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10 reasons to sell (or buy) a home during the holidays

Even though real estate sales do fall off at the end of warm weather, there's still plenty of buying and selling during the winter months.

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Remember, sales volume cooled by winter weather is not your problem. The only house you care about is the one you're selling or hoping to buy.

"Real estate isn't nearly as seasonal as it used to be," confirms Terry Hankner, a real estate agent with Comey & Shepherd in Cincinnati. "If a house is priced and marketed appropriately, no matter what time of year it is, there will be a buyer for it."

What's more, many home buyers and sellers are bucking the seasonal nature of residential real estate. They're finding that buying or selling houses in the winter months has many advantages -- not the least of which are the gorgeous holiday decorations that showcase many homes to their fullest potential.

In fact, Hankner believes, seeing a home all decked out for the winter holidays can be an emotional trigger for many buyers.

"I bought my own house in the summer, but I was actually imagining it with a Christmas tree beneath its cathedral ceilings," she says. "The holidays are a great time of year to find a new home."

No matter which side of the transaction you're on, you can make the off-season work to your advantage. Here's why:

Sellers

  • Buyers are motivated. Many off-season buyers are more serious than some among the horde who descend like locusts on open houses in the spring. After all, there's a reason they didn't buy during the peak season. Perhaps they didn't have enough for a down payment or couldn't get financed. The fact that they've entered the market in a downtime might be very meaningful.
  • There is a second season. While sales definitely fall off in the early fall, they usually escalate again in October in many parts of the country.
  • Cyber sales are rising. The expansion of the Internet and the numbers of people who use it have added a significant off-season dimension to real estate sales. Potential buyers can now find properties for sale in the comfort of their home through a vast array of Web sites. Virtual tours can take them into homes and they can preview neighborhoods, schools and city information before venturing out.
  • Hindsight helps. When you put up a home for sale in the fall or winter, you have the advantage of hindsight: You and your agent can review which homes sold quickly in your area during the warm-weather "peak season." This gives you the chance to adjust your price and terms accordingly and to make your home more marketable.
  • Don't skimp on holiday decorations. Autumn wreaths and holiday lights make homes look great at this time of year -- and that can help a house move.

Buyers

  • There's less competition. How many times did that darling house you had your eye on in May get bought out from under you while you and your spouse talked over making an offer the very next day?
  • Sellers are often pressured. Motivation is critical in any real estate situation. Find out how long the house has been on the market. If it's been hanging around awhile, there's a good chance the seller is getting antsy. Sellers frequently drop their price -- especially as Christmas draws near -- giving buyers lower down payments and closing costs. If it went on the market after the peak season ended, the seller may have a pressing reason to sell, such as a job transfer, financial problems, divorce or illness to name just a few.
  • Consider tax advantages. When you buy a new home before the end of the year, you'll be able to report items such as mortgage interest, points, closing costs, property taxes and more on your tax return.
  • Interest rates are still attractive. If you're ready to buy, waiting until next spring can spell disaster. Many experts think we've seen the end of record-low interest rates and that mortgage rates will only go up from here.
  • Beating price hikes. As high as the prices may seem to you now, chances are they'll only be higher when a new real estate season starts in March.
Bankrate.com's corrections policy

-- Updated: Nov. 14, 2005

 
 
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