Monday, November 29, 2010

What do I need to know about selling my home during the holidays?

[This article first appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press]
Q: What do I need to know about selling my home during the holidays?

A: The holidays can bring serious buyers. Many homeowners tend to believe the holidays could be a bad time to sell their home. The fact is that the potential buyers that are looking are most likely very serious buyers.

Holiday home buyers have a different motivation, such as using vacation time to scout for homes. They are doing it because they are motivated to buy rather than just wanting to buy. Also, job transferees use the holidays to house hunt because January is the biggest transfer month of the year. While it is true that the holidays can mean reduced activity for showings to buyers, don’t give up.

If your house is on the market, it’s time to increase the action plan to draw attention to it. Don’t let the holiday slump make you feel like there is no chance your home will sell. In fact, last December, 481 homes were sold in our area according to MLS sales data. Additionally, 754 homes entered the market last December as new home listings. Homes are bought and sold this time of the year. But, the ones that get bought are the ones that are enticing the buyers.

While this time of year often brings out all the holiday decor, there is such a thing as too much holiday cheer. A home seller must keep in mind that not all buyers celebrate the same holidays. While making your home available for showings it is good to keep decor simple and subtle.

For Christmas, go ahead and put up a tree. But, don’t put a tree up in every room. Also, choose a room for the tree that will not make the room appear small with the tree in it. Keep in mind that buyers will be looking at your home imagining their own holiday celebration there. So, be sure to leave the room to envision their lives in the home. Limit decorations that can draw attention and distract a buyer from looking at the home’s features and benefits. Lighting should be subtle and used sparingly, preferably mini clear lights.

What goes for the inside goes for the outside too. Holiday lights can be placed outside very tastefully. But, keep the huge inflatable Santa and reindeer in storage this year. You do not want your yard to look like an amusement park. Instead choose a nice holiday wreath and some subtle seasonal decor. Keep in mind the basic rule of curb appeal is still what get the buyers in the door even during the holidays. If your home is not appealing from the outside, buyers won’t decide to take a look on the inside.

Put away the gifts. If you usually put them under the tree or around the house, stash them away for the day of celebration. The gifts take up precious floor space and are a distraction. As with any time of the year, it’s a good idea to keep as many personal belonging as possible in a safe, private space. And keep your small valuables in a safe place at all times.

Don’t go overboard with different fragrances in every room. Cinnamon, pine cones, natural garland and mild potpourris are preferred over scented candles and oils. Natural aromas are the right choice for holiday fragrance. Also, some buyers could be allergic to the artificial scents especially if used in abundance. Fresh baked cookies can create a pleasant aroma, as well. Leaving a plateful of cookies out with a handwritten note to “take one” can add a nice touch.

Another area of attention is to spruce up the mantle. However, if you typically hang stockings with family member’s names on them, you might consider using less personal ones while showing your home. It’s the same fundamental home staging principle. Home stagers will insist on putting away your personal photos creating a space where buyers can imagine their photos and belongings in.

Having your home for sale during the holidays doesn’t have to make you blue. In fact, it can truly brighten your spirits by putting some green in your bank account. Stay focused on making your home a buyer’s dream this holiday season.

Get answers to questions you might have about real estate from Randy Durham, who is president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors and a broker with Keller Williams Realty. His column appears on Sundays. Send your questions to Business Editor John Vass Jr. at jvass@timesfreepress.com.