It’s the most wonderful time of the year! At least, that’s what Andy Williams famously sang during his iconic 1963 Christmas song of the same name. Until, of course, you talk to people buying or selling real estate during a holiday season. For these people, buying or selling a home during the holidays might not be a wonderful time of the year. Winter holidays means it’s often colder out and people are busy preparing for family time. In the summer, people want to relax and get into vacation mode. No wonder, real estate cycles in Canada often follow temperature and weather patterns: busy in the spring and fall, almost non-existent in the winter and summer months.
But the cyclical nature of real estate doesn’t mean the holidays are a bad time to sell your home.
“The winter months have historically been slower, but in recent years this doesn’t seem to apply since market activity now remains relatively balanced throughout the entire year,” says Winnipeg-based realtor, Mark Chubey.
From motivated buyers to fewer listings to compete with, the holiday season can be a great time of year to sell. To be sure, we put five of the most common myths, about selling a home during the holidays, to the test.
Myth No. 1:
No one wants to buy a home during the holidays
According to historical sales charts, winter and summer are the slower seasons in Canada’s real estate market cycle. However, in recent years various factors have led to a distortion of this standard, historical annual selling cycle.
For instance, after the new mortgage stress-test—which requires all borrowers to qualify for a mortgage based on higher posted rates—the generally slower October and November and December months started to get frightfully frothy across the country. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), home sales increased in the winter months of 2016 and 2017, with a 2.5% jump in activity from November 2016 to December 2016 and a 3.87% increase in activity from October 2017 to November 2017. In both instances, buyers were rushing into the market in order to not get caught in these new mortgage stress tests (announced in late 2016 and late 2017).
But even without these market responses to outside influence, the reality is that most people who are looking to buy during the holiday season are very, very motivated. Who else would give up their pre-party-planning weekends to schlep through neighbourhoods and houses just to find the perfect next home?
Myth No. 2:
Your home won’t sell for a good price
Listen, no one is going to refute the evidence: If you want the competition to drive up your home’s selling price, then you need to list in the spring or fall and you need to put your best foot forward. But what if you aren’t the best house on the block? What if your home isn’t show-room perfect? Then listing during the holidays or in an off-season may work to your advantage. Historically, the holiday months have fewer listings than in the busier seasons such as spring and summer, but Realtors and home sellers use that to their advantage. Since the options for buyers, coming out of the gate early and strong may help you attract a higher price for your property, despite the pervasive holiday or vacation mindset around you.
Myth No. 3:
You can’t decorate your home for the holiday’s if it’s on the market
One of the best parts of the holiday months is decorating your home to get into the spirit of festivities. Whether you’re looking to put up Christmas lights or a Menorah, one of the best parts of the holiday months is decorating your home to get into the spirit of festivities. And just because your listing your home to sell doesn’t mean you need to skip this tradition. Potential buyers like to get a “feel” of the home. How does it appear to live in this house or condo? Is it warm and inviting or bleak and sterile? Tastefully decorating while selling your house can actually help would-be buyers to imagine living in the home—and this goes a long way to getting a firm buyer offer. Just remember the key word is “tastefully.” While an 8-foot inflatable Santa (and all his elves) may please the grandkids, it may not be the best decor for holiday open houses.
Myth No. 4:
Your agent will be on vacation and won’t be able to help
One fear for sellers is that if they choose to sell during the holidays, their real estate sale agent won’t be available to help them make the sale. So. Not. True. In fact, you may end up getting much more love from your agent, given the reduction in activity during this time. No good agent would ignore you or your needs, but if they are little-less busy during the holiday season they may be far more open helping you complete those pre-listing day preparations.“In a fast market, an agent is in the heat of it, trying to put out all these fires,” explains Barry Allen, Zolo co-founder and a successful West Vancouver agent. However, in slower markets, “it’s much easier and much better for client relationship building.”
If you are still concerned, just be sure to ask what your agent’s holiday schedule is before hiring her (and make sure you meet their partner, if they use one).
Myth No. 5:
Homes that sit too long don’t sell
Some people fear if they list their home during the holidays and it doesn’t sell, they’ll be stuck—a stigma house that just can’t sell. But that’s simply not the case.
For instance, based on market statistics from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), we know it took an average of 27 days for homes to sell in November 2017, compared to 11 days in May 2017. Yes, it took almost three times as long for homes to sell during the winter, but those homes still sold. (This is true for GTA homes, but the same principles apply to the rest of the country.)
They key is to price your home competitively and be patient. Your home will sell you just need to give it time.
Keep in mind that selling during slower months or during the holidays still requires you to present your home in the best possible light. If it’s the winter, make sure you shovel the walks and leave the lights on. If it’s the summer, make sure the inside temperature is comfortable (nothing kills a viewing faster than a hot sauna-like house). If possible offer photos of your property during the spring or fall months, when colours make curb appeal extra-appealing.
Turns out these holiday home selling myths are just that—myths. In reality, selling during the holiday (or off-) season can bring good tidings for sellers, with motivated buyers, fair market prices, opportunities for classy, feel-good decor, an attentive agent and a less competitive market. What are you waiting for?