It’s a new year, and with holiday distractions behind us, I start hearing this question: When is the best time to list my home for sale? Is it better to do it now, or wait until spring?
Here’s my short answer: The right time to list is whenever you’re ready to sell your house.
“Ready” means several things. First, of course, it means when you and your family have made the decision to relocate, or move up to a more spacious home, or to downsize. It also means you’ve taken care of any repairs or decorating touches you know your home needs to be saleable. So if you’re ready to sell, you’re ready to list.
Aside from your own timing, wintertime has some advantages for sellers. For one thing, we see fewer listings this time of year, so your house will have less competition. Most people out looking are serious. To borrow a term from the automotive world, we see fewer “tire kickers” during the colder months.
Many home buyers are thinking about moving in the summer, often because that won’t disrupt their children’s school schedules. That means they start to do their homework in the winter, browsing Internet listings to find houses that appeal to them. Buyers start looking online way earlier than when they’re ready to come look. Having a listing online in the winter makes it more likely you’ll get serious buyers looking in the spring, and closing by summertime.
Here’s a related timing issue. Here in the Wilmington area, we attract a lot of buyers relocating from cold Northeastern states. Often they visit here in the winter. Our cool but often sunny weather is an appealing change from the snow, slush and gloom they’ve left back home. Having your property on the market now lets you show it to these motivated buyers when they’re here and eager for a change.
I often hear sellers worrying that they might get a better price if they wait. That may be true, now that real estate prices have stabilized and are starting to rise again. But there’s a big downside to waiting. Interest rates are also rising, so the longer you wait, the more a buyer will have to pay for a mortgage.
My advice is that listing sooner is better than waiting until later. Mortgage rates will rise faster than prices will. The Wilmington area still has a good inventory of available houses, so don’t expect rapid price gains in the near future.
Another negative to holding off, especially for empty-nest couples or retirees looking for a smaller home: You’ll keep paying higher costs on your current home – everything from mortgage, taxes and insurance to your heating bills – that may wipe out any gain on your selling price.
If you’re selling a beach house, remember that vacation-home buyers want to generate rental income whenever they’re not using their property themselves. Getting a house into a management company’s rental pool now maximizes its chances of getting booked, and generating income, next summer.
For all these reasons, I urge sellers: Definitely list in January, if not sooner. Remember that some important steps you need to get your home ready for listing can take time. Touching up any significant wear and tear, and clearing out clutter that may detract from your home’s appeal, should be finished before you put the house on the market.
A home inspection can be completed after the listing, but should be done quickly. If your house has any issue that a buyer’s inspector will find, you should know about it first. I’ve seen deals fall apart because of problems that could have been found, and fixed, in advance. At a minimum, any inspection issue can become part of the price negotiation up front, rather than a deal-breaker, if you discover it in time.
I can help you present your house at its best, with help from a home stager. You’ll get advice on how to use what you have to maximize your home’s appeal to buyers. Even if the curb appeal isn’t at its best now – grass is brown, shrubs are bare – we can use any of your photos that show green lawns and blooming azaleas to brighten up your online listing. Then, when spring rolls around, we’ll update your listing with new pictures.
Worries about a listing “getting stale” are beside the point now, if they’re priced right and staged well. If for any reason a listing gets to be a year old, I do recommend refreshing it, maybe with new pictures or a new approach to staging the interior. But for the vast majority of properties, that will never be an issue.
The sooner you list, the sooner you can sell. And the sooner you sell, the sooner you can get on with where you plan to go next.
Have a question about buying, selling or any other real estate matter? Let me know and I’ll address it in a future article.
Michelle Clark is a broker with Intracoastal Realty, based at the Wrightsville Beach office. She is an Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, ALHS and also a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource. Whether you are buying, selling, or investing, know that Michelle and her team will go the extra mile for you. To learn more about Michelle and Intracoastal, go to www.intracoastalrealty.com. You may contact Michelle at [email protected] or 910-367-9767. Like Michelle’s team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleClarkTeam.
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