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Real Estate Q&A: Timing matters when selling a home

Doug Van Etten
YOUR JOURNEY HOME
Free Press Real Estate Columnist
For sale sign board in the front yard of a house
Getty Images/Purestock | Purestock

Q: My wife and I know we want to sell our home. Our big question is do we list it for sale now or early next year?

A: If there is one rule of thumb that seems to hold true from one year to the next, it is that the middle of winter — which overlaps our longest and most continuous holiday season — is the slow season for real estate.

With that in mind, it is important to look at both your motivation and your plans for what you will do after the house sells and you must move out. Seller motivation can be a big determinant of market time — how many days is the house on the market to get it sold. If we take 80 days as average market time in 2014 for a house to sell, if you were to list Sept. 1 and the house take 80 days to receive an accepted purchase offer, it would take you into mid-November. Adding to that 30 days to get the sale closed would take you into mid-December. Last year, in December 2013, 162 home sales closed. That compared to 199 last September 2013 or 256 that closed in our most recent 30-day period in 2014.

Those numbers tell me that if you are motivated to get the house sold this year, by pricing it to sell, making sure your days on market are considerably less than that 80-day average, you have time to accomplish that goal. If you wait until later this year to get the house on the market or if it takes longer than 80 days to sell, then your closing will be sliding into the slowest closing months of the year, January and February. In 2014, 123 and 129 homes respectively closed in those two months.

For years — I have been selling homes for more than two decades — I had advised potential sellers to not list their home for sale after mid-October since winter months feature slow real estate sales. The analysis above however suggests that October through the holiday season time frame really is not statistically a bad time to have a house on the market. Based on 80 days plus 30 days to close, in order to close in March (when 170 houses closed in 2014), the house could have gone up for sale in mid-November and still had good sales opportunities.

The outlook above is purely crunching numbers. Since we know home buying and selling involves lots of emotion, available time and convenience, many people do not like to have their property on the market during the year-end holiday season. And, many buyer’s feel their emotions being pulled toward family and celebration rather than searching for and buying a home.

That said, you also need to look at your plans and expectations for the time after your home sells. If you list the house for sale still this year, the marketing and closing time could easily take you into the holiday season. If you expect to host a holiday dinner or out-of-town relatives, having the house for sale or on its way to closing may not be the best for you. On the other hand, if you plan to spend the holidays in Mexico or Costa Rica, having the house for sale while you are gone may be perfect.

In the end, since home buying and selling is so individualized to your wants and needs, the only sound advice I can give is to suggest you weigh your variables and make a decision based on your motivation for getting the house sold.

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 DouglasVanEtten@gmail.com.


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