Rumors abound that selling a home in January translates to lowball offers, less interest from buyers, and months spent on the market. But it’s time to prove these assumptions as fact or fiction. If selling your home tops your list of New Year’s resolutions, you don’t want to miss an optimal window to list for your market or procrastinate when you could be free of this house and into your new one before spring even hits.

“I personally think it’s an advantage to list in December, January, and February,” says top-selling real estate agent Sam Flamont who serves Northern Michigan. “My sellers have had just as much success in January as they had any other time.” Below, we’ll explore the common misconceptions about selling a home in January and how you can take advantage of zigging while other sellers in your neighborhood zag.

A pair of boots in the snow near a home in January.
Source: (Albert / Unsplash)

Myth #1: No one buys a home in the winter.

“The only difference between selling in January and June is there are fewer buyers in January,” says Flamont. But these wintertime buyers are often more motivated for a variety of reasons:

Fewer tourist drop-ins:

In Flamont’s Traverse’s City, Michigan market, the area is bustling with tourists in summer months. Showing requests go up in June and July because curious visitors in town for the weekend will kill a few hours looking at a property with no intent to buy. So while January means fewer tourists and less activity in and out of your home, the buyers who book a tour in January are likely going to be more motivated once they set foot on a property. “Nobody’s getting their kids out of the car, putting on their boots, trekking through a foot of snow just to kick the tires. They are serious buyers,” Flamont says.

Anticipating a full summer season:

Many of Scranton, Pennsylvania-area agent Ron Thieme’s buyers are looking for a second home in his market, and the cold weather doesn’t deter them. In fact, the most motivated buyers will come from New York and New Jersey during the weekends to look at homes. “They want to get under contract before April,” Thieme explains. ‘They want to enjoy the whole summer season there.”

Kiddie condos and new semester timelines:

The cost of college room and board has increased by 20% in the past 10 years, and many number-crunching parents have decided that buying a condo or apartment for their child will save them money in the long run. If parents want their children off campus and into their “kiddie condos” by the spring semester, they’ll be in a rush to buy in January before students head back to school.

Myth #2: I can’t create great curb appeal when it’s dreary out.

Just because you can’t see a manicured lawn or mulched garden beds doesn’t mean you can’t create a great impression before buyers make it to the door. Here’s what expert agents recommend in the winter to welcome buyers to their new home.

Create a clear path:

According to our research around winter home sales, 29% of top real estate agents believe that clearing your driveway and walkway prior to showings is critical to keeping the house safe and inviting.

Since it could snow multiple times while your house is on the market, use a well-balanced and ergonomic snow shovel, like this $25 one from True Temper, to move the snow from the path. Once snow is removed, spread a calcium chloride salt to melt ice. Calcium chloride melts ice faster and is safer for plants and pavement. A colorless salt such as Green Gobbler will melt the remaining ice on the driveway and paths without leaving a dye behind.

Welcome visitors with a wreath:

A wreath on the front door can be a warming pop of color on a winter white landscape. For less than $50, you can buy a wreath for your front door. If a wreath feels too holiday for you, opt for a non-seasonal material, like eucalyptus or grapevines.

Add outdoor lights for evening showings:

If buyers come to view your home after work, it could already be nightfall, making it hard for anyone who’s never been to your house before to identify it from the street. Invite visitors braving the cold with some well-placed outdoor lighting. Solar lighting, such as walkway, fence caps, or uplighting, can be installed on your own, without a visit from the electrician. Make sure your lighting illuminates your house numbers as well so your home is easy to find.

Make outdoor seating colorful and cozy. Add lights to make up for dark nights:

According to our Q4 2019 survey, amping up the cozy factor is among the top three most important factors to selling a house in winter. Throw a warm outdoor blanket and a few outdoor waterproof pillows over covered benches or rockers for added color and a homey atmosphere that makes buyers want to linger.

Palm trees near a home for sale in January.
Source: (Jorge Vasconez / Unsplash)

Myth #3: Real estate trends show that spring is always a better time to sell.

Depending on where you live, January might actually be your best time to sell. “The biggest misconception is ‘I’m going to wait because the market’s going to be better, to sell my home in a nicer time.’ That’s not always the case. While you have fewer people looking, they’re much more likely to make an offer and try to buy a house,” says Thieme. Here’s why:

Snowbird trends:

Coastal winter-weather climates actually enjoy a boost in sales over January. In Vero Beach, Florida, you can sell your home for 27.82% higher than the annual average in January, according to our Best Time to Sell Calculator, which uses real estate transaction data to pull home sale trends for local markets. That’s because snowbird travel peaks in this area in January, when Northerners head south to escape the cold, and perhaps decide to move down permanently.

