Selling a house in December

If you ask most people, they’ll instinctively tell you that it’s better to sell a property in spring or summer and to stay off the market in December if at all possible.

While it’s statistically true that there are fewer sales in December and we tend to write up fewer offers in December than in other months, I reckon there are no hard and fast rules and some of the seasonality that we used to see has come out of the market.

For a start, ‘unconditional sales’ is a tricky thing to measure in December because there are comparatively fewer working days in this month than in any other month. This year, by law, the market will close at 5pm on Friday 21 December 2018 and it will re-open again at 9am on Monday 7 January 2019. Woohoo! Can’t wait!

Between these dates, buyer can make offers but their agreement won’t go unconditional until the start of the new trading year. During this time they’ll also find it tricky to get their hands on a building inspector or a lawyer and finalise their finance so we will definitely see less action from buyers in December, but it’ll be more a reflection of the environment and its logistics than the market itself.

Conversely, having a short month can have the effect of creating a deadline. We all seem to treat that last week of December as though it’s our last ever and all the tasks that got overlooked throughout the rest of the year all of a sudden have to be done before then – including buying a house.

These days the market is driven more by genuine life events than by speculation. Buyers are changing jobs, moving towns, getting married, having kids, downsizing or just scratching itchy feet and these things don’t stop just because it’s December and the sun is shining.

These big life events also mean buyers who are making the effort to go out house shopping in December are more focused and motivated to buy, especially if they’ve spent all year looking and don’t want to repeat the experience again the following year.

The areas that we typically operate in (central and west Auckland) are currently awash with stock but that stock will start to sell through in the next couple of weeks so as a vendor, having access to a quiet market in December with less competition from other sellers could be very useful.

Pre-2016 when the market was hotter and success was measured by the speed of the sale as well as the sale price, I used to worry about listings going stale over December but I tend to worry less about staleness in today’s market. I reckon online valuation tools like Homes.co.nz have evened out the seasonality. Sure, a buyer is still going to wonder why a property hasn’t sold after three months on the market but these days an unsold listing is more likely to prompt them into action than scare them off, especially if they feel they have a sense of what a property is likely to sell for just by looking it up online.

So deals can be done in December and here are five top tips for selling a property in this month:

  1. Sell by negotiation. Don’t bother with an auction because all it will do is waste three weeks of your life.
  2. Be realistic. Get your agent to get your property updated on Homes.co.nz and any other relevant sites (in particular the bank valuation tools) before you go to market so that they’re displaying accurate estimates. Work out your weekly overheads so that you can negotiate on your settlement date if you attract a slightly cheeky offer. A shorter settlement period might be more valuable than a higher asking price once you’ve factored in your expenses.
  3. Hire a good agent. Good agents are driven, regardless of the time of year and they’ll also have some good strategies for driving enquiry in a quiet time. Don’t be tempted to go with a budget agency just because it’s a holiday period. You need a quality agent at this time of year more than ever.
  4. Be open-minded. In New Zealand, December is the end of spring and the start of summer so the weather is less crap. Buyers want to transact and there are plenty of them out there. Our mates at Squirrel Mortgages have their busiest month for loan applications in January. Agents will want to get their stock locked in for the New Year.
  5. Think creatively. It’s not a hot, auction-friendly market so it’s less about selling quickly and more about online views and getting good eyeballs. So there’s nothing to stop you from putting your property on the market on Christmas Day if you want to and letting it sit at the top of the list on TradeMe for a couple of weeks with a note that viewings will get underway on Saturday 5 January.

Thanks for reading, now for the quick plug… if you’re thinking about selling next month and you’d like a friendly, no-obligation chat with us, call me on 021 808 676 or drop me a line: antonia.baker@thepropertymarket.co.nz