Once we hit the middle of December, things tend to slow down in the real estate world.  People switch their focus to family and holiday plans and are less keen on putting their home on the market or going hunting for real estate.  There are some deals that happen past the 15th of December, but it is definitely the start of the slowest (number of sales) and lowest (average sale price) market in the GTA.

Despite the fact that people may have other things on the go, some sellers (and listing agents) throw conventional wisdom to the wind and list homes for sale.  Last year, we had 42 homes in the GTA that were listed for sale on December 24, 2020.  They ranged from a vacant lot in Georgina for $139,900 (terminated after 48 days on the market with no sale) to a detached home in Etobicoke that listed for $3,195,000 and sold for 92% of list price ($2.95M) after 15 days.

It is hard to picture the conversation between the listing agent and the seller that led to putting a home on the market on Christmas Eve.  Regardless of whether you celebrate the holidays, we know that lots of people do, and this is a time when agents and buyers will be less available.  Brokerages are closed on statutory holidays, making bookings harder, and lawyers sometimes have the audacity to shut down for a holiday break as well.

Today, December 24, 2021, we saw 12 properties hit the market in the GTA.  They range in price from a townhouse in Oshawa for sale for $499,999 (last sold for $77,500 back in 2005) to a detached home in Richmond Hill for sale at $2.799M that they have been unsuccessfully trying to sell since October, 2018.

While we can’t know for any property exactly why the decision was made to list on Christmas Eve, we can look at the approach they are taking and identify some ways in which they’re making it even harder to get the best price.  Here’s our take on what not to do if your listing your home over the holidays.

Don’t Set a Quick Offer Date

It is difficult to understand why on earth they would take this approach, but five of the listings that went up today are having a marketing period and holding back offers for less than a week.

Three properties that went up for sale today (December 24, 2021) are reviewing offers on December 29, 2021.  That’s only four full days from when it was listed and two of those days are statutory holidays.

The core principle in holding back offers is that you’re listing below market value to attract as many showings as possible in the hopes of having a number of offers on offer date that push the price beyond what you would get in a more rational market.

When you only allow five days for showings, you’re fundamentally limiting how many people will have the time to notice, book, see and consider your home.  One of the three homes that listed today and is reviewing offers on December 29th has also stated that showings begin on December 26th, which means that they lowered the four full days to three full days.  Actually, given offers are being reviewed at 5 PM, there is less than three full days.

If you must list your home for sale right before a major holiday, at least recognize that some people may be unavailable over the holidays and extend your marketing period accordingly.  It just makes sense to allow more potential buyers to see and possibly bid on the home.

Don’t Go to Market Unprepared

The Multiple Listing System that the vast majority of properties are listed upon in the GTA is publicly viewed through Realtor.ca and the data and photos is propagated to thousands of websites that buyers use to search for real estate.

Regardless of where the buyers find the home online, the source of the data that these sites use is the system for the real estate board.  When a home is listed, there are mandatory and optional fields in the listing sheet.

As a general principle, the more information you can provide for buyers to consider, the better the chance they will be interested in seeing the home, which increases the chance you get more offers on the home.

Fully half of the twelve listings that went on the market today have left the room measurements and description fields blank.  No one took the time to have floorplans done or measure the rooms and no one bothered to describe the room features.  Does the kitchen have a granite counter?  Does the master bedroom have walk in closets or an ensuite?  Buyers don’t know because the listing agent didn’t tell them.

A common saying that absolutely applies to real estate is “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  Some of the listing agents that went to market today clearly disagree.  We have the ability to put up to 40 photos on the listing and most took full advantage of that to add lots of pictures of the house.  A few only included one or two photos and one of the homes for sale doesn’t have a single photo of the home on the listing.

Looking to spend $1.25M in Burlington?  Here’s hoping you don’t want to know what it looks like.  Remarkably, the same listing agent has been trying to rent it since November and has 23 pictures on the (still up) rental listing.  When the photos are literally available, it is difficult to understand why it would be listed for sale without using the photos.

If you must list your home for sale over the holidays, there is obviously some pressing issue that doesn’t allow you to wait until a better time to list.  That being said, going to market with incomplete information means you are further decreasing the chance that prospective buyers will see and like your home online enough to book an appointment.  Fewer appointments mean fewer offers and a lower sale price.

Don’t Rush to Market Unless It’s a Short Closing

The final aspect worth noting on the listings that hit the market in the GTA today has to do with the possession date.  This is the day on which the sale would conclude and the new owners would receive the keys.

It is a mandatory field on the MLS system so every listing has a possession date that the seller would prefer.  It doesn’t mean that the buyer has to offer that closing date, but it does tell prospective buyers when the property could close.

Given the decision was made to list their home for sale on Christmas Eve, we assume there is a level of urgency and that the home needs to be sold quickly.  If that wasn’t the case, it would make a lot of sense to wait until past the holidays to list the home for sale, so that you can benefit from more availability of agents and potential buyers.

The vast majority of home sales close in a 45 to 60 day window from when the sale is agreed upon.  That would mean if you sold by the end of December, most buyers and sellers would end up with a closing in the middle to end of February.  It can be quicker, or slower, but if you’re looking to appeal to the majority of buyers, planning on a 45 to 60 day closing is reasonable.

When we look at the homes that went for sale today, three of them have listed January 31, 2022 as the possession date.  That’s a quick closing and if they need that closing for an urgent reason, then listing on Christmas Eve makes some sense.  The clock is ticking and the sooner it gets on the market, the sooner it can be sold, with a greater likelihood of a buyer being able to accommodate that desired closing date.

For the remainder of the listings, they have either listed dates that fall within the typical range or beyond, or they have said they are flexible.  While it is never recommended to list right before a holiday, it seems clear that most of the homes that listed today could have waited until December 27th to list.  It still isn’t ideal, but a few days doesn’t make much of a difference if you’ve said you’re OK with a flexible closing date.

If you must list your home for sale on Christmas Eve, then make sure the poor timing is necessary due to a quick closing.    If you have some flexibility on closing, or even if you’re looking for a closing in a typical 45 to 60 day range, then it makes tremendous sense to wait until after the holidays.

While there are some circumstances that could make it necessary for a seller to list their home for sale on Christmas Eve, there are also some rules you should follow to mitigate any negative consequences of the timing of your listing.  Don’t set a very short marketing period, don’t list the home with incomplete information or missing photos and don’t do it unless you need a quick closing and you’re running out of time.

If you’re thinking about selling, then make sure you work with agents who understand your situation and the importance of timing and approach for your listing.  If that sounds appealing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.