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Christmas a good time for buying, selling a home

Looking for a new home is far too important a business to let mere Christmas holidays get in the way. In fact, Christmas season, including the very day itself, is considered an excellent time to do a deal of the real estate variety. Evidently, most Ontario home buyers agree with this: 64 per cent of people in the market for a new home say they will continue to search through the holidays. Most of them expect to pick up a good deal for their efforts; two-thirds expect to find less competition and just over half hope to get a break on the price.

The president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, Costa Poulopoulos, whose organization polled Ontarians who are in the market for a new home, said that home hunters should “keep an open mind” about what to expect, adding that “serious” home buyers could indeed have an advantage over other buyers who are too busy with holiday commitments. Finding a seller who’s willing to drop his price is by no means a certainty, though, says Poulopoulos. “Regardless of the time of year, buyers and sellers must be prepared to negotiate a satisfactory price for both parties.”

Advantages for Christmas buyers and sellers

These thoughts generally confirm what many in the real estate business have said. Internet searches for homes surge during the holiday season, says realtor Heather Chilvers, who works the Bermuda real estate market. From the seller’s point of view it would be a big mistake not to list the home at this time and miss out on all those extra web-based searches.

Christmas is the perfect time to show your home looking its best: festive but not over-the-top decorations, combined with the traditional sights, sounds and odours of the season, help potential buyers see the place as a “home” they can relate to.

Again from the seller’s point of view, the buyer who is willing to forego a Christmas party or lazy afternoon at home and possibly brave bad weather to look at his home is, according to Chilvers, the kind of buyer that sellers dream about. In a word, they are motivated. That means they are willing to spend. And since there are generally fewer new listings on the market at this time of year, sellers’ market conditions may prevail. Good for the seller, not so good for the buyer.

Home buying expert Elizabeth Weintraub of Sacramento, California, goes even farther. Christmas Day is the best day of the year to buy a home, she says. Why? People are in good moods. They are more inclined to be generous. There are fewer buyers out and about. The person who’s willing to show his or her home over Christmas is serious about selling—that “motivated” word again. And that’s good for buyers. All of these factors, anecdotal though they are, support the point that Christmas is no reason to take a break from real estate.

Time magazine differs slightly on this, maintaining in a recent essay that the best time to make an offer on a home is January. Its reasons are similar to those in favour of Christmas season buying: less competition, more motivated sellers (possibly feeling financially stressed after Christmas).

Time goes so far as to name the best day of the week to make an offer: it’s Tuesday. The reason is that the homeowner may have just made a mortgage payment “for a house he no longer wants” and he doesn’t want to make another one. By Tuesday (as opposed to Monday) that seller may be getting anxious that he isn’t getting any offers. He’ll be ready to jump at the first offer, so Time argues.

[colorbox title=”Buying and selling a home at Christmas” color=”#333333″]

Tips for holiday home buyers*

  • Get a good look. If the homes you visit are covered with snow, ask to see photographs of the home taken in summer or spring. Have a home inspection done to uncover potential faults.
  • Ensure your realtor, mortgage broker and lawyer are available during the holiday season in case you need to move quickly on an offer.
  • Make time yourself: be ready to act if a home that you are interested in comes up.
  • Get ahead: talk to your realtor about looking into homes that are not yet listed but that are being prepared for sale.

Tips for holiday home sellers

  • Deck the halls, but keep it to a minimum: Seasonal decorations are the way to go, but don’t overdo it; you’ll just crowd your home and distract buyers.
  • Do not hide flaws. Rather than covering up flaws with holiday décor, take the time to fix them or keep them revealed to avoid future conflicts with your buyers.

*Adapted from OREA[/colorbox]

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