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HOME (FOR SALE) FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Reasons for listing home during the holidays
1. Buyers have more time to look over the holidays. They can tour your home during the weekdays instead of interrupting your weekends.
2. Showings and closings can be scheduled around celebrations and company.
3. Buyers can be emotional during the holidays, which may lead to spending more on the right house.
Reasons for buying home during the holidays
1. Motivated sellers could mean more favorable terms.
2. Closings may be faster. Even when factoring in the holidays and office closures, there are fewer overall transactions for lenders to manage.
3. Mortgage rates are still low.
Sources: Lisa Ashkins, a Realtor for Ascent Real Estate in San Diego; Michelle Silverman, a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in La Jolla.
Entertain out-of-town guests. Shop for Christmas gifts. Cook a big meal.
That’s one example of a to-do list for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. How will you accomplish it all — much less squeeze in the substantial amount of time it takes to list or buy a home. That’s why so many folks don’t try to sell or buy a house near the end of the year.
But several local real estate experts strongly advise you to take advantage of the typically slower winter season to try to find a buyer for your house or to purchase one.
For sellers, you’re getting serious buyers and competing against a much smaller pool of for-sale properties. For buyers, you may get a better price and terms because you’re likely negotiating with a motivated seller.
Debbie Neuman, a real estate agent for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in San Diego, will be working this Thanksgiving. Her partner will be on the clock on Christmas.
“While it’s true that seasonally, many people are distracted by the holidays and do not want to undertake the challenge of buying or selling, the flip side is because so many sellers wait until after (Jan. 1), there is generally a flood of new listings coming onto the market and hence, much more competition,” Neuman said.
Many people are benefiting from selling and buying during the holidays. While typically fewer homes sell during the winter season than any other time of the year, the season still represents a hefty chunk of sales.
Typically, escrow takes about 30 to 45 days to close. So homes that open escrow near Thanksgiving through Christmas are closing in December through February. In the past four years, San Diego County homes that sold in the winter season made up an average of about 22 percent of annual sales, according to market tracker DataQuick.
In the most recent 12-month period from September 2012 to August 2013, winter sales accounted for 21 percent. By comparison, it was 28 percent for summer, 27 percent for spring and 23 percent for fall.
In Amber Anderson’s nine-year career in real estate, December has been her busiest month.
“A lot of my listings are ideal for a second-home buyer, so the holiday season is actually a great time to be on the market,” said Anderson, a broker associate in La Jolla for Sotheby’s International Realty. “Many people who are looking to buy a second home come to San Diego during their holiday to spend time with family and search for property.”
Also, a lot of people are trying to buy before Dec. 31 to qualify for tax deductions from a real estate purchase. And buyers want to get into a home before the end of the year to reach their personal goals, Anderson said.
Last year, she worked with a doctor who constantly traveled for work. He “finally had time to house hunt on his holiday vacation,” she said.
He always took two to three weeks off to spend with his family during December and took advantage of this time off to look for properties. He found a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath Coronado home and paid $1.15 million for it. Escrow opened the first week of December and closed just after the New Year, Anderson said.
Katrina Dodson, a Realtor for SD Homes and Estates in Rancho Santa Fe, said many purchases toward the end of the year are tied to schools and jobs.
“You don’t tend to have as many buyers at this time of the year, but the buyers you do have are serious — not tire-kickers — but serious ‘we need to be in a house by Christmas or January school start’ buyers.”
She deals with many clients whose new jobs start at the beginning of the school year. When these folks arrive in San Diego County, they sometimes get three months of corporate housing.
“Once settled into the new job, they start a very serious house search,” Dodson said.
Ken Pecus, a Realtor for San Diego-based Ascent Real Estate, thinks the holidays are the best time to buy because there are fewer people house hunting since many folks are busy with holiday parties, gift shopping and end-of-the-year work commitments.
However, his tip to sellers during the holidays is different.
“My advice is if you are going to sell, you would be better served waiting until January to start the process,” said Pecus, who has more than 24 years of experience in real estate. “You only have one chance to make that first impression, so why not do it when the most people are looking.”
Real estate and tax attorney Gary Laturno said sellers during the holidays are typically financially distressed and are attempting a short sale on their home.
“Sellers at this time are usually individuals who have run out of other options, such as a loan modification, and do not want to see their home go to foreclosure,” he said.
Michelle Silverman, a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in La Jolla, advises sellers to use the holidays to their advantage.
“Homes that are on the market during the holidays generally show the best,” she wrote in blog pitch on her website. “There is nothing better than walking into a home that is all decked out for the season. Curb appeal is in full force. Or for a buyer to walk into a home where pine-scented candles are burning and chocolate chip cookies are baking in the oven.”
Showing homes to potential buyers during the winter can help them visualize celebrating their own holiday in that house, Silverman said.
Mark Jackson, 34, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, had been stationed overseas in Japan and Djibouti for the past six years. In October of last year, he and his wife began hunting for their first home.
“I guess the holiday mood kicked in, and we would drive around with the kids in the back seat looking at all the houses and the kids got to see all the holiday decorations.”
Three days before Thanksgiving last year, Jackson put in an offer for a three-bedroom home in Chula Vista. After some back and forth, Jackson and the seller agreed to a purchase price of $360,000 that same day. Escrow closed Jan. 3.
His Christmas present that year was a retractable ladder.
Hang Nguyen is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.