A recent column from the Oak Park Area Association of Realtors posed the question, “Should you sell your home this holiday season?” Traditionally, there was a belief that the real estate world ground to a halt between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  

Elissa Palermo

Sellers didn’t want people walking through their homes during a season of parties and family gatherings, and potential buyers were assumed to be out enjoying the festive season. The old adage was to wait until after the Super Bowl to list or shop for a home.

However, according to association and some Oak Park and River Forest-area real estate agents, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to selling or buying during the holidays. Elissa Palermo, president of the OPAAR, says it might be time to rethink what we’ve been told. 

“Listing a home during the holidays can be extremely advantageous to homeowners, and it doesn’t have to ruin any holiday cheer,” Palermo said.

A different selling experience

According to Palermo, since most sellers find it too much of a hassle to list during the holidays, they may take their home off the market for a month or two, or wait to list until the weather warms up. 

She points out that this creates an inventory shortage which can be good news for the seller who chooses to stay in the market.

“Since there are limited choices for buyers, the homeowner could have a higher asking price,” Palermo said.

The Gillian Baker Team: Dorothy Gillian, April Baker, and Anna Gillian | Provided

The Gillian-Baker Team of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago/Oak Park, which is made up of April Baker, Dorothy Gillian, Anna Gillian Cramer and Cara Carriveau, agrees that the lack of competition can be a boon to sellers who choose to list during the holidays.

They point out that because shopping for a home in cold weather is not something most people do for fun, those buyers that are out during the holidays tend to be more serious and ready to make a decision quickly. 

“As a seller, you will generally experience fewer showings, while having a higher likelihood that a showing will turn into an offer,” the team responded in an email.

Baird and Warner’s Vanessa Willey says that she always tells her clients, “Houses sell year-round, and the best time to sell is when you’re ready.” 

She notes that because choosing to sell a house can be an emotional decision, many sellers shy away from the holidays because they will be distracted by other events. 

Sometimes, sellers here don’t want to list when their yards are barren and snow-filled, but Willey notes that weather is not as important as people think and the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be surprising. 

She recalls December 2012 was one of her busiest seasons as the real estate world emerged from the recession of 2008.

“I put on an open house in January 2013, and the line was out the door,” she said, adding that the housing market is closely tied to the economy and that the economy can be more of a factor than the season.

The agents all say that it’s not uncommon to see less serious buyers drop out of the market during the busy holiday season, but those who remain are often there for a reason.

“If someone is touring homes instead of celebrating the season with friends and family, they likely need to buy a home quickly and could be willing to pay more,” Palermo said.

“Buyers who are out there are very serious and ready to pull the trigger,” Willey added.

Decorate with a light hand

Palermo says that staging a home during the holidays can be tied into holiday decorating if sellers keep it simple. 

“Just be careful not to overdo it, as décor that is too large or over the top can distract buyers,” she said.

Vanessa Willey

Willey agrees that sellers should tone it down if they are selling during the holidays.

“It’s not optimal if the house is fully decorated, she said. “It can make it harder for buyers to envision themselves in the house.”

The Gillian-Baker team also advises adding subtle touches to your home during the holidays if you want to sell. While warm and cozy accents are good, they caution sellers not to overdo it as they want potential buyers to focus on the home not the holiday décor.

In general, Willey notes that April is the busiest month for real estate sales, and that June tends to slow down as buyers get busy with graduations, the end of the school year and weddings. 

She says that next year, a lot of factors will go into the market. Houses were in short supply during the busy spring market of 2022, so it’s possible there will be more early buyers out there who are very motivated to buy. The economy will weigh on buyers’ minds as well.

“There’s a lot of psychology involved,” Willey said. “If buyers are worried about the economy, that could slow things. Right now, there’s some worry but not as much as the last recession.”

The agents with the Gillian-Baker Group note, “Higher interest rates have added an extra chill to the real estate market this holiday season as buyers adjust to the new normal. Interest rates changed rapidly this year, which caught many off-guard and understandably have taken a moment to adjust their expectations. We fully anticipate the market to pick up in the New Year.”

Willey agrees that interest rates are a factor, and stresses that sellers should not try to market-time what is a deeply personal decision. If she had sellers who were ready to move, she might advise them to list on Dec. 27 to take advantage of there being fewer houses on the market and to get those motivated buyers in the door.

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