now to be sure you’re making all the right preparations to draw winter homebuyers to your property. That includes maintaining curb appeal to ensure you won’t discover any maintenance disasters during snowfall, such as a leak in the roof or frozen plumbing that causes pipes to burst.
There is some seasonality to real estate, of course – many buyers who don’t feel the urgency may put off house hunting until after the holidays. That's why it’s important to price your home realistically. The winter months aren’t the time to test the market and see how high of an offer you can get, but rather to price it correctly and attract the right buyer looking for a home like yours.
Depending on where you live, weather can also play a factor. Orlando benefits from a warm climate year-round, and Denver’s snowfall is typically followed by warmer days that melt everything. For Midwest or New England cities that see regular snowstorms in winter, Rosenberg says the housing market is more likely to “get a hit from the winter weather.”
But tough weather still doesn’t mean you can’t make a successful deal in the winter months. Here are five reasons the winter home-selling season may be your best option.
The buyers are as serious as you. You have to be pretty dedicated to prepare your home and put it on the market when the weather is cold and the winter holidays are either gearing up or just ending – it’s a busy time of year, after all. Fortunately, buyers are the same way during winter. While you may encounter buyers who have no timeline and want to tour dozens of houses in the spring, if a winter buyer is scheduling showings and touring houses, that means she’s looking to find the right house now.
“For you to take time out of your day to find a home that works for you in your area … you’re probably a pretty serious buyer,” Nimkoff says.
Buyers care less about days on market. There may be fewer active buyers, but their motivation for finding the right house means they won’t care about some of the superficial reasons that trip up buyers during more competitive selling seasons.
In the peak selling seasons of spring and summer, some buyers are put off if they see a house doesn't have an offer after 50 days on the market, and they often assume something’s wrong with the house and write it off. While 200 days on market may still be considered a red flag, houses selling in winter tend to stay on market a little longer anyway and shouldn’t put off the serious buyers. Realtor.com reports the median days on market for houses that sold in February was 83 days, while May 2018 saw a median of just 55 days on market, both a decrease in days compared to the same time periods in 2017.
Spring is just a few months away. If you can’t find a buyer during the winter months, spring is bound to bring plenty of eager homebuyers to the market. As long as you make sure the house stays staged for buyers and looks fresh as the weather warms up, people who haven’t seen your listing yet will want to view all their options.
You’re not competing with as many buyers for your next house. In most cases, you’re selling your house because you’re looking to buy another. You have the benefit of less competition for your ideal next house when you’re not shopping during the hotter spring sales months like April and May. Negotiating with contingencies that your house sells as well could be more acceptable with fewer buyers to compete with.
You'll get a realistic sense of listing price. As you’re prepping to put your home on the market in winter, you’ll probably see other nearby houses on the market as well, and they’re likely priced in line or slightly below recent sales to ensure they attract the right buyers. Follow their lead and market your home at the price it’s worth based on recent sales of comparable properties. The winter home-selling season is not the time to get ambitious with prices, it’s time to be realistic.
“We know that there are fewer buyers that are out there this time of year, so we’re going to make sure a house is priced right,” Nimkoff says.