While spring is generally the most popular time of year to sell a house, statistics show that selling a home in the winter — even in places with unpredictable weather like St. Louis — can actually provide a great payoff. We offered some insight in our 2017 article on listing your home in the winter but the evidence is even more compelling as we enter a new decade!
Winter Buyers Are Motivated Buyers
Most people would prefer to stay inside and cozy up to a warm, crackling fire on a cold winter day. If a buyer is driving around town and using the limited daylight they have to trudge through ice and snow to house hunt during the winter months, they must be serious. That’s because many winter buyers have a deadline, whether it’s an expiring lease, a relocation, or a pressing financial situation.
“If buyers are looking for homes in January and February, they are motivated buyers. They don’t want to take the chance of waiting until the spring rush and losing out on the home,” said Gabrielle Millenbruck, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Gundaker in Kirkwood, MO. “We certainly see fewer prospects come through open houses in the winter, but if a winter buyer is scheduling showings and touring houses, that means they’re looking to find the right house now.”
The Internet Has No Seasons
According to a 2018 report from the National Association of Realtors®, nearly all home buyers (93 percent) used the Internet to help in their home search. In fact, nearly half of all home buyers looked for properties online first, before contacting a realtor. Online search time likely increases in the winter as well, with cold weather driving people indoors and the holidays providing more time off.
And don’t forget the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. In any season, the online pictures of your home are the key to attracting serious buyers, so be sure to hire a Certified Staging Professional (CSP) to help make your home as attractive as possible. CSPs are trained to objectively view every detail of a house from the buyer’s perspective. They will help you showcase the house’s best features to establish an immediate emotional connection with buyers. Even if your home will remain occupied during the listing, a professional stager can make the space look warm, cozy and inviting to potential buyers.
Getting Tax Breaks Before Year-End
Winter home buyers may also be motivated to buy a home by year’s end to take advantage of tax benefits such as deductions for mortgage interest, private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums, and real estate taxes. And if you’re selling your home and buying another, you could end December and ring in the new year with more tax breaks too!
Interest Rates are as Low as the Temperatures!
Mortgage rates hit near-record lows in 2019, but the really good news is that real estate experts expect them to stay low through 2020. “Individuals considering taking out mortgages will find that there is no time like the present. Over the next few years, the likelihood that rates will be higher than today is greater than the likelihood that rates will be lower,” said Robert R. Johnson, finance professor, Heider College of Business, Creighton University.
The Law of Supply and Demand: Low Inventory, Less Competition
In the winter months, a great many sellers take their home off the market, or simply postpone listing it until spring. While it may be a good option for some sellers, come spring your home listing will be just another fish in a much bigger pond. Listing your home in the winter months when the supply of homes for sale drops, can benefit you as the seller immensely.
“We’ve had a number of winter listings purchased by families moving to the area with a corporate relocation,” said Elizabeth Little, owner and broker of the Elizabeth Real Estate Group in Clayton, MO. “January and February are big months for relocations, and families are anxious to get their kids enrolled in school and settled into a new home. They can’t afford to wait until spring to make a decision.”
“Fewer” Doesn’t Mean “None”
Despite the cold and gloom, buying or selling a home in the winter might still be a necessary decision for many people. Yes, the market is more active in the spring — a Redfin report shows that inventory and competition is 36 percent lighter during winter months. But according to the Missouri Realtors Association, more than 41,000 homes were sold from Oct. 2018 to March 2019. Further, that number was up 11 percent from the same period the previous year.
“Things do slow down in December, but there’s no question that buyers are still looking. A couple of years ago I had a listing go live three days before Christmas, and it sold within a week,” said Stayce Mayfield, listing agent at Redfin St. Louis. “If you have taken the steps to make your home look its absolute best, based on the recommendations of your realtor and stager, your home will sell no matter what season it is.”