Should You List in January Or Wait for the Spring Selling Season?

Conventional wisdom says wait until the warmer months to put your house on the market. Here are a few reasons to rethink that idea.

Small house in woman's hands; Shutterstock ID 90062977; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post
Small house in woman’s hands; Shutterstock ID 90062977; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Thousands of homeowners speak to their real estate agent this time of year to consider their sale options — typically for the spring. It takes a few months for the agent and seller to plan and prep to list the home, so starting now makes sense.

Over the years, I’ve asked sellers if they would consider listing their home in January, right after the first of the year. At first, they look at me like I’m crazy. “Who sells a home in the dead of winter?” they ask.

As it turns out, many sellers not only successfully make it happen, but actually end up better off. Here’s why.

Buyers are out 24/7/365

In the past, buyers waited for spring to start their shopping because that’s when the majority of listings hit the market for the spring selling season.

Today’s buyers look at listings all day, every day. They have apps on their phone, get listings texted and emailed to them, and don’t care about the time of year.

They’re looking for inventory, and will buy homes well before the spring. List your home in January, and you will have a captive audience.

Bonuses, inheritances and tax implications

Each year, real estate agents’ phones ring come January. Previously active buyers want to re-engage, and new buyers come out of the woodwork. What causes this yearly phenomenon?

The end of the year often brings family events, financial activities and discussions about gifting for tax implications. Conversations about inheritances and taxes, money and homeownership seem to occur at many families’ holiday dinners.

Additionally, at year’s end, people take stock of their incomes, find out about work bonuses, and start thinking about whether they want to spend another year renting. Buyers start to take a second look at the tax implications of homeownership, too.

Whether it’s a new buyer who moves quickly or a previously active buyer who re-engages, these house hunters are around in January and will look at your home if it’s for sale.

Where’s the competition?

Typical sellers wait until spring to list. There’s no doubt that visible grass, blooming flowerbeds, and a spotlight on outdoor areas make houses more inviting.

But that also means that there might be two or three similar houses for sale in your neighborhood or school district, in your price range. Thus, it changes the supply-and-demand balance.

You’re better off being the only game in town when it’s time to sell. The more homes on the market, the more the buyers spread out.

Buyers shopping in January understand that the home won’t show as well as it does in the spring and summer months. Many of them don’t care. Having photos of your home during these times of year will help them envision it in the warmer seasons.

If you’re a flexible seller — meaning that you aren’t under any time restrictions or time frames to sell, and your home is already in showing condition — consider listing in mid- to late January. You can always control and negotiate your closing deadline with a buyer. If someone falls in love with the home, they may not mind waiting until April to close.

Also, many buyers have been at it for many months (sometimes years). So, come January, they are tired of open houses Sundays and the real estate hunt. This is your target buyer and, in part, they’re why it’s better to list in January than to wait until spring.

Posted by Brendan Desimone on Zillow

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