There are two unwritten real estate rules that every homeowner lives by: Location is everything, and spring is the best time to sell your house.
While the location rule may be set in stone — you still can’t beat a piece of prime real estate! — the right season to sell your home provides a little more wiggle room.
Most real estate agents with a few years in the biz argue that spring is the best time of year to sell to get a jump on the pre-summer moving rush. The thinking is, listing your home in the months leading up to June will help it sell faster as families prepare to move once school gets out. Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries, co-authors of the book Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, took it a step further by analyzing supply, demand and sellers’ outcomes and came up with an ideal springtime window spanning from mid-March to mid-April.
While homes listed in this “March Madness” slot may sell a little faster and a little higher (15 percent faster and 2 percent higher, on average), this doesn’t rule out the fact that your home could still sell for a good price in another season. If there’s one thing we know about real estate, it’s that change is constant. Markets fluctuate, property values vary, and neighborhoods transform in the blink of an eye.
If you’re hoping to sell your home before the birds start chirping this spring, all hope isn’t lost. In fact, there may be a few advantages to putting your house on the market early:
1. Better curb appeal
This is an easy one — if you put your home on the market around the holidays, it’s going to look absolutely adorable with all of the Christmas lights and sparkly decor (you know you leave your lights up until February anyway). And as Bruce Ailion, Atlanta attorney and real estate expert with RE/MAX Town & Country, points out, your landscaping and even your neighborhood are more likely to appear attractive in the winter versus the summer months.
2. Better financials
— RE/MAX Alliance (@remaxalliancevb) November 18, 2015
At the very least, putting your home on the market in the winter can appeal to your logical side. Christy Hertel, realtor at McEnearney Associates in Leesburg, Virginia, says that a winter sale can be more successful since “people have a clearer picture of their finances and what they can afford” at the end of the year.
3. Bored buyers
The nice way to put this, in Hertel’s words, is that winter home buyers are likely to have “more time on their hands.” This means extra days off around the holidays and free time on weekends, offering more time to check out (and buy) a dream house.
4. Happy buyers
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you’re in a great mood and just want to buy some stuff? According to Jerry Grodesky, managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate in Loda, Illinois, this happy shopper mentality can work to your advantage as a seller throughout the holidays and into the new year. “Though many consumers believe real estate sales are seasonal, here in Illinois, there are a determined group of buyers who want or have to buy in the ‘off season,’” he says. “Holiday buyers are often very cheerful to work with and negotiating a transaction during this festive time of year is likened to the magic and excitement of opening a present under the tree in your childhood. It is amazing as to how many lake houses that I have sold while the skies are gray, snow crackles under foot and the cold wind whistles around us.”
5. Motivated buyers
— Jennifer Butler (@realejenniferb) June 9, 2015
“Motivated” is another popular buzzword you may hear from your real estate agent, and Ailion says it has a special significance in the cold winter months. He explains, “Many believe winter buyers are more motivated. They need to buy, where buyers looking to move in spring, summer and fall have more time to look. A 2011 Realtor.com survey found nearly 80 percent of real estate professionals felt this was true.”
6. Relaxed realtors
— LeeDesign&Interiors (@LeeDesignInc) January 13, 2015
Don’t knock the power of having a de-stressed realtor by your side. Joshua Jarvis, realtor at Jarvis Team Realty in Duluth, Georgia, says that since the market is likely to slow down in the winter, real estate agents and mortgage brokers are generally more relaxed during this period — making it much more likely that everyone will have a good time on closing day.
7. Slim competition
Fewer houses on the market not only means a greater likelihood of a sale, but it also means fewer showings and fewer times you have to leave your warm house. Jarvis considers this lack of competition a major advantage in listing in the winter, saying, “Most people don’t really want to move during the holidays — that means that buyers that are looking are much more motivated. In essence, they have to buy a home. So it’s less of a hassle and fewer people just ‘browsing’ what’s on the market.”
8. Transfer assignments
— LeeDesign&Interiors (@LeeDesignInc) November 18, 2014
This last big benefit is one that is easily overlooked. If you still can’t decide between a wintertime or springtime listing date, consider the fact that many companies have end-of-the-year evaluations and make their new transfer assignments in January. Hertel says this yields even more motivated buyers who need to lock in a house before they can plan their big move.