Don't Give Your Realtor a Vacation

At the risk of taking heat from my colleagues, I am here to tell you that if your house is currently on the market and you can deal with a showing or two during the busy holiday season, then keep your house listed. And if you’ve already moved out and your house is vacant, even more reason to stay listed through the holidays. This is the current thinking among real estate professionals.

What I love about working in real estate is that there is no nine-to-five rut. It is an unpredictable business, where my hours as an agent are largely dictated by the ebb and flow of the motivations of seller and buyer clients I have at any given moment. Are they ready to get in the car for a weekend to finally buy? Is my seller ready to put the house on the market? It may be 10 p.m., but if there is a negotiation unfinished, I may be taking calls to try and close the deal.

So I welcome the precious few predictable breaks in real estate activity around here. After the spring market — almost always the busiest time in real estate — agents can reasonably expect that, if they were successful enough, they could have a spate of closings in June and July from transactions they worked on in March, April, and May. Then they’re off to the Cape or somewhere for part of August.

But the holiday season is usually the most predictable down time for real estate. Even in the boom years, agents could count on the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as reliable vacation time. Fewer buyers would want to be out at that time, and sellers often take their homes off the market.

Buyers are still out there in the winter. In fact, many have more time off from work around the holidays, and I am often scraping to show serious clients available listings as the inventory dwindles. If they see a house on the market that they like, it’s a great time to make a deal. A seller is usually not going to be in a significantly stronger position in the spring. As Saul Cohen, president of Hammond Real Estate, pointed out recently: “In 2010 in Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk and Plymouth counties, nine percent of all new under agreements for the entire year of 2010 occurred between November 20, 2010 and January 2, 2011.” What’s more, “in 2010, 43 percent of the entire year’s new under-agreements happened by May 15, 2010, and the market was beginning to slow down.”

I recently had this very discussion with a seller in Belmont. From December 1, 2009, to February 1, 2010, there were 24 total homes in Belmont that went under agreement and closed (some closing later in the year). That represented eight percent of all closed sales in the town in 2010. Last year during the same period, it was down to six percent — still a significant number.

Some more great reasons to keep your listing on the market are made in this article in Realty Times. It looks at realistic buyer scenarios, such as relocating buyers who have no choice when to begin their search for a new home. That’s urgency for you. But there is also the opposite, buyers who are intimidated by the hectic and competitive fall and spring markets. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about skittish buyers who don’t want to get in a bidding war. Well, they nevertheless want to buy. If you’re a seller, don’t place false hope in a spring refresh.