As the leaves change colors and there’s a nip in the air that signals the change of season, many in our local real estate market are tempted to hibernate. Sellers direct that their listings be withdrawn from the market just before Thanksgiving, with promises that they’ll be active again come spring. Veteran agents and even some of our newer folks find themselves planning winter vacations in sunny and sandy places, because they know that sellers and buyers are doing the same.
With the distractions of holiday activities, it’s a tempting time of the year to “unplug” from real estate, beginning at Halloween, and continuing through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and right up to New Year’s Day. But what about potential home buyers who are ready, willing and able to close in today’s competitive market? Should they keep house hunting while everyone else is partying, relaxing, and waiting for spring?
Best for Buyers to Keep House Hunting
We REALTORS® recommend that serious home buyers continue shopping, especially if they repeatedly have been “shut out” in multiple offer situations during the spring and summer, when demand was high and the limited supply of available homes attracted great numbers of buyers. Based on our experience and reported data, we know that buying intensity typically cools at the start of fall and continues to chill through early January, increasing the odds for success for buyers who remain persistent and patient.
One factor we’ve observed is that some competing buyers may bow out of the market as the winter holidays approach because they are overwhelmed by their family traditions, commitments and holiday spending. If they have children who are in school, there’s an aversion to moving mid-term and a reluctance to uproot the kids. These families will re-join the competing group of buyers next spring, in hopes of timing their moves for the end of the school year. Serious buyers who don’t have to face the issue of changing kids’ schools are in a better position to complete a purchase without as many competing buyers if they stay in the market between October and December.
Fall and Winter Sellers Want to Sell
An additional positive benefit to potential home buyers who keep hunting and make their purchase during the fourth quarter is that there will be some highly motivated sellers with their homes on the market. Often these people must sell before the end of the year for various reasons such as relocation due to job transfer, divorce proceedings, or tax considerations. These sellers may seize the opportunity to stage and present their properties attractively and invitingly, taking advantage of the various types of holiday decor and aromas (think pumpkin pie, hot mulled cider, pine boughs, etc.) appropriate to the season. Holiday home shopping and buying can be a pleasant experience.
Another advantage to being a seller whose home is available and on the market through the winter months here in the Sonoma Valley is the opportunity for exposure to buyers from other countries, especially those places where summer vacation travel occurs December through February. Residential real estate seasonality trends vary widely from country to country. Local off-season marketing efforts to boost the number of visitors to the Sonoma Valley in the winter or “shoulder” season provide opportunities to expose our residential real estate to more prospective buyers who come to Sonoma Valley first as visitors, and in time, after repeat visits, they join our community has home owners.
Home Loan Interest Rates Still Low
Another compelling reason for buyers to stay in the game this fall are the historically low interest rates for home loans. With a rate increase predicted to occur before the end of the year, right now is the perfect time for serious buyers to get their loan applications submitted and lenders’ pre-approval letters in hand.
Some REALTORS® who regularly work with buyers prefer showing, viewing and inspecting homes in the Sonoma Valley during a rainy winter season because the weather enables prospective buyers to better see a property “warts and all,” including how the property drains or where water stands and pools. We can only hope that El Nino delivers for them and their buyers!
For all of the reasons mentioned above, whether you’re selling or buying a home, don’t drop out of the market during the fall and winter months. They present unique opportunities that could help you make your move.