Real Estate Q&A: Selling a home in winter |

Real Estate Q&A: Selling a home in winter

Doug Van Etten
Free Press Real Estate Columnist

Q: We are moving out of the Grand Junction area, and we are trying to decide if we want to put our house up for sale now, in early November, or wait until after the first of next year. As you might guess, all of our relatives have different suggestions.

A: That is often a debate among those who want to sell a house, but do not necessarily have to sell it right away.

The short answer: If you have to sell the house in order to buy something where you are moving — because you only want to make one move — then list that house for sale today with a Realtor who will market it aggressively and get it sold.

A couple of years ago I compared June to December sales in the Grand Junction area and found 40 percent more homes sold in June than December. That data however spurs a “glass half full or empty” debate — while there were 40 percent less homes sold in December, 60 percent of that higher number still sold, meaning there are motivated buyers in the market even during the holiday months of November and December.

If you will be moving, leaving your house vacant during the holiday months is a perfect time to clean the place exceptionally well, decorate it with some festive holiday cheer and be glad prospective buyers can see your house at its holiday best. Plus, you do not have to worry about putting things away, cleaning up and all those other chores involved in selling a “lived-in” house. The other advantage with decking your home with holiday decor is that you can effectively stage the house, giving it that lived-in look while actually having little or no furniture there.

If you want to put the house up for sale in the New Year, that too can be a very effective strategy. In that case, I suggest you move out most of your possessions, leave enough furnishings, area rugs and wall hangings to give the house a semi-lived-in, staged appearance and call it good. Clean it once, then look forward to the days you do not have to pick up kids clothes, sweep or vacuum dog hair, or wash and put away breakfast dishes in anticipation of a showing.

To make it even easier, those staging props should be furniture you can do without in your new home. Then hire a friend or neighbor to take the “left behinds” to the local Goodwill store when the sale is complete. Of course there is also a chance the new buyer may want to keep some or all of what you left, but do not assume the buyer will want your stuff. Have a removal plan in place.

There is no perfectly right solution to your question however. Each family’s circumstances, motivations and needs are different. Hopefully the thoughts here have given you rationale for why you may want to proceed one way or the other.

Either way, if you are going to be out of the house while it is for sale, be sure to take care of a few things before you leave. Set the programmable thermostat, if you have one, so the house is not an ice box during expected showing times. Plan for yard work to get done, either lawn mowing or shoveling. In showing instructions have all Realtors connected to the house report anything they observe as out of the ordinary.

Fun Fact: There is no seasonal up or down tick in overall sales prices. Just like any other time of the year, homes selling in November through January should heed recent comparable property sales prices. The average market time in the Grand Valley is about 90 days right now. How you price the house determines your market time no matter what month of the year your house sells.

Free Press columnist Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Cherry Creek Properties, a Colorado-wide realty firm that recently opened a Grand Junction office. Van Etten has been helping home buyers, sellers and investors accomplish their real estate goals since 1992. To contact him, email

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