Real estate

To sell or not to sell

That is the question — for homeowners and buyers at the holidays

Having watched local real estate patterns for over 11 years, I often have gut feelings about timing a sale. One of those is that once mid-November hits, you can expect a lull until the end of January.

There are definitely advantageous times to place a home for sale in upstate New York, and mid-November has never been one of those times. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of opportunity, and sometimes time is just not on our side. Job relocation, financial stresses, divorce or just a plain old desire to move are some of the culprits that force our hand into selling at any time of year. 

I wanted to explore numbers behind the timing of sales in the Capital Region to see if my “feeling” was truly supported by the numbers in our local market, and not just because it seems that everyone is in hibernation mode over the holiday months.

Here is what I found using data from the Capital Region Multiple Listing Service (resale properties only):

Nov. 15, 2016 through Jan. 15, 2017

Average Days on Market: 78
Average List to Sale Price (asking price vs. what the home actually sold for): 96 percent
Average Sale Price: $202,139

May 15, 2017 through July 15, 2017

Average Days on Market: 66
Average List to Sale Price (asking price vs. what the home actually sold for): 98 percent
Average Sale Price: $221,436

Winter-month numbers actually look pretty good. Seventy-eight days on market is an average any region of the country would be happy with, and that’s because we are in a strong and steady real estate market overall in the Capital Region.

Digging deeper, we see that selling during the holiday months results in an 18 percent longer time on the market, a 2 percent lower listing-to-sales price (on a $300,000 house, this is $6,000 less in the negotiated acceptable price, which is likely due to more stagnant inventory and the resulting lack of urgency on the buyers’ part) and an 8.7 percent lower average sales price. Clearly my “gut feeling” is backed by the data.

So, what’s an owner forced to sell during these months to do?

First of all, if it’s a bad time to sell, it’s a good time to buy, so perhaps you can make a purchase at a favorable price during the same time frame, or at least lock in a price via a contingent offer for a new home.

Second, you’ll want to pay extra close attention to pricing. If a winter sale is upon you, you must avoid “chasing the market.” What this means is pricing high and thinking, “we will just reduce if needed.” That’s a dangerous black hole during this time of year. Price aggressively right off the bat, and remember that data from six months ago is not necessarily relevant because of the seasonality of our market.

Properties ARE going to sell around 8 to 9 percent less in the winter than in the height of the market, so look at the July closing comparables and price 10 percent under to create a buzz around your property. A quick sale will lead to a more favorable list-to-sales price.
Finally, if you think a winter sale may be a reality, take some outside shots of your home in late summer or fall. Your Realtor should be more than happy to help you out with this. Drone videos and photos of the exterior always look more appealing in summer/fall (unless, of course, you are selling a chalet near a ski resort).  

If you follow this advice, you can make the most of an unfavorable situation. We are in a strong overall market, and with the right team on your side, you can keep winter sales pain to a minimum.


Christine Marchesiello has been selling residential real estate for more than 11 years and specializes in the Saratoga Springs area. She lives in downtown Saratoga Springs with her husband and two daughters.

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