Home marketing strategy changes when the weather cools

By Ryan C. Benton 

As the classic holiday song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And I agree. Like many here in Hampton Roads, I kick off the season with the Grand Illumination Parade in downtown Norfolk and then promptly put up my Christmas tree the following night.

I love the holidays and, believe it or not, this is still a popular time of year to have to sell your home.

According to a report from the National Association of Realtors, November and December homes sales have increased an average of 4.5 percent in the past three winters. That means that, even in this busy time of year, buyers are still out there at a steady pace.

However, it requires a different strategy than trying to sell in the warmer months, especially if you want top dollar.

Traditional buying and selling seasons have evolved greatly with the result of instant virtual access to new listings via the internet. So, even when “the weather outside is frightful,” serious house hunters are constantly on the lookout for their next home and may be alerted right away when a listing hits the MLS.

Because today’s buyers spend the bulk of home-searching online, the presentation of your online listing and photos is especially important.

Make sure you use high-quality photos that show off your home’s best features. Year-round pictures of the exterior can be helpful, especially if you have a pool, deck or patio. Many buyers will tour homes in the afternoon or early evening; with the days getting shorter, daylight is always at a premium.

Less natural light can make your home feel smaller, and it can be hard to imagine the outdoor space. Thus, summer pictures can help.

Consider a Realtor who can provide a digital 3-D or video tour that will show the home in a way the photos cannot. The impending New Year makes January one of the biggest months for corporate relocation and military transfers. Those buyers are out now looking in full force – even if it’s online.

And even if it’s not a relocation situation, there is often an expiring lease or a contract on their current home involved. House-hunting families typically have limited time, so when they find a house that meets their criteria, they will often write an offer sight unseen.

Your competition decreases in the winter. Lots of sellers think they need to wait until spring, but the market then is often crowded with competition for buyer’s attention.

Nationally, existing home inventory have fallen an average of 15 percent from November to December since 2014, according to NAR. And, even here locally, we are facing historically low inventory in our multiple listing service. If you paid attention in economics 101, you know the law of supply and demand: Buyers have fewer homes to choose from, which means you could sell your house faster.

This time of year, buyers mean business. With the cooler temperatures and shorter days, the lookie-loos tend to be scarce in the winter months. Showing requests this time of year come from real buyers looking to make a home purchase.

It’s a hectic time of year for everyone, but keep in mind many people have more time off around the holidays to search for homes and schedule showings. Year-end performance bonuses or workers retiring with large financial payouts will often allow buyers to upgrade their current home or for first-time buyers to enter the housing market.

If you’re a seller, you don’t have to feel like the Grinch stole your Christmas. No one expects a home to completely lack holiday decorations in December. But simplicity is appealing. Decorations should accent, not overpower, a room. Exterior lights are fine, too, but save the Clark Griswold display for next year. During an open house, your Realtor can offer prospective buyers fresh-baked cookies with hot cocoa or mulled cider.

If you can’t accommodate showings for a few days because family is in town, that’s understandable. Just let your Realtor know.

Selling a home during the holidays doesn’t have to be a disaster. Like any other time of the year, the better your home presents itself in the market, the more likely it is to sell – and for more money. With these strategies and tips, hopefully selling your house won’t feel so overwhelming.

Ryan C. Benton is a Realtor with Rose & Womble Realty in Chesapeake and a member of the Hampton Roads Realtors Association. Realtors are real estate agents who adhere to a strict code of ethics and work to protect and preserve private property rights. For more on HRRA, go to www.hrra.com. Contact Benton at 757-544-0383 or rbenton@roseandwomble.com or visit TheHometownAdvantage.com.