Want to sell your home bright and early in 2021?
Winter is far from the ideal listing season, usually clocking in at a quarter of the sales we see in spring markets. Although selling in the snowy season adds some difficulty, we call it a welcomed challenge. Having survived over 35 years in Newton real estate, we’ve got some helpful strategies and tips for anyone looking to go head-to-head with Jack Frost to sell their home and leave 2020 behind.
What’s it really like selling during: The Holidays
Winter is just another season; the perception of winter changes the buying/selling process. Why is winter a difficult time to sell? Well anyone who went to school in a snowy American clime knows the gap from December to February is “chill-time."
We all know even the teachers/professors check out until at least winter break is over, so we were conditioned (for a decade or two of schooling) to put work on the back burner during the holidays. Without reason to break that conditioning, it’s easy to get swept away in the high spirits of December through Valentines Day.
We do what we have to do, but undertaking a home buying/selling process in the middle of the year-end celebrations— especially of a year that made “2020” a slur— is a lot to ask of a lot of people.
TL;DR: People have no motivation to do "extra work" during the holiday months, but winter often has incredible real estate deals.
What its like selling during: The Winter
Wether you’re in the holiday spirit or lugging scrooge energy around, we have The Weather. In New England, winter it’s own event; one which we overlook until someone moves from the south and we watch them break all their brooms trying to clear off their car for 45 minutes in the morning as we work from home (if you’re blessed with such a luxury.)
We’d love to think, for the sake of humanity, that everyone has a hustler’s spirit. What we actually see is that people would rather abstain from going outdoors to enjoy the inclement weather. Yes, we mean enjoy; we live in Boston for a reason.
When you throw a pandemic on top, we’re left with unmotivated buyers/sellers until the roaring twenties kick in.
Yes, we see year-over-year upswing in the winter months. That’s likely a result of a larger market rather than a change in the zeitgeist. When we look at other months, we know we’re going to see that homes listed in the winter typically stay on the market for half-a-month longer regardless of that YoY upswing.
TL;DR: Everyone is unmotivated, unless they're very motivated. We're seeing plenty of reason to partake in the real estate game, like the ~25% upswing from home sales last year.
Who buys in the winter?
Everyone. We hear all sorts of theories about why people might wait to buy or sell, external events like school or holidays, but none of them stick in any meaningful way. Everyone is buying and selling all the time. Who is actually doing the deed then?
- Motivated buyers: You saw our Santa-sized list of reasons why people want to wait for post-winter to play the game, so you can imagine who’s partaking. It’s usually highly motivated people who either had to move for a job, want investment properties, etc.
- Seller’s facing minimal competition: The limited inventory of the winter months on top of the limited inventory resulting from covid may inspire sellers.
- WFH'ers: We’re already working from home, so throw in a bunch of holiday’s and we’re seeing everyone has ample time on their hands. They’re available for searching and showing.
- Agent's favorites: When agents have less people to divide their time between, they might put more effort in with the clients they have, which should result in a much better process.
- Whoever wants to finesse uncle sam: Buying in December is sometimes tax beneficial, and if you have a legal chance to avoid the extortion we call "taxes," do it. We'll call it something else when we personally decide how our tax money is acquired and dispersed.
Challenges of selling a house in winter
- Lowball offers: We see a lot of buyers think winter sales are pressed, which is far from true. You’ll have to screen more lowballs from people hoping for panic prices.[
- Curb appeal: We’re only including that because it’s something other people mention, but some sunset showings in the snow hit different. A snowy exterior means you can make the interior that much cozier so if you've got any right-brain at all you're fine.
- Financing can be delayed: Even if the whole real estate side is on top of their game, bankers are another story.
- Less likely to get multiple offers: Which means you have less chance of a bidding war. Bidding wars almost always raise the price above what its worth, so there’s an opportunity cost. However, bidding wars are rampant in Boston due to the pandemic.
- Some home flaws are more apparent: A home’s logistical downfalls usually shine through during the winter months. A breeze in the summer is welcome. Winter might have buyer’s feeling less romantic about a draft.
Holiday selling tips:
- Beautify the listing: market it with skill-- pro photos, graphic design, full site, etc.
- Hire a Castles Unlimited Realtor
- Price properly
- Keep decorations simple, ideally keep religion out
- Bake cookies; the smell and warm plate by the door will go miles
- Make it as cozy as possible
- Add some curb appeal with outdoor lights, the way you shovel, etc.
- Turn on the lights
- Turn up the heat. When people come in they'll get hit with #cozy (positive reinforcement), take their jackets off and "make themselves at home" by necessity (comfort towards the space), then when they leave they'll feel the shock (negative reinforcement) of leaving the home. If you make it sweltering then it will have the opposite affect so know who you're inviting in and hopefully you've already observed what their propensity towards temperature is.
- Clean the gutters, which you did after reading our Winter Home Checklist.