Smart sellers spend a whole lot of time and energy strategizing about how to sell their homes for top dollar. They factor in buyer demand, the competition, the job market, the mortgage market and their agent’s track record. And that doesn’t even account for all the time spent understand recent home sales in the area as an indicator of how local buyers will react to this listing.
Many a smart seller will also try to time their listing just right, too. And most often this looks like waiting until they feel buyers are sufficiently ready, willing, and able to pay a good price for the property. One timing consideration that sometimes gets short shrift is this: the calendar.
There’s a season for everything, as you might have heard. And recent Trulia data revealed some powerful geographically-specific seasonal trends in search activity for homes, adding proof to what agents have long known – the calendar portends various shifts in buyer activity, which sellers need to note. If you’re gearing up to list your home for sale, you should definitely take advantage of this interactive tool we’ve created to help you understand how these shifts play out in your area, and connect with your agent to discuss whether and how you might want to factor that into your home sale action plan.
But there are also a number of calendar-based factors you should just be thoughtful about as you put your plan for selling together. Here are a handful of calendars that should be – and stay – on every home seller’s radar screen:
1. The Academic Calendar. Families with school-aged children often find it less disruptive to house hunt in the late Spring/early Summer with the aim of moving in before school starts. Of course, we all know what they say about the best laid plans, so by no means should you let this stop you from listing your home at another time of year. Just know that demand for homes with convenient proximity to strong schools can uptick during the summer school break and around other times of year when kids are not in school.
2. The Tax Calendar. I cannot count the number of relatively unmotivated, looky-loo type buyers I’ve worked with over the years who got sudden, intense motivation from a massive, looming tax bill. For instance, many new professionals will seek to close escrow on homes between the time they graduate and the end of that same year, in an effort to deduct their closing costs and mortgage interest from their newly large incomes and avoid a big tax bill the following April. Similarly, just after tax time in April, a flood of newly motivated buyers come into the market, advised by their CPAs that the mortgage interest deduction is their best bet for not having to write as big a check to the IRS next year.
3. The Weather Calendar. Many sellers who live in cold-weather climates are aware that wintry weather conditions can dramatically cut down on the numbers of buyers who are out viewing properties. This is why buyer searches for homes on Trulia peak earliest, in January, in warm-weather states like Hawaii and Florida – and not until after the Spring thaws in the Midwest, the South, the northeast and most of the West.
But what’s not as obvious is that the combination of what’s happening on the weather calendar and the specific features of your home can interact to impact your home’s prospects for sale – and its ultimate sale price. Behavioral economics researchers have found that homes with swimming pools sell for more in the summertime than they do in the winter. “When it is sweltering outside, a swimming pool just looks attractive. There’s an emotional connection because it reminds us of fun times we have in the summer,” said Jaren Pope, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of economics at Brigham Young University.
So, if you’re selling a home with ski slope access in the summer, you might want to paint the picture of a cozy, fun-filled winter by staging the place with ski gear and other items that help prospective buyers visualize how much fun they’ll have when winter comes. And vice versa -if you’re selling a pool house in the winter, consider making sure it is steamy and heated, if it has those features. Stage it with lounges, towels, lights – anything that showcases the pool to offset cold-weather buyer’s psychological tendency to discount the appeal of a pool in the winter.
4. The Holiday Calendar. During the holidays, many buyers simply prefer to spend their downtime celebrating with family and friends vs. house hunting, especially in locales where the winters are wet or cold. Our listing search databacks this up: nationwide, December is the slowest month of the year for home searches, and November is the second-slowest.
Does this mean the holidays are a bad time to have your house on the market? Not necessarily: some homes just show beautifully when all lit up and tastefully dressed up for the holidays. And the truth is that there is a hardy contingent of buyers motivated to close by year’s end for tax purposes, every year in every market. While buyers might be fewer in number, those who will brave rain, sleet and snow and forego holiday parties to house hunt can be some of the most motivated buyers of all.
5. The Gregorian Calendar (the regular old January through December calendar, that is). A survey just released by Fidelity Investments revealed that 54% of Americans said they typically consider setting New Year’s Resolutions related to their personal finances. This year, 26 percent of respondents said they are in a better financial situation today than last year (only 19 percent said so in 2012) and 28 percent say they are less in debt (vs. 25 percent in 2012).
Home buying tends to be a popular resolution among those with money on their minds at this time of year – and also among people looking forward to career promotions, developing their love and family relationships or relocating to a new home town. Make sure your home is well-represented on sites like Trulia at the beginning of the year (i.e., now!), when these life and financial change visionaries start searching the web for their next nest.
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