We used to own a very large home in an old, in-city neighborhood that most of our friends thought looked great at Christmas.
I had never really thought about it very much until a successful bid at the local babysitting co-op auction brought us a one-hour visit from Santa.
As the neighborhood kids were coaxed into family-portrait poses with their parents and Santa near the Christmas tree, I sat back and thought how appealing the house actually was.
If there’s one time of year the house feels presentable, it’s during the holidays. And it’s not just the yuletide decorations. The kids seem to help more, perhaps knowing the consequences of being naughty rather than nice; bulky furniture and toys often are stowed in an attempt to save space, and pleasant baking smells come consistently from the kitchen.
With Christmas and New Year’s right around the corner, real estate brokers usually expect a slowdown as buyers and sellers shift their attention elsewhere. This year is different. The conventional wisdom that nobody makes serious visits or submits offers on houses for sale during the holidays will not apply in 2015. There is too little inventory in many markets and too many buyers seeking homes.
If you have your house on the market, encourage your agent to show it and have an open house next weekend.
Just remember that even though Santa is about ready to slide down the chimney, you won’t have to move out immediately even if a buyer walks through the door tomorrow.
A lot of people can’t afford the luxury of waiting until spring when all the flowers look lovely. The bottom line is that discriminating, qualified buyers are chasing homes, not seasons. In addition, there will probably be a lot more homes on the market in January and February so the competition for buyers will be greater.
Savvy agents suggest keeping a fire in the fireplace and raking up any remaining leaves in the yard. It’s also not a bad idea to keep that oven churning out your favorite treats. Aroma - and perception of warmth - often brings out memories of great times and tastes from specific holiday kitchens.
Never underestimate the value of tasteful decorations. I once knew a family who actually counted on visitors after dark because their home for sale had one of the most compelling light displays in town.
Do keep the interior of your house as free of clutter as possible. Ask Santa to keep most of the presents in the sleigh if you are having an open house just before Christmas and make a point of clearing the paper and ribbons right away after they are opened.
Lindsay Steenblock, owner-operator of County Clare Interiors, has helped consumers prepare for a variety of occasions, says having a few fire logs neatly stacked in a holiday bundle near the front door always adds atmosphere before a visitor enters.
“Everyone wants to feel warm and welcome – no matter who they are,’’ Steenblock. “Anything that you can do to set the stage is going to matter. If a holiday guest feels comfortable, a potential buyer will probably continue to sense that to a greater degree.’’
Steenblock suggests keeping a fire in the fireplace and making special tree ornaments of children and family.
“Old pictures can be copied, cut and placed on cardboard to make terrific tree ornaments,’’ Steenblock said. “If specific members of the family are visiting, pull out old pictures of them and place them on the mantle. Everybody will notice.’’
You might not think of shopping for a house after dark, but some neighborhoods have decorated their houses for more than 30 years. The prospective buyer sees something special, something extraordinary. It’s quite possible the sights – and emotion – could put more money in your pocket by bringing a higher sales price than you anticipated.
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