I get it, you want to wait for me to perfectly place the for sale sign in your yard until your tulips are blooming, the birds are chirping, your grass is that lush shade of green that only spring can bring.
If you want more money and an easier sale, you'll want to spend a moment learning about winter buyers. It's important to note, pricing inline with the current market is an absolute must in any season - winter will give you a competitive edge for sure.
Selling this winter, should increase your odds of earning a higher price, with easier and more desirable dates and “terms”.
As a home seller, you can't control when your neighbors come to market, how much or how little they ask for their house and ultimately whether they agree to sell at a low or fair price. What you can control is your timing.
When there's fewer homes for buyers to choose from, you are the boss, you can move more comfortably, at a pace you choose.
***Buyers - you may not love what you are about to read BUT don't despair. At any given moment there are good, well priced homes out there if you know how, when and where to look. Having a comprehensive buying plan is the key to overcoming the struggles of homebuying in the winter. Call me and let's talk about a plan to get you the insider info you need to make the winter work for you. ***
Winter buyers are more willing to overlook blemishes, to move on the specific dates the seller chooses, to offer a better price with their first offer to get your attention because they simply don’t have a lot of other options.
They will often offer things like “rent backs” where they close on the home and allow you to stay there for a period of time. They’ll buy AS - IS because they know they are lucky to get a chance at the right house before others jump in to the market.
They may even say that they will cover the expense of removing any unwanted belongings and that the home doesn't need to be professionally cleaned pre closing.
Winter buyers come prepared with financing in hand, they are often less likely to pile the extra *non decision makers* in the car due to the cold, snow, ice. They are not as interested in driving through 4 or 5 towns to see every house they can afford and are likely to make a decision after seeing a home one time versus repeat showings based on my experience.
If you were thinking of waiting til spring to list your home for sale, here's 4 reasons to switch up your plans.
1. Winter buyers are both tired, and motivated. The #1 reason buyers bought in 2023 was to own a home of their own according to the NAR statistics in the graphic below. A lot of those buyers have been living with family, roommates or renting a lot longer than they anticipated. Their wants and needs lists have been shortened and it's their time to get serious about their searches. Many winter buyers today have been searching for a year or more, they are tired and ready to be closer to family, in a better location, to make a home theirs. They watched rates rise and start to fall and remember that with lower rates comes more competition, they want to avoid it at all costs. They are out in full force right now actively house hunting.
Buyers in snow boots driving cars with 4 wheel drive are almost always some of the most serious of all of the seasonal buyers. Maybe it's a job bringing them here, or maybe they have just plain run out of space, a parent could be moving in or a new baby's arriving soon. They could be blending a family as so many are today or adopting a dog and need more room to roam. Whatever the reason, they choose to buy in snow boots as opposed to sandals later in the year and that means they are ready to give you an offer you won't want to refuse.
Winter buyers usually know, they can't bring the high expectations that spring buyers do and they often come alone, that matters. Read below about spring buyers & their entourages to see why.
It's hard to have high expectations when there's just so few homes to choose from. So when you arrived at the one that's the most sensible, looks good, feels good and is well priced, you'de go all in. That's exactly what so many are doing right now.
When you view the chart below, it's clear to see the amount of homes for buyer's to choose from in Essex county is seriously low. For most price points, across most towns, it's a seller's market. That means buyers can't afford to wait for the perfect place to come along. When a home in the right spot at the right price, they get focussed in on what really matters and they make it work.
If you would like to see the data for your town, county or state email me with your address and I'll put together a comprehensive, yet easy to read outline for you.
2. Known VS the unknown. The market is shifting in ways we are only just beginning to be able to see due to the abnormally low amount of homes actually selling. As of 12/31 we saw 3903 homes sell in Essex County, down substantially from the 5085 the year before or the 5979 the year before that. There's no way to tell how quickly rates will come down, how much they'll come down or what each reduction will do to the balance between seller's market VS buyer's market. When rates dip, more homes get listed. We can handle and plan for the known, the unknown will be a new market requiring new strategies.
There's no way to be 100% sure whether it will be mid year or end of year before we see an influx of inventory. There are groups of peoples who will need to sell this year by choice, by necessity and simply to move on with their lives. Some put their mortgages on hold during covid and are now restarting payments with higher rates, lump sum balances owed or longer terms. Others have adjustable rate mortgages that will reset soon.
Knowing what your competition looks like helps you to make smarter choices and capture the real equity the market has to offer before any shifts occur.
At the time that I am writing this, there were 233 homes for sale in Essex county in it's entirety, across all price ranges, in all towns. To put this into further perspective, when I started selling homes way back in 2007 we had 2586 homes for sale on the same day. More than 10X today's inventory.
" I love this one, but I feel like I need to see that house on 123 Anywhere st before I make a decision".
3. "Tell me what we have to do to win" That's the question I hear time and time again for the homes we market. Imagine sitting down to go over an offer form with me, opening a calendar and choosing your closing date AND a later moving date that allows you to sell then move, having time in the house post closing. How easy would it feel to know you could choose to sell AS- IS without moving through that to do list you've been adding on to for as long as you've been thinking about selling. Things like repainting the great room, replacing the door jam trim, repairing the creaking storm door, changing the faucet in the laundry room. Cross items off as not needed and get to the market and still earn the same price range as if you had done the work. These are some of the benefits you gain by selling with low inventory.
