Many would-be home sellers are torn on timing. Should they put their place on the market by the end of this year or wait until the first quarter of 2022?
“As with the stock market, timing your home sale is a thorny matter. You have to weigh financial factors along with your personal moving plans,” says Sid Davis, author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.”
As the country gradually emerges from COVID-19, planning seems all the more tricky for would-be sellers because many are reinventing their post-pandemic lives and reassembling their family gatherings.
“Especially now, homeowners hate the massive inconvenience of strangers trooping through their property ... They have a huge preference for an after-holiday sale,” says Davis, an independent real estate broker.
However, selling late this year has some positives associated with it, says Fred Meyer, a longtime broker-appraiser who lists homes around Harvard University.
“Mortgage rates are now lingering near unbelievable lows. They could rise steeply in 2022. This could somewhat weaken the sellers’ hand next year,” Meyer says.
But housing economists doubt sellers who postpone until early 2022 will miss the most opportune time to market their home.
At Realtor.com, chief economist Danielle Hale anticipates that the seller’s market will last well into 2022.
“Home prices continue to rise due to a mismatch between supply and demand, stemming from a decade-long shortage of homebuilding,” Hale says.
On rare occasions, a wise listing agent will recommend that sellers briefly defer their year-end sale. But Mark Nash, the author of “1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home, says homeowners with a compelling need to move before the end of the year should resist postponement.
“Remember how costly it is to hold off. The carrying costs for a vacant home include not only mortgage payments but also insurance and utility expenses,” he says.
Even so, those not under time pressure to move this December may wish to wait until January, February or even beyond to market their place. Here are a few pointers for sellers who intend to wait:
-- Seek to find a seasoned listing agent.
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 periods should be especially good at identifying the best week and day to put your property on the market,” says Nash.
-- Embark on a cleaning blitz.
Once your New Year’s celebrations are behind you, your first challenge should be to remove any hints of holiday decor.
“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.
Even without a stager, most people can improve their interior through a few simple steps.
“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.
-- Repaint your walls in a lighter tone.
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.’ ... (T)hey’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 light grays or linenlike tones with just a hint of another pleasing color, such as very pale yellow.
-- Create a festive atmosphere around 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 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” that 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 flowerbeds 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 ... We all loved the break from winter because it was so hopeful, bright and cheerful,” Nash remembers.
Creative marketing won’t make up for an overly high price tag or a rundown property. But it can help entice shoppers -- and their agents -- into visiting a home they might otherwise have ignored.
“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.)