You’ll often hear that the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year are a bad time to buy or sell property and should be avoided. The same people will advise you to wait until the middle of January when the market typically kicks into full swing. On the other hand, you might hear that it’s the perfect time of year to nab a bargain or secure a quick sale. So which is it?
The truth is that it could go either way and it depends on the market and the area you’re in, as well as a bit of luck.
Here we look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying and selling property over the holidays.
At this time of year there are typically less houses on the market. Less supply may equal less competition from other sellers and increased competition among buyers for the limited stock there is. This could result in a higher sale price. If you’re selling in a holiday area, there may be greater traffic and increased interest from a wider range of buyers who may be holidaying in the area. If they’re looking to buy at Christmas, buyers are generally serious about a sale and may want to have the process finalized before Christmas or New Year. This could potentially mean a swift sale and settlement. The beginning of any year is typically a popular time for relocating, with people changing cities and states for study, work opportunities or simply for a change of pace. By listing during the holidays and beating the January rush you might be able to reach these buyers first and appeal to those who want to have a property secured in advance, ready for a move early in the New Year.
Buyers have the benefit of less competition during the holiday season. With any luck buyers may be able to negotiate a bargain, especially if the owner starts to feel the pressure of less interest during this period. Furthermore, if a seller believes the common assumption that Christmas is not a good time to sell, they might decide to enter the market at a lower than usual price in order to attract more interest. For buyers, this could mean getting a property at a below-market price. If you’re a buyer looking to secure a property over the holidays you may have greater flexibility to work with the owner towards a quick settlement – chances are if they’re selling over this time, they too want a quick sale before the January rush.
At this time of year when many of us head off on holidays, there is likely to be a smaller pool of buyers and less interest than there will be in the middle of January, when people return from holidays and get back into the swing of reality. This may mean you have to lower your price if you struggle to find a buyer or might have the property on the market for longer. This also means professionals – including real estate agents, mortgage brokers and solicitors – are on holidays too. It might be harder to get the sales agent you want, or it could be difficult to get in contact with them during this period, when you allow for public holidays and potentially shorter hours. If other suppliers and contractors are on holidays this could drag the settlement process out for longer and make it more stressful. Demand will vary depending on the market you’re selling in, meaning some markets may not benefit from a holiday sale as much as others. For example, CBD areas are generally less busy at this time of year, so may see a decline in interested parties. While perhaps not a huge deterrent in the grand scheme of things, you will need to be careful when decorating the home, you’re selling at Christmas. You should avoid Christmas decorations in advertising photos and anything polarizing that may deter potential buyers at open houses. This includes overly religious items or over the top Christmas decorations, which may make it difficult for buyers to imagine themselves living there. You also don’t want to have too many decorations out in case you get a sale and need to pack away and move quickly.
Buyers experience similar downsides to sellers at this time of year. This includes the potential for a drawn-out settlement process if businesses are closed over the holidays. During this time there are generally less options on the market. So, while you might have some luck getting a bargain, you may have a harder time finding your ideal property. Finally, there is the upheaval to your lifestyle. You may face disappointment if you can’t find anything suitable in this period yet are on a tight time frame. It also leaves less time and energy to actually enjoy the festive period.