Drafting the *perfect offer scenario* is part of our pre listing process, once you have decided what's your ideal scenario we build our marketing around it. Buyers appreciate being given a clear outline of terms the seller is looking. When selling a home, you'll find comfort not feeling rushed, knowing what to expect from the process and the timeline, being able to pick your “terms” as well as your sale price. How you'll sell, when you’ll sell, what belongings or non essentials you'll leave, what you won’t and when you'll have viewings all matters. We set a pre planned viewing schedule before we hit the market publicly so you'll know exactly when buyers are coming and going, based on your schedule.
4. The seller's market can't last forever. Prices are strong, but not as strong as parts of last year in some spots. As you can see above, in Essex county, the amount of time it's taking for a home to accept an offer and the amount of time it's taking to sell are up slightly higher than both 2021 and 2022. The average sale price is also up showing demand is solid. Every market varies, some towns within the county are softening others remain stable. Very few houses needed price drops last year, due to the lower amount than typical of homes that came up for sale.
Across all markets the sudden rate increases caused sales to come to a historic low. At some point, the balance of supply and demand will normalize, when it does most economists will tell you that prices will have to come down.
You'll drive to the grocery store or run your errands around town, you'll notice more for sale signs and about a month to two months later you'll start to see it on the news, home prices are slipping, amount of homes sold is up but prices are down. By then, home sellers are playing catch up, looking at past sale prices hoping to capture the highs we once had.
More houses for sale means buyers have more options to choose from. When buyers have more options, sellers have to compete. When your home is on the market and there's lots to choose from in and out of town, you'll need to be the best of the best in at least one of the most important categories. Best price, best condition, best neighborhood, best location. You can avoid competing on price by coming to market before your neighbors do.
Click the above image on right to see the hundreds and hundreds of homes for sale right now.
5. It's time to move on with your life. Many home sellers are also hopeful home buyers. If you have been watching and waiting looking for the right time to try to list and sell at the same time, right now many of those homes you see on market are also owned by sellers who would be willing to agree to a "home sale" contingency allowing you time to list and sell your home prior to purchasing. Later in the year, when rates dip, it could be harder to compete with higher inventory and more buyers. See tips on how to buy and sell at the same time here
Spring, summer and fall buyers treat open houses like an adventure, they plan their travel map, their outfits and their snacks - if you think I'm joking I assure you, it's real - documenting their home buying journey is a right of passage these days. They pack the kids, their parents, their friends into the car and treat home viewing like their very own HGTV show. Each of their entourage has an opinion, a question, a story and an expectation of what their house hunting comrade should be buying. So instead of the home buyer(s) being the one who needs to fall in love, now they all do.
Spring buyers are opportunity seekers. Many wait all year to buy during the period of time when they believe they’ll have the most options. The idea of seeing 8 or 10 houses and then choosing one is terrifying, they want 20 or 30. They will wait for more to come on even if that means waiting a while longer. After all, they waited all year leading up to the spring market.
They are ok missing out on great homes like yours because a new one will hit the market any minute now anyway….They just have to see a few more…..Hearing a spring buyer say,” I like this one and it’s a great price but I wanted to check out that one that’s listed as a “coming soon” first next week”.
As someone who has studied the North of Boston/Southern NH market for more than a decade, my suggestions are based on data, fact and experience, not theory. See some of my past sales history here
By the time March/April/May rolls around you’ll have spent winter months watching listings come and go, monitoring your neighbors driveways for storage pods. You may watch them take out their trash looking for signs of decluttering and wishing you came to the market sooner before there were so many houses in your price range in town and in the surrounding towns.
It’s important to note, buyers these days are rarely set on one specific neighborhood or location like they used to be, due to years of low inventory to choose from they have been conditioned to look in many towns at once. Long gone are the days of a buyer saying to us that they are strictly looking in one school district or one town. So you are competing with not just the houses in your neighborhood, but also those in the most similar adjacent towns.
As a home seller there's a lot that's out of your control. You can't control when homes in town come to market, how much or how little they list for, how much they are willing to negotiate or drop their prices to sell and whether or not they'll try to beat your price in order to sell.
You can control what price you ask, when you come to market and how you'll present the home in order to maximize it's value. That's where I come in. If you are feeling like it's time to start talking about selling over the next year or so call me at 978 457 3406 to have a confidential discussion about your home, your goals, the market in town and where it's headed. By doing so you'll be in a strong decision making position so that when your time to move comes you know what to expect from the process, the timeline and the sale itself.
Lisa Sevajian is a real estate agent in Andover Ma, a nationally recognized real estate expert with a history of attention grabbing listings in areas north of Boston and southern Nh. She's a proud mom, a happily married dog lover with a knack for understanding how to help people identify their goals and then developing plans through actionable steps to reach get them where they want to be.
She's been featured in extensive news and media outlets like Forbes, USA Today, Boston Globe, News Center 5 - see some of her recent featured articles here
Her areas of expertise include pricing, marketing, advertising, negotiations and client care within the single family, condominium and investment realms of residential real estate.
The towns she services include all areas of the Andovers, Merrimack Valley, Seacoast NH/MA, southern NH, north shore, northern MA communities.
She focusses her work within the homes valued from $400K to $2.5 Million.