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Haisler: Use holidays to your advantage to sell home

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Should I take my home off the market for the holidays? Heck, no.

There are a number of reasons to sell your home during the holidays. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Most people take more time around the holidays to spruce up their home than any other time of year. Therefore, many homes are in their best condition during the holidays. In preparation for having visitors over, homeowners consider the curb appeal of their house. They might fix up their doorways to welcome their guests. They’ll clean up the leftover ashes in the fireplace from last year’s burnings, or clean cobwebs and sweep/vacuum floors as they prepare for holiday decorations.

Speaking of holiday decorations, taking the time to put up special touches personalizes our homes. It shows prospective buyers that the owners care for their home and enjoy living there. It shows a prospective buyer that they, too, would enjoy living there. Be sure to check out outdoor holiday lights often. Replace burned out holiday bulbs and rehang dangling light strings just like you’d do any other fixture in your home. Show that you pay attention to the details and take care of them.

Because we have more visitors during the holidays than other times of the year, we also tend to keep our home more presentable than the rest of the year. If you’re going to have to keep the house clean for your guests, anyway, how much harder is it to keep it clean for a few more people, that is, interested buyers?

Some suggest there are fewer buyers out during the holidays, so why be on the market then? If that is true, and there’s no proof it is, then wouldn’t it also be true that those buyers, who are out there, are very serious? So you have a more serious pool of buyers to work with and fewer people just “kicking the tires” – not to mention kicking you out of your house – for showings.

Even here in northern Illinois, the weather isn’t usually too bad in December, although this year has shown us a different side. The big snows and cold seem to come in January and February, so the sometimes excuse of weather issues doesn’t fit well annually.

It’s no secret that some people do take their homes off the market during the holidays. That could work in your favor. Let your competition take the month off. That means more prospects for your house. Fewer homes for yours to compete with, the better for you.

And speaking of selling your home, don’t forget that you are just as responsible for getting it sold as the real estate agent. You have to make sure to keep the home looking good, as discussed above, and well maintained.

Be sure to fix up the little things that you’ve been putting off: maybe a blown electrical outlet, certainly burnt out light bulbs, trim the bushes, shovel the walks, tighten/straighten cabinet doors, oil the squeaky door and so on.

While these little things might not seem like much, they are a sign as to how well you maintain the home. If you’re not tending to the little things, it might be assumed that you’re not tending to the big things, either. Speaking of bigger things, it is good advice to have your home’s furnace cleaned before selling it. If it hasn’t been cleaned in the past year, a home inspector will notice and make a note to the buyer. You’ll likely be asked to do it later, so why not do it upfront, enjoy the efficiency yourself, and show the buyers that you’re maintaining the home.

When I sold my home a few years ago, my wife and I put together a book about our house. We talked about the things we really enjoyed about the home, including watching the fireworks from the back deck (included a photo), how it was a short walk to downtown for the annual carnival (photo) and parade, and we mentioned the school close by with its playground for kids of all ages. We also mentioned our favorite restaurants and where to find coupons. We wanted to be sure potential buyers knew this was a good area for raising kids, at least in our opinion, and how much we loved living there. Clearly anyone flipping through the booklet got the impression that they’d enjoy living there, too.

Be certain to leave the home during showings. This is probably the most critical thing a seller can do. In my experience, when the sellers stay home during a showing, buyers spend significantly less time in the house. You want them to come in and look around and not feel rushed or intrusive. No matter how much you say, “Take your time,” if you are home, they will leave quickly. It’s that simple. You want those buyers to walk around and do what I call placing their furniture. When they start saying, “Oh, our sofa will fit great right here,” they’re interested.  

Lastly, if you are selling your house during these winter months, be sure to shovel the walks and driveways. This is more important than cutting the grass during the summer.   This first impression is critical in giving your home a chance in the minds of a potential purchaser.

So, the case has been made that the holidays are a great time to sell your home. Even with this winter’s early arrival, homes are still selling. Don’t take it off the market but rather use this festive season to your advantage.

• Jim Haisler is CEO of the Heartland Realtor Organization, a nonprofit trade group based in Crystal Lake serving nearly 900 real estate professionals throughout northern Illinois.

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