The national real estate media and blogs have finally caught onto something I’ve been saying for several years — that winter, even during the holidays, is a great time to put your home on the market. The lead article this week on RSImedia’s “Housecall” blog, for example, promotes listing homes during the upcoming holidays, writing as follows:
“With the colder temperatures and many people heading on vacation, it may seem like an inopportune moment to list your house, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although it’s true that there are fewer buyers looking for a home at this time of year, the pros far outweigh the cons. There are fewer, yet far more serious buyers searching for homes in your market, and there is less competition with fewer homes on the market, and transactions proceed more quickly….”
The blog post gives three reasons why the holidays are a good time to list a home. First, sellers needn’t worry as much about staging the home. “Homebuyers who shop during the off-season are typically very serious about getting into a house. They’re unlikely to waste their time viewing homes that don’t already suit their criteria, and will be able to look past your child’s messy playroom.”
Second, the article states that transactions move more quickly, since inspectors, lenders, appraisers and title companies have less of a backlog. (Personally, I don’t see this being so significant.)
Third, the article points out what I think is most important — there are fewer homes competing for attention against your home. Sellers should particularly appreciate the fact that buyers who want to see listings at this time of year are probably serious about buying. “Lookie loos” are most often fair weather visitors. So, fewer people are likely to want to see your home during the holidays, but those who do are typically of the highly qualified and highly motivated variety.
What the RSImedia blog post fails to address is what changed to make the holiday season a good time to list a home, because that wasn’t true years ago. I believe it is because of how the internet has changed the relationship between buyers and their real estate agents.
In the past, agents would do the looking, contacting their client when they identified a home they think their buyer would like. With today’s MLS systems, agents can enter their buyers’ search criteria into the MLS, which triggers an email alert whenever the system identifies a listing matching those criteria.
Thus, while agents might lose focus from time-to-time, the MLS computer never stops watching and alerting. The minute a suitable listing is entered in the MLS, buyers are alerted. Some of these folks are sufficiently motivated that if the listing “checks enough of their boxes,” they’ll call their agents to request an immediate showing — even on Christmas eve.
Buyers can set up similar alerts themselves on consumer-facing real estate websites such as Zillow, but they can’t use nearly as many search criteria as their agent can. For example, I don’t know of a single consumer-facing website that allows a user to search for main-floor master suites, fenced yards, homes with mountain views, or homes with full-but-unfinished basements. The MLS system on the other hand, allows its member agents to search for all of these criteria – and more. If it’s a field on the MLS, it can be a search criterion for us agents.
If you aren’t able to search for exactly what you want on those consumer-facing websites, ask us or your agent of choice to set up the search for you. It doesn’t cost the agent or you anything to create these alerts.
In previous years I’ve published statistics showing how well listings sell in the winter. You can find those columns at www.JimSmithColumns.com.