Is The Year Finished?

It’s December 14th, and the real estate market has slowed to a crawl, so does that mean it’s time to check out?

If you’re a buyer or a seller, the answer is an emphatic “no.”

December is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.

There’s no other three-week period when everybody seems so genuinely happy!

Friends, family, colleagues, enemies, or even the random people you see on the street – everybody is jovial!

Is it “Christmas Spirit?”  Is there such a thing?

Is it the anticipation of time off over the holidays?

Is it the impending party on New Years?

I’ve never been able to figure out what makes people so different in the latter half of December, but I for one, simply “feel it.”

Last weekend, my fiancée and I decorated our Christmas tree, while making shortbread cookies, and listening to “Jingle Bells” and other classics.  Corny?  Yes.  But enjoyable?  You bet!  I looked forward to it all week!

So would you say that with so many people looking so forward to so many activities and festivities, production at work suffers?

Probably.  It depends on the industry, but most people would say that “things are slow at the office,” if asked.

My industry is probably one of the most affected by the December lull.  Buyers aren’t exactly out in full force looking at properties three weeks before Christmas, and sellers hold back their listings until the New Year, partly because the buyers aren’t out, and partly because it’s inconvenient.

My office can be a ghost-town some days.  On Thursday afternoon, I saw two other agents in the office, and I was there for three hours.  Sure, a lot of people work from home these days, but I’ll be completely honest and say that for many Realtors, mortgage brokers, lawyers, and home inspectors, the year, 2012, is essentially over.

As I’ve said before many times, our industry works via the chicken-or-the-egg hypothesis.

Buyers and sellers are both sitting on the sidelines right now because they see a slow, ending market, but I think that’s a mistake.

I have four sellers all ready to go for 2013, but that doesn’t mean I simply said, “See you in the new year.”

One of my clients is away from December 19th to January 11th, and that means that there’s only one time to put the working to the listing: NOW.

Even though we are four weeks away from listing, we have to start the process this weekend.

And for any sellers out there that are thinking about listing their properties in 2013, you can’t simply take the month of December off, and then start it up in the New Year.  The properties currently sitting on the market, that remain listed through Christmas, New Year’s, and into 2013, will rack up days on market, and look especially stale in 2013.  It’s the “fresh blood,” if you will, that will get the most attention, and this means getting your listing ready for the week of January 7th.

There are several things that sellers can do in the next four weeks, rather than sitting around, and assuming they can just sign a listing and put it right on the market on January 7th:

1) Staging & De-Cluttering. 

I maintain to this very day that I’ve never seen a house or condo that doesn’t need at least some staging and de-cluttering, so no matter what, there’s things sellers can do over the holidays to help the listing process in the New Year.

Most sellers are in an absolute panic the days leading up to the listing, scrambling to find a home for that extra bookshelf, or space to store all those living-room nick-knacks.  Some sellers take weeks to de-clutter, and some take only days, but there’s always something to be done.  If a seller wants to get his or her property onto the market in that coveted first week of January, it means taking car-loads of stuff to storage, and junking all that crap you should have thrown out a long time ago…

2) Minor Repairs.

Most houses, and many condos, will need some minor repairs before going to market, but most sellers are so tired out by the whole process that they say, “Let’s just list it as is.  The buyers can fix it.”

I always like to change the light fixtures in condos – something that costs a few-hundred dollars, but completely modernizes the condo.  This is just one example of something minor that people often skip over.  It only takes an hour for an electrician to install 4-5 fixtures, but going to Home Depot and picking them, and then hiring the electrician and setting a time – these are the ‘annoying’ things that sellers don’t want to be troubled with.

3) Home Inspection & Status Certificate

As we all know, it takes most property management companies ten business days to order the magical Status Certificate.  There are a lot of people listing condos for sale in January, and thus the property management companies are going to be busy!  So be proactive, and get that request into the management office in the week after Christmas.  It’s nice to have all the paperwork in-hand at the time of the listing!

Similarly with a house, an early home-inspection helps to identify those minor repairs that you might want to get fixed before the listing, and it’s one less thing to do when you’re getting your house ready.

4) Bookings.

I’m always amazed when Realtors say, “Oh my God, I have a listing coming out tomorrow, and I can’t find a photographer!”

Really?  Why wasn’t this done already?

Like any other industry, there are “good” and “bad” versions of photographers, stagers, floor-planners, cleaners home inspectors, painters, and all the other people that you need to help with your listing.  The last time I did a home inspection for a listing of a house, I booked my inspector three weeks in advance, on the day that I wanted.  He’s a busy guy, and I wanted to ensure I had him exactly when I wanted him.

There’s nothing wrong with working out a schedule for January, and booking all the necessary parties.

5) Painting.

I left this one last, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least important.  If anything, it’s the biggest.

I think about 75% of houses and condos “should” be painted before listed for sale, but most aren’t.

It’s not just the funky colours that most people have; it’s the faded, scuffed, flat walls themselves that need to be freshened up.

With enough advance notice, every seller should paint their house or condo.

I recently sold a large house in The Beaches that was going to be vacant for the listing, and I told the sellers, “You need to paint every wall white before listing.”  They had three weeks, and they were painting right up until the night before we listed!  They did the work themselves (hired their three 20-something boys…), and thus it was cost-effective, and wasn’t rushed.

Today is December 14th, and if you’re looking to list on January 7th, or after, there’s no reason in the world not to paint your house or condo.

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I understand that people want to relax, and enjoy the holidays; I really do.

But if you have a condo that you want to sell in early 2013, and you realize how much competition there’s going to be, you owe it to yourself to get started NOW.

And if you have a house, and you know how thin the housing market is in many prime neighbourhoods, then doing the work 3-4 weeks in advance will help you maximize your return.

What are your other options?

Laying on the couch, eating leftover turkey, and watching Sportscentre: Year In Review?  Okay, maybe you’re watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,or something else, but I still think there’s a huge opportunity waiting for those sellers that will give up 3-4 days of their Christmas break in order to get the jump on the competition!

To each, their own!

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Have a great weekend everybody!

And don’t be “that guy” (or girl…) at your office Christmas party.  It happens; everywhere, every business, every office.  Every year…

3 Comments

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  1. DavidP says:

    Could you recommend an electrician you’ve used for installing light fixtures?

    1. @ DavidP

      Mike – 416-457-6376

      1. DavidP says:

        Thanks!

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