With Christmas on the horizon, many a home seller is asking, "Why not take the house off the market until January?"
While real estate specialists acknowledge that homebuyers dwindle in number during December, they strongly advise serious sellers to stay the course.
"There are more pluses than minuses to keeping your home on the market during the holidays," says Mike Brodie, president of the Residential Sales Council, an education group tied to the National Association of Realtors.
Here are ten reasons why you should persevere:
* Reason No. 1: Holiday homebuyers are serious buyers.
"Yes, there are fewer buyers but the ones that are out there are not tire kickers. They have a strong reason to buy," says Sally Hulbert, who sells real estate for the Bethesda office of Coldwell Banker.
Serious prospects include those moving because of a job change or transfer and -- best of all from your viewpoint as a seller -- those who have already sold their own homes. Prospects without an urgent reason to buy often drop out during the holiday season.
* Reason No. 2: The current home selling season is a relatively good one in many communities.
Before the presidential election, uncertainty kept many from buying. America was holding its breath -- waiting to see what was ahead. Now the country has finally exhaled. Job fears still keep many from buying. But, in numerous communities, more prospects are out than before.
"The day after the election, the phones started to ring," says Sandy Sadler, sales manager at the Pasadena office of Prudential Preferred Properties.
Is your market one of those warmer than it was before Bill Clinton became president-elect? Are buyers in your area motivated by the belief that mortgage rates could rise in a more robust 1993 economy? Then why risk losing a good buyer
due to a holiday respite?
* Reason No. 3: Home sellers face less competition during the holiday season.
Faced with the inconvenience of selling during the busy holidays, about 20 percent of sellers remove their properties from the market, estimates Ms. Hulbert, the Bethesda agent.
"Buyers have fewer homes to choose from during the holidays," she points out.
Naturally, having fewer rivals in the field should accrue to the advantage of those toughing out the season -- especially when dealing with committed buyers.
* Reason No. 4: Your agent should work as hard for you during the holidays as the rest of the year.
Quality agents know that the housing market doesn't screech to a halt simply because of the holidays. They're as eager to capture holiday-time opportunities as their sellers.
You can expect fewer showings during the holidays, but your agent should still be working for you. If your agent appears to be backing off, realty specialists suggest you consider changing agents.
* Reason No. 5: Your home should present well during the holidays.
Assuming you celebrate Christmas, your house is likely quite appealing during the season -- with a Christmas tree, decorations and the welcoming aromas of baking cookies or scented candles.
"Your home is probably the prettiest it will be all year long," says Ms. Sadler, the Pasadena sales manager. The emotional appeal of a home decked out for Christmas should cause it to sell faster than a non-holiday home, she says.
* Reason No. 6: Some buyers are easier to bring to terms during the holidays.
The festive season puts many in a more agreeable, generous mood than the rest of the year -- even those who don't celebrate Christmas.
You can't count on it. But the possibility exists that a buyer will be more willing to compromise with you during the holidays than the rest of the year, says Mr. Brodie, an executive with the RE/MAX Realty chain.
* Reason No. 7: Interruptions to your holiday plans can be kept to a minimum.
Granted, it's a pain during the holiday season to keep your home in the kind of total tidiness and order required to sell well. But you can anticipate relatively few showings during this period and that means fewer interruptions to your plans.
Also, holiday-time buyers tend to be more understanding of small postponements. Are you having a big party involving out-of-town relatives on the Saturday before Christmas? Then most people will accept as reasonable a wait until Sunday to see your home. By the same token, they probably won't demand a look on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
* Reason No. 8: Keeping your home on the market in December could help you capture that great out-of-town buyer who will start a new job after the first of the year.
You know the one -- the guy given three days by his employer to find a house in the new town. There are enough of these "three-day wonders" out there in December, laying groundwork for a January move, to justify a seller who perseveres. That's because three-day wonders can be very earnest buyers who often make fast decisions on a purchase.
* Reason No. 9: Staying the course during the holidays could save you money by shortening your selling time.
All too often, realty specialists say, sellers fail to take into account the high costs associated with a protracted selling process. They forget that extra months on the market means extra carrying costs -- including mortgage payments, utility and maintenance costs.
Marketing your property through the holidays doesn't guarantee faster sale. But it could help expedite matters, real estate specialists say.
* Reason No. 10: The reward for stick-to-itiveness could be the chance to move on with your plans -- including the purchase of your own new home.
Almost universally, realty people recommend you sell one home before you buy another. Selling in December could clear the way for purchase of your next home in January, when more properties come to market, says Ms. Sadler, the Pasadena sales manager.
Her counsel: "Relax, enjoy the holidays and keep your home on the market. Selling could be another nice Christmas present under your family's tree."