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4 tips for holiday-season home sellers

Conventional wisdom says the holidays are the worst time of the year to try to sell your home. Realtors say conventional wisdom is wrong.

A cynic might suggest realtors are eager to sell homes at any time of the year, regardless of the seasonal advantages and disadvantages for sellers, but the arguments in favor of selling in the off-season are compelling.

The holiday season makes sense precisely because fewer homes typically are on the market. That reduces the "competition" for your home, and it means buyers have less leverage to pressure you into price reductions, repair credits or other concessions, argues Chantay Bridges, a real estate agent in Los Angeles.

What's more, buyers who are shopping for a home during the holidays are often highly-motivated and may be able to close quickly, adds Marcia Goodman, a Realtor at Samson Properties in Gainesville, Va.

"Loans can get approved faster than they would during the spring or summer since not as many home sales are happening," Goodman says. "It's the perfect time for buyers to shop for the lowest mortgage rate."

4 tips for holiday home sellers

1. Price to sell

Regardless of the season, it's smart to price your home realistically. Pricing too high can lead to a stale listing and eventual price reductions while pricing more reasonably might attract multiple offers, potentially resulting in a bidding war and higher sales price.

Off-season buyers "are motivated to purchase and most likely not interested in bargaining or haggling, so now is not the time to be overly ambitious with your pricing," Goodman says. "Know your home's fair market value and price it accordingly."

2. Focus on photos

High-quality photos of your home are especially crucial in December because most buyers begin their home search online and even serious buyers may limit how many houses they want to see in cold weather. If your house looks great in pictures, it's more likely to make buyers' lists of properties they want to see in person, agents say.

If your home's photos were taken earlier in the year, ask your realtor about updating them. Out-of-season photos can suggest to buyers that your home has been on the market for a long time. Include a few images illustrating the landscape in its prime later in the slideshow or in a printed brochure.

3. Stage expertly

To make your home more appealing to buyers, clean every surface so all your rooms are light, bright and shiny. Get rid of any clutter and pack up your personal items.

You might not be able to update your landscaping or freshly paint your home's exterior in the wintertime, but you can still spruce up outside so your home has what realtors call "curb appeal." Inside, add a few strategically-placed flower arrangements to elevate the atmosphere.

Making your home smell good can help, too. Subtle seasonal scents such as cinnamon and cloves can make your home feel warm and inviting, Bridges says. Be careful not to overdo scents though.

4. Limit holiday decor

Keep your holiday decorations simple and limit personal or religious statements that might distract buyers from your home's highlights.

"Selling your house is not the time to enter a holiday decorating contest and go all out, Bridges says.

That doesn't mean you have to forgo holiday décor altogether. Goodman says her favorite tip for holiday-season sellers is to set the dining table as if cherished guests were expected for a fancy dinner.

"Use warm lights and candles (unlit), beautiful table settings, napkins, rings, shiny silverware, centerpieces and greenery," she suggests. "Nothing is as inviting as a dining room that is set for the holidays."

If you have a traditional Christmas tree, stack gifts, sweep up pine needles and secure electrical cords so buyers don't trip and fall inside your home.

Put these tips into action and your home might be sold before the New Year begins.

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