What You Need to Know About Buying and Selling a Home During the Holidays

Colorful winter foliage arrangements brighten up exteriors, creating a more welcoming first impression for potential buyers. (Photo courtesy of Rocco Fiore & Sons.)

Buying and selling a home is stressful any time of year. Throw in the frenzy of the holiday season and things suddenly get even more complicated. Don’t worry! Expert brokers Lisa Schulkin of @properties, Karen Schwartz of Chicago New Properties and Karen Ranquist of Koenig Rubloff share what you need to know about buying and selling during the holidays.

For Sellers

Let the season help the exterior of your home look more enticing. “The exterior is a buyer’s first impression of a home,” says Schulkin. “Instead of packing away your planters, make use of them with winter foliage arrangements of boxwood hedges, red-twig dogwood, dried eucalyptus and winterberry holly or pinecones.”

Take photos prior to listing in the winter while there is still greenery. “It paints a better picture for prospective buyers versus seeing photos of a listing when things are gray and bare,” explains Schwartz.

Don’t forgo holiday decorations, but keep it to a minimum. “Stay simple when staging but know that holiday cheer can lighten the mood and tends to make holiday buying more enjoyable,” Ranquist says. Schulkin adds, “Items such as candles can actually warm up the home and make it feel inviting. If you choose to decorate, focus on items that are more festive to the holidays and try to limit more religious decorations.”

Accommodate buyers who will be seeing your home in snow. “Make sure the driveway is plowed and the walkway is shoveled,” recommends Schulkin. “If possible, put out a bench by the front door so buyers can remove boots easily and put on booties.”

Hire an agent or broker that is reliable, especially during the holiday season. “Use someone that is going to be available for showings and marketing your home, and that is not going on vacation without anyone to help assist with selling your home,” says Schwartz.

Consider virtual tours or video walk-throughs online for prospective buyers. Schwartz has seen how weather can sometimes prohibit buyers from going out to see the house in-person. The more virtual access buyers have, the better.

Sellers should set expectations with their agent about when they absolutely cannot be out of their home for a showing or open house. “Your agent can then communicate this to other brokers,” explains Schwartz.

For Buyers

Be aware that A/C units, sprinkler systems and pools cannot be inspected during winter months. “It’s vital that your attorney obtain sellers’ representation and warranty that those items were in good working order the last season they were used,” says Schulkin.

Take advantage of homes that were potentially overpriced during the peak season and now are priced to sell. “There is typically a smaller pool of buyers, so there’s less chance of getting in a bidding war or feeling the pressure to make a quick decision,” Schulkin explains.

As a home buyer, the days your children have off from school for a holiday or winter break can offer the perfect time for the family to see the potential new home together. Schedules are tight for families during the school year. “This can be the ideal time to tackle home buying together,” Ranquist says.

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