WASHINGTON — The housing market is hottest during the warmer months, but that doesn’t mean the real estate world grinds to a halt every winter.
Corey Burr, senior vice president at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, has some tips for buying or selling a home around the holidays:
Buy now, sell later
Those looking to snag a deal will likely find one this time of year. Burr said the housing inventory reaches a low during the holidays, so the market is “built up of the most motivated sellers.”
“It’s sellers who have been on the market through the prior year, or those who just don’t want to carry their properties through the winter. So it is a great opportunity for buyers,” Burr said.
“I always recommend to buyers: Buy when the weather’s starting to get cold, and then put your own property on the market right after the new year.”
Concentrate on curb appeal
Bare trees and dry leaves don’t have the same appeal as green grass and flower beds, so investing time and money into landscaping is important if you need to sell a home in the winter.
“You’ve got to make sure your property presents the right way, and you’ve got to make sure that all the leaves are picked up in a perfect fashion,” Burr said.
In addition to making the outside visually appealing, Burr said the house needs to be easy to access. In the event of snow or ice, make sure the driveway and sidewalks are shoveled before showings.
Before you put your house on the market, make sure “the heating and air conditioning system is all buttoned up,” Burr said.
“And make sure that the filters are replaced, the humidifier is working right, and that it’s working at optimal capacity because it’s going to be a major item on the inspection.”
Perhaps most important is the price. Winter sellers need to be realistic about the number at which they list “because you don’t have the tail wind of the strong spring market behind you,” Burr said.
“What you have to do is make your property compelling — not only from a presentation standpoint, but mostly from the pricing standpoint.”
Burr recommends working with a real estate agent to identify three pricing tiers: an aggressive price, a modest price and “something that’s the most compelling price.”
“And then you have to decide what you think is best,” he said.
“If after a couple of weeks nothing has happened and you haven’t received any offers, it’s time to reassess it with your adviser.”
The down payment is just one part of buying a home. There are other costs required for the transaction, so Burr said financial incentives can help attract buyers.
“Instead of reducing one’s price, what might be better is to offer up to a 3 percent credit of allowable lender credits to your buyer. That way they can save some money and invest it into improvements after they settle,” Burr said.
Flexibility on the timing for settlement can also help attract buyers.
“A lot of people who are buying in the winter months are doing so because they’re being relocated from a different city or they want to get their children into the school system for the second semester,” said Burr, who added that sellers should be willing to settle either before or after the holidays.
“I know a lot of people want to spend that one last year in their house for the holidays, but be willing to move out quickly if your buyer wants it.”
Tone down the decorations
A lot of people love holiday decorations, but Burr said too many can be overwhelming to potential buyers. He suggests putting “a modest amount” out, instead.