Selling a home in winter is often a slow process. Since many home buyers traditionally hunker down as the temperature drops, particularly during the holidays, home sellers with real estate on the market typically see fewer buyers and lower offers.
That’s your typical winter, but this winter is shaping up to be a whole different reality, even a hot seller’s market.
According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®, “It will be one of the best winter sales years ever.”
The coronavirus has changed real estate in a multitude of ways, and perhaps one of the biggest is the sea of buyers who put off buying during the first wave of the pandemic and are now slated to flood the market this winter.
“Sellers will have the ball in their court so to speak, as there are more buyers than sellers,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®. “This means seller-friendly trends like rising home prices and quick-selling homes.”
According to a realtor.com report, September’s home inventory was 39% lower compared with the same month last year. Meanwhile, buyers are keen to take advantage of the record-low interest rates, which have been hovering at or below 3%.
All of this means that sellers who are willing to put their homes on the market now could reap the benefits. Here’s how sellers can make the most of this unprecedented time and enjoy a blizzard of buyers this winter.
Price your home on the high end
COVID-19 has created a shaky economy, so you may think pricing your home on the low end is the way to go. But that’s not the case.
According to a realtor.com report, the national median home listing price jumped 11.1% in September compared with last year, reaching $350,000, and price per square foot rose 13.9%.
The upshot? These days, you’re likely to get offers at list price, or even higher.
“Prices are very high,” says Simon Isaacs, owner/broker of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL. “People are getting what they’re asking.”
Another plus: The low interest rates could keep monthly mortgage payments low. So buyers may be able to afford a more expensive home.
Make your home move-in ready
Today, buyers are keen to find a home that won’t need a lot of work after they move in. As such, it behooves sellers more than ever to make small repairs and upgrades that will increase a home’s value and justify a high offer.
“Sellers need to make sure their house is turnkey,” says Matt van Winkle, a real estate broker/owner of Re/Max Northwest Realtors in Seattle. “The buyer is not going to want to remodel or do repairs in the winter.”
Cleaning up the landscaping and painting are two upgrades that Isaacs always recommends to sellers.
“Landscaping is definitely something that helps to sell a home more than anything,” he says.
Sellers would also be smart to highlight (in their listing and in person) features in their home that appeal to buyers today. Since the coronavirus, people are spending more time at home, and are thus keen to purchase property with more space, privacy, rooms that can double as home offices or learning spaces, and top-notch outdoor spaces.
Make sure your listing provides a virtual tour
The pandemic has made many buyers leery of checking out homes in person unless they see one they truly love. The upshot for sellers? Your listing will really need to shine online—and one of the best ways to do this is by offering a virtual tour.
“Depending on where you live and how COVID-19 is trending in your area, sellers may want to consider having a 3D tour readily available for buyers who do not wish to do an in-person tour,” says Tracy Jones, a real estate agent with Re/Max Platinum Realty in Sarasota, FL.
This approach is also more convenient for sellers, since it can help minimize the number of strangers touring their home. Buyers can get a good sense if your home meets their needs without actually stepping inside.
Take safety seriously
Selling a home during a pandemic brings a new set of challenges. Virtual tours can minimize the foot traffic in your home, but eventually a buyer will want to see it in person. So it’s a good idea to ensure that you and your real estate agent are doing everything you can to make in-person tours as safe as possible.
Some ways to do this include limiting the number of showings per day, including gaps between showings, and limiting the size of groups seeing a home at once. Requiring masks and social distancing are also par for the course.
When people do have to see your home, leave doors, closets, and cabinets open throughout the house to minimize what they have to touch. Keep in mind, too, that once everyone leaves, it will be up to you to clean and sanitize your home.
Don’t accept an offer too quickly
The real estate market this winter is incredibly competitive. With so few homes on the market, sellers are poised to receive multiple offers, sometimes all at once. But Matt Curtis, owner of Matt Curtis Real Estate in Huntsville, AL, cautions sellers not to get in a hurry and accept an offer too quickly.
Typically, sellers have 24 to 48 hours to accept an offer. If you jump the gun and say yes too soon, you could be leaving money on the table.
“Select a real estate agent that has a strategy to handle multiple offers versus an agent that’s not equipped to handle multiple-offer situations,” Curtis says. “Literally eight hours of sleep could net you an extra $30,000.”
So take time to mull over each offer you receive. If the offer is too low, you can always counter with something closer to the asking price.
Close remotely if you can
Along with virtual home tours, home sellers should strive to make as much of the home-buying process as virtual and digital as possible. Now, more buyers and sellers are able to complete the closing process remotely in most areas of the country, something that wasn’t possible a few months ago.
Pre-pandemic, remote closings weren’t possible everywhere, because some states didn’t allow documents to be notarized remotely. To keep real estate transactions and other business flowing during the COVID-19 crisis, most states issued emergency declarations now allowing for remote notarizations, according to the National Notary Association.
Along with limiting in-person contact, remote closings are much more convenient.
“You can sign all the documents now electronically,” Isaacs says. These days it’s all about “making sure that everybody is comfortable and as safe as possible.”