Perpetually low supply and booming buyer interest:

In certain competitive markets, buyer interest will be booming, no matter the inclement weather. In Boston, MA, you’re likely to sell your house for 2% above the average annual sales price in January. That’s due in part to a population that’s been steadily rising for over a decade, and the tradition of passing down real estate instead of selling it, leading to a consistently low supply of homes large enough to accommodate families.

Year-round mild temperatures:

While inclimate weather may keep buyers home in some markets, areas with mild year-round temperatures don’t experience a January sale price slump. In Santa Barbara, CA, for example, you can sell your home in January for up to 2.34% above the annual average. That’s thanks in part to the steady 64°F average temperatures in January.

You can check HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator to determine how well home sales perform in January in your market.

Myth #4: Fewer showings mean less interest.

Both Thieme and Flamont agree that while you can sell a home in January easily, buyer interest will slow in the winter. ShowingTime’s Showing Index tracks the number of buyer showings across the country in any given month, and its January 2019 index showed buyer traffic was 17.5% lower than the year’s peak traffic in March 2019. That drop in foot traffic can scare away some sellers from listing at the beginning of the year.

But the good news is, the buyers who make it past the threshold are motivated. “You may only get two showings in a month, but they’re going to be two really high quality buyers that we’re going to have a real good chance of going under contract. It may take us 10 showings in the nicer weather time to find a buyer for you,” Thieme says.

Myth #5: If I sell in January, I’ll take a price hit.

You can apply the law of supply and demand to listing inventory in the January housing market. According to the National Association of Realtors existing home sales research, January 2020 had an inventory of 1,400,000 homes on the market nationally. Compare that to May 2020, where 1,550,000 were on the market nationally.

Across the board, inventory is nearly 10% lower in January then May. With fewer for-sale signs out, your home can get the attention of more buyers. Even if your market has fewer buyers looking for a home in January, you’ll be able to capture their attention quicker because they simply have fewer homes to choose from.

A cold January can still translate to a red hot market. In fact, 34% of homes in January 2018 sold for above their listing price, and January sales continue to increase year over year. When buyers have limited choices and need to buy now, they’ll put a premium on the convenience of purchasing a home during a quieter time.

A tree in a house for sale in January.
Source: (Євгенія Височина / Unsplash)

Myth #6: We just wrapped the holidays — I couldn’t possibly list in time.

In Flamont’s experience, getting a house on the market in January is harder than actually selling it: “the one thing you can’t convince sellers of is that they want to move in the winter. I think a lot of it is, ‘I don’t want to move when it’s five degrees and a whole bunch of snow.’”

But regardless of the weather or your holiday obligations, you can get your home ready to sell quickly in record time. Here’s how:

Use time off to declutter quickly:

Depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated in your home, decluttering can take a decent chunk of time. Luckily, the holiday season provides many of us with extended time off, which can be the perfect way to tackle junk before listing your home.

To declutter fast, start first with the bathroom, where lots of items accumulate quickly. Conquering this small space first can feel like a win. From there, kick it up a notch by tackling closets and drawers. Once you’re on a roll, it’s time to take on the kitchen, where both kitchen gadgets and long forgotten papers need to be organized or put away so that your countertops are clear.

Find an agent who doesn’t take January’s off:

Working with a top agent can also cut through the stress of listing right after a busy holiday season. Flamont says some of his busiest times working with sellers is just after the new year. However, this won’t be true for all agents, some of whom may be on vacation.

“We have a lot of agents [in my area] who don’t want to work in the winter, so they might leave for two months during it,” says Flamont. Make sure your agent is in town and ready to sell your home January 1.

HomeLight can help you find an experienced real estate agent who is both available and enjoys making sales in the winter months. Through our platform, agents are able to update their status as “in office” or on vacation, so we know who will be immediately available to tackle your home sale.

Schedule a professional deep clean:

If a thorough cleaning of your home sounds impossible after an exhausting holiday, consider working with professionals to help lighten the load. Deep cleaning your home can add up to $2,000 in sales price, well worth the $200-$400 price range that most professional services will charge, according to HomeAdvisor.

Save a bundle of money on professional packing and moving:

About 70% of people move between Memorial Day to Labor Day, making winter the most affordable time to move since demand is at its lowest. According to Angie’s List, winter moves will cost on average 15% less than a peak-season move. In addition to cheaper moving costs, you’ll also likely have flexibility on timing, since most movers likely won’t be booked back-to-back.

Listing your home in January can mean getting a head start on those New Year’s resolutions. If you’re ready for a change and want to move now, you don’t have to sacrifice anything by selling your home in January. While the buyers and market interest might look different than bustling summer months, you’ll be surprised by the quality of the offers.

Header Image Source: (tab62 / Shutterstock)

Rumors abound that selling a home in January translates to lowball offers, less interest from buyers, and months spent on the market. It’s time to set the record straight.HomeLight Blog