While it’s tempting to cuddle up and get cozy by the fire, winter is becoming one of the best times of the year to sell your home. Properties listed from December through March sell faster and for more money. One recent study found that 74 percent of homes listed in February sold within 90 days, compared to only 60 percent of homes sold in October.
Evolving Housing Trends
Before the Great Recession of 2008, the best time to sell a home was May through June. As the market recovered, homeowners across the country listed their properties in the spring of 2013. This deluge of inventory led to an oversupply that glutted the market and altered the way Americans buy and sell homes.
Even in snow-heavy cities like Boston and Chicago, homes are selling for more money in January, February and March. While it may be tempting to hunker down and hibernate for the season, in today’s housing market, the early bird clearly gets the worm.
Atlanta’s Housing Shortage
While many sellers wait out the winter months in the hopes of quick spring sales, fewer homes hit the market during the coldest months of the year. In this less saturated market, your home is more likely to stand out — even if it’s less than perfect.
Since the recession ended, Atlanta’s housing stock for lower to mid-market price points has struggled to keep up with buyer demand. A healthy housing market has six to seven months of available inventory, but in 2017, Atlanta’s housing stock of homes under $500,000 has lingered around 2.5 months. At the same time, the average sales price of a new home in Atlanta has risen to $289,000 — a yearly increase of 4.7 percent.
In 2017, Gwinnett and Fulton counties had the most home sales, while close-in Fulton and DeKalb had the highest median sales prices of $360,000 and $272,000, respectively. Additionally, homes in desirable counties like Cobb and Gwinnett spent less than 40 days on the market.
Atlanta’s booming economy, particularly its high-tech sector, has outpaced new home construction. This imbalance in inventory has led to rising prices, especially in desirable intown neighborhoods near the BeltLine.
In hot neighborhoods like Cabbagetown or Old Fourth Ward, fewer than 15 homes may be for sale in any given month. If you are selling a home in one of these areas, a winter listing could net you even more money. Buyers who want to live in these hot neighborhoods are plentiful, no matter the season.
Bring on the Bidding Wars
While homes in Atlanta are already hard to come by, selling during the winter could put you over the top. With so few homes available, your home could have multiple offers, setting you up for a bidding war that could net you higher profits. The weather may be frightful, but the prices can be delightful.
A recent study of one million homes in 19 cities found that properties listed between Dec. 21 and March 21 had a 10 percent or greater chance of selling at or above asking price, compared to homes listed between March 22 and June 21.
The same study found that February is the best month to sell, with 66 percent of homes listed selling within 90 days. In 2012, December listings actually netted the biggest percentage of offers above asking price — 17 percent! In fact, 60 percent of real-estate experts now advise listing during the holidays.
Since interest rates tend to rise during early spring, many motivated buyers are looking to purchase before rates go up. These buyers may be willing to pay a little more upfront to save money in interest.
While spring has traditionally been known as moving season, buyers willing to venture out in the cold may be more likely to make an offer.
Large corporations transfer employees at the beginning of the year, and these highly qualified buyers are looking to settle down quickly. They often have savings and moving-expense credits they are ready and willing to spend on your home.
Many buyers wait until after the school year ends, but winter buyers brave the cold because they need to buy a home — and fast. These buyers are less likely to be nitpicky, and their list of “must-haves” is often smaller.
To make the most of winter selling season, it’s important to be flexible with closing dates and showing times. Some buyers may be looking to close in four months, while others are ready to seal the deal right away — in as little as 20 days.
While spring is the boom time for REALTORs®, winter can be a particularly slow time of the year. With fewer clients and more available time, real estate agents have more resources to help you get the best price for your place.
Your home may see half or a third as many visitors as it would during the spring, but a small number of high-quality buyers means fewer showings and fewer people traipsing through your home — tracking dirt and peering inside your cabinets.
In the spring, curb appeal means sparkling green lawns and fresh flowers, but a winter sale requires less yard work. Raked leaves, hardy potted plants and trimmed hedges should do the trick.
Add some vibrant holly and evergreens to the mix and clear your driveway and walkways of snow. You can also boost your curb appeal by painting your front porch, adding new address plates, installing outdoor lighting and adding a colorful new doormat.
Inside, swap out old door handles and fixtures for new ones, replace outdated countertops, organize rooms and eliminate clutter. Adding some warm, bright lighting and a fresh coat of neutral paint can also make a big impression for minimal money.
Winter buyers may be motivated, but they’ll also be extra mindful of drafts and heating issues. Before listing your home, get your furnace, HVAC and roof inspected. Clean your gutters, insulate your attic, change your air filters and weather-strip your windows.
When it comes to showings, make your house feel warm and welcoming by keeping your temp at an inviting 68 to 70 degrees. When buyers come in from the cold, they’ll feel comfy and cozy.
Gloomy winter skies and snowy streets make home tours a hassle. That’s why it’s important to turn your home into a haven of warmth and cheer. Seasonal wreaths and topiaries can liven up the entryway, luxurious throws can help set the scene and scents of evergreen and cranberry can paint a picture of holiday coziness. Don’t forget to call attention to your hearth with a stack of firewood and a roaring fire.
Sell When You’re Ready
In today’s rapidly changing market, it’s important to remember that real estate doesn’t follow rules. The best choice you can make for your family is to sell when you’re ready. If your home is in the right condition and priced right, there will always be a buyer — no matter the neighborhood or the season.
Keep a close eye on your neighborhood. If there’s very little for sale during the winter, and homes are selling in 60 days or less, you could make a hefty profit in a less competitive market. Focused REALTORS®, less inventory and motivated buyers can be a win-win-win for you in terms of profits and pricing.
If you do want to sell in the spring, listing a little earlier in the season can put you ahead of the competition. Either way, do your research, be open minded and remain flexible. You may be rewarded for acting faster!