Rumors abound that selling a home in January translates to lowball offers, less interest from buyers, and months spent on the market. While the spring is still real estate’s busy season, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at why selling in January can make a lot of sense for some homeowners. If selling your home tops your list of New Year’s resolutions, you don’t want to miss an optimal window to sell in 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.
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. Homebuyers who are in the market in January are often more motivated for a variety of reasons:
Fewer tourist drop-ins:
In Flamont’s Traverse 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 significantly in the past 20 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 the most important way to keep your house safe and inviting for visitors.
Since it could snow multiple times while your house is on the market, use a well-balanced and ergonomic snow shovel, like this $42 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:
According to top real estate agents surveyed by HomeLight, amping up the cozy factor is among the top three most important steps toward selling a house in winter. Throw a warm outdoor blanket and a few outdoor waterproof pillows over covered benches or rockers. This will add color and create a homey atmosphere that makes buyers want to linger.
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.
Coastal winter-weather climates actually enjoy a boost in sales over January. In Vero Beach, Florida, you can sell your home for 15% 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. These trends have led to a consistently low supply of homes large enough to accommodate families.
You can check HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator to determine how well home sales perform in January in your market.
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.
Myth #4: Fewer showings mean less interest.
Both Thieme and Flamont agree that while you can sell a home in January, 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 2022 index demonstrates while there are indeed fewer showings in January, interest in homebuying has made even the coldest months a viable time to sell.
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. Across the board, inventory tends to be nearly 10% lower in January than in May. With fewer for-sale signs out, your home can capture the attention of 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.
In fact, in 2021 and 2022, January saw some of the highest levels of home sales in the US, 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.
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 5 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 off:
Working with a top agent can also cut through the stress of listing right after a busy holiday season. Flamont says one of his busiest periods 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 resale values, well worth the $200-$400 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 and 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 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 when everyone else is still snoozing from the holidays. While the market might look a little different than it does in the bustling summer months, you’ll be surprised by the quality of the offers.
Header Image Source: (tab62 / Shutterstock)