Should I Sell My Home During the Holidays?

Q. The listing on my home is about to expire at the end of December. I’ve received a decent amount of traffic over the past two months, but it was very stressful and inconvenient to keep my home available to show over the Thanksgiving holidays. I want to pull it off the market for Christmas when I’ll have guests visiting, but my agent says I should keep it active because people who are looking for homes then ‘mean business.’ Is she right?

–Washington, D.C.

A. Many agents recommend keeping homes on the market over the holidays. The reasoning is that people who trudge through listings rather than enjoying eggnog and canapés are motivated to buy. Decorated homes also look cozier in December than they do during the bleak winter months following—especially when they are festooned with twinkly lights or candles in the window. And since inventory levels are usually lower in December, partly because many owners yank their homes off the market, competition falls. According to the real estate brokerage Movoto, as of Dec. 1 there were 1,219 resale homes for sale in Washington, a 10% drop from a month earlier.

But there plenty of disadvantages to showing homes in December. First is the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Washington. So your decorations could be a distraction that makes it harder for buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. Moreover, unless you have a designer’s eye, your collection of treasured collectibles, which are bound to include some lopsided ornaments that your children made in kindergarten and some dusty plastic garlands, may look cluttered and uncoordinated. There’s also the possibility of theft–during open houses and showings, glittery trinkets and presents under the tree often walk off with visitors if the presiding agent isn’t attentive.

Meanwhile, even if you do get an offer, it will be very difficult to close before the end of the year. Agents, mortgage underwriters, inspectors and appraisers are often unreachable because of their own family obligations. Plus, closing companies often have full schedules, since buyers typically like to close before the end of the year so they can take pre-paid mortgage interest (including points), property taxes and other deductions in the current calendar year. This year, schedules are likely to already be packed, given the recent pickup in the housing market and uncertainty over next year’s tax laws and mortgage interest rates.

Of course, since web listings have made it possible for buyers to tour every home virtually, you could decide to keep your listing active but limit the times and days that it can be shown. But if you want to pull the listing so you can snuggle up by the fire with a hot toddy and no worries about keeping the house pristine, by all means do so. You’ll have a new start and a fresh listing come January.


By JUNE FLETCHER of The Wall Street Journal

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