Are you planning to sell your home during the first couple of months of 2015, when buyers will be scarce due to normal seasonal variations? If so, don't hesitate, says Sid Davis, author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home."
"It's depressing to face all those bills in January and February. But many people committed to a job-related housing move will still go forward with a purchase at the beginning of the year," says Davis, a real estate broker who's been selling homes since 1984.
Although many post-holiday buyers are committed buyers, they're also hard bargainers.
"They're always trying to save pennies on their deal because they're in an austere mood," Davis says.
Still, Davos seeks to dissuade most would-be home sellers from postponing on the basis that springtime would be a better selling period.
"Starting in March, there will be lots more buyers flooding the market. But there will also be lots more sellers. So your competition greatly intensifies," Davis says.
John McLellan Tayler, a real estate author and former realty company owner, says a property in good condition that's located in a popular neighborhood with good schools can sell quickly, even during an overcast winter period.
Here are a few pointers for sellers:
-- Choose a listing agent who's weathered several post-holiday cycles.
No matter where your house is located, it's crucial to hire a listing agent with an established track record.
"An agent who's been through at least 10 post-holiday seasons should be especially good at identifying the best week and day to put your property on the market," says Mark Nash, the author of "Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate."
-- Go on a cleaning crusade right before your place goes up for sale.
Once your New Year's celebrations are behind you, your first challenge should be to remove any hints of holiday decor.
"A house that's stuck in Christmas or any other winter holiday is a turnoff to buyers. Trying to show a property with holiday decor still in place signals to buyers that you're not really ready to move," Nash says.
After the decor is gone, Nash urges sellers to go on a cleaning binge, purging the property of all superfluous items and then making the whole place dust- and spot-free.
Sellers lacking a design-trained eye might consider engaging a home stager, a professional who helps reduce and then rearrange sellers' furnishings for maximum appeal.
"One way to make a room look better is to remove up to half the furniture and then float your sofa and other pieces at an angle away from the walls," Nash says.
-- Lighten your interior walls.
Are you a homeowner who loves bold designer paint colors? That's fine during your tenure in the property. But once your place is heading for the market, such colors are a poor choice, especially for a wintertime sale.
"I call colors like magenta, mustard and chocolate brown 'commitment colors.' They might look good in houses shown in Architectural Digest magazine. But they're a bad idea for wintertime sellers because they make a place look even drearier on cloudy days," Nash says.
However, when repainting your walls in advance of a sale, you needn't pick sterile white to lighten and neutralize your look. Good choices include linenlike tones with just a hint of another pleasing color, such as very pale yellow.
-- Engender excitement about your wintertime sale.
Clearly, enthusiasm is in shorter supply during January and February than in the weeks leading up to the winter holidays. So it's often helpful for you and your listing agent to develop a creative marketing strategy for your winter sale.
Nash, who long sold homes in the frigid Chicago area, recalls the true story of an Illinois couple whose listing agent was puzzled about how to attract home shoppers to what he describes as their "blah suburban house" when it went up for sale one February.
What finally worked was a "Garden of Eden" theme, in keeping with the fact that the home's owners were avid gardeners. Though their flower beds were buried in snow, the agent asked for photos showing their flowers blooming in summer. These were enlarged to poster size, mounted on tall easels and placed next to windows throughout the property.
"The theme created buzz among neighbors, real estate agents and buyers during some of the darkest days of February. We all loved the break from winter because it was so hopeful, bright, and cheerful," Nash remembers.
"The simple goal of creative marketing is to encourage talk about your house and get eyeballs over to see it," Nash says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)