It’s December, and the winter holiday decorations have been up for weeks. But if you’re selling your home during the holiday season, you’ve got to be careful. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza.
If you over-decorate for the holidays, you might turn off prospective buyers.
While the winter holiday season of Thanksgiving to Superbowl Sunday used to be dead for real estate, real estate industry observers now say sales drop only slightly. What slows down are the showings, which means that the serious shoppers are out and about.
If you’re a seller, it’s time to capitalize on the traffic. In the ever-changing real estate market, you want to be in the best position to have your home ready for sale. Here are four things to keep in mind as you prepare to sell during the winter holidays:
1. It’s hard to keep your house clean during winter. Whether you live in the north or south, every part of the country has unique weather this time of year. That means you have to deal with snow and ice or rain and mud getting tracked all over your clean floors.
The solution: You can’t always mop between showings, but you can ask buyers to remove their boots and shoes and leave them at the front door. Be sure to lay out a plastic tub or pan (less than $10 at Target or the Container Store) and think about providing booties.
2. Keep things neat and organized. When kids come home for the holidays, messes start to accumulate in certain spots. Add in extra laundry, dirty dishes, and the stack of presents that may need to be wrapped, and you’ll find that getting ready for a showing is a lot of extra, hard work.
The solution: Showings can happen at a moment’s notice, so ask your kids to make their beds and pick up their rooms every morning. They need to be up, washed and dressed so that if someone calls for a showing, at least they can get out of the house in a reasonable time period. Keep a large flat plastic box handy and use it as a catchall for household junk, unopened mail, catalogs and other paperwork. When it comes time for the showing, stow it under your bed.
3. Don’t over-decorate for the holidays. Houses can look their best during the holidays. The best dishes are out, everything seems to sparkle in candlelight, and the soft glow of the fireplace warms up the living room. Adding a few decorations here and there can add to the charm of the holidays. But if you overdo it, even if you have the best of taste, you run the risk that a prospective buyer will only look at the decorations and not your home.
The solution: No matter what holidays you celebrate, everyone can appreciate a basket of beautiful flowers tied with a festive bow. Wreaths and boughs of fresh pine add a winter-like feel and a fresh smell without overpowering holiday cheer. If you have a tree, keep it on the smaller side to avoid having a room seem crowded, and make sure it is extremely stable, so that a buyer doesn’t accidentally knock it over during a showing. And, toss it out as soon as the holidays are over. Cleaning up dried-out pine needles is a never-ending job.
4. Make your house available for showings. Winter is the time for nesting at home with your family. While prospective buyers don’t want to feel as though they’re intruding on your family time, they want to see your home on their timetable — not yours. If you don’t allow buyers access, they won’t make an offer.
The solution: Decide when you’re going to have your family gatherings and tell your agent that your home is unavailable during those few times. Then, talk to your family about how high selling the home is on your list of priorities. If your family understands that you must sell, they’ll be more willing to pitch in and help. Remember, if three houses are available and seven are not, a buyer will see the three and may make a decision. If you don’t suit up, you can’t play ball.