7 Dos for Open Houses During the Holidays (and 4 Don’ts)

Selling a house around the holidays can be a difficult task. There’s a traditional assumption that this is when the market slows down.   Don’t assume that homes won’t sell this time of year. They can—if you know how to do it right.  Check out our list of dos and don’ts so that you can  have a stress-free real estate open house this holiday season.

Make your open houses during the holidays shine with these seven rules:

DO: Shovel the walk.
If your clients live in a cold climate, make sure the walkways and stairs are free of ice and snow. This will not only give your home a more polished look, but it will also ensure the safety of potential buyers. If you don’t already carry a shovel in your car this time of year, it might be helpful to travel with one in case your client doesn’t have proper snow-removing tools. A bag of salt can go a long way, too!
DO: Heat the house.
Make sure the thermostat is turned up when it’s time for the open house. If buyers are uncomfortable from the cold, they are less likely to enjoy their visit. It’s good to advise your clients of this before the open house starts so the house has time to warm up if they typically keep the thermostat low.
DO: Track the weather.
If the weather outside is frightful, it may be best to reschedule the open house. Make sure to keep an eye on the forecast in case of any storms coming your way.
DO: Get into the spirit of the season.
Put on some soft classical music and offer some homemade holiday cookies, hot cocoa and other snacks that can encourage prospective buyers to take shelter from the cold. A nice pot of spices boiling on the stove doesn’t hurt, either! Add orange peels, cloves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg on the stove to simmer with some water for a homey, delightful scent.
DO: Deck the halls.
Take advantage of the holiday season by encouraging sellers to incorporate holiday decor into their open house. Twinkling Christmas lights or a scented holiday candle can welcome buyers and lift spirits.
DO: Write a powerful listing description.
Listing descriptions these days are more than just point form lists—you need a powerful listing description! You want to engage your clients to feel excited about the home, especially about what the joy of purchasing a new home during the holidays will mean for them. Try to capture the excitement of the holidays to drive interest.
DO: Build a snowman.
Nothing says “Welcome to your new house” more than a Frosty in the front yard ready to greet potential buyers. If the snow is wet enough to make a snowman, why not take advantage of the season?
There are some things you definitely want to be careful of over the holidays when it comes to open houses. Don’t do these:

DON’T: Overdo the holiday spirit.
Though holiday decorations may create a cozier atmosphere in the home, you don’t want to overdo it. Anything that may distract from the home’s curb appeal—Santa and Rudolph inflatables, for example—should be put away until after the showing.
DON’T: Forget to declutter.
Try not to go overboard and keep clutter to a minimum. Put away personal items, such as family photos, as they tend to distract potential buyers.
DON’T: Emphasize religion too heavily.
There are many religions who celebrate this time of year. Going overboard on religious symbols can be off-putting to some, so remind your clients keep it tasteful despite their personal convictions.
DON’T: Leave presents out in the open.
‘Tis the season of giving, but not to potential buyers. Make sure you pack expensive gifts and treasures away. Not only do many presents clutter the home, but they can be awkwardly personal for a new family trying to imagine their own future memories in the home.
The bottom line is, the work doesn’t stop just because the holidays are here! Use this time of year to brighten your open houses and not as an excuse to give up. Some buyers are specifically looking to purchase this time of year, and you might have just the property for them.

By Tom Davidson, RIS Media

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Has the Triangle’s housing market plateaued?

The triangle has enjoyed years of growing home sales and new home construction, but third quarter numbers from a real estate data company provide further evidence that those trends could be slowing.

While the number of new homes that sold from August to October continued to surpass last year, new home construction, also known as home starts, was flat, according to Metrostudy.   “The word of the day is ‘plateau,’” says Amanda Hoyle, Metrostudy’s Raleigh-Durham director.

The report adds to the evidence that the third quarter was a rough stretch for the Triangle housing market. Last month, a report from appraiser Stacey Anfindsen found that the number of homes listed on the market and the number of pending home sales actually dropped in the third quarter.

The reports differ because Metrostudy only looks at new homes, while Anfindsen includes sales of existing homes in his data. But combined, the third quarter numbers paint a picture of a housing market that could be showing the first signs of a slowdown that has taken hold in other parts of the country.

Housing analysts in the Triangle are quick to point out that Hurricane Florence disrupted the homebuying market for more than a week in September, likely contributing to the lower sales volume.

But the rising cost of homes, coupled with standard 30-year mortgage interest rates approaching 5 percent, could be dampening buyer enthusiasm, according to some analysts and homebuilders.

“Our third quarter was quite a bit off,” says Brant Chesson, president of Homes by Dickerson. “Even the buyers we are seeing, they are very reluctant buyers and it takes them a lot to get them over the finish line.” That has translated to buyers being more aggressive in negotiations and, in some cases, people backing out of contracts. That’s not something you usually see.

Rising prices also make it less likely for people to consider moving, because there is no guarantee that a homeowner will be able to cash out of an existing home and get a larger, nicer or better-located home by spending a little more. “There are just not good choices for people to move up,” Chesson says. “I think this pricing pressure has caught up with [the Triangle].”

To make up for potential losses, Hoyle expects homebuilders to start offering more incentives to prospective buyers, such as lower closing costs. Builders may also put more effort toward building at lower prices, but that has been a difficult task in the face of rising land costs and labor prices, builders and analysts say.

But the news isn’t all gloomy. New home closings, excluding resales, were still up nearly 12 percent in the third quarter, and job reports continue to be strong, Hoyle says. And builders continued to be attracted to the Triangle market.

By , Triangle Business Journal

How to Keep Your Property Safe Over the Holidays

The holiday season is all about spending time with loved ones, and for many, this means traveling. There are certain precautions you should take whenever you leave your home for an extended period of time, but the holidays specifically tend to lead to an increase in home break-ins and stolen packages. Beyond theft and vandalism, vacant properties are also vulnerable to household catastrophes like frozen pipes or leaky sinks.   Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your property while you enjoy your vacation without worry:

Enlist the help of your neighbors.

Ask around to see if a neighbor or friend is staying in town for the holidays, and find someone who would be willing to keep tabs on things for you. If they’re willing, have them do things like bring in your mail or park a car in your driveway to make it look like someone is home. If you’ll be gone for an extended period of time, you may even want to ask if they could mow the lawn or shovel any walkways to deter thieves. If nothing else, have your neighbor or friend simply drive by your property each day to make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and that there’s nothing that needs immediate attention. Make sure whoever is helping you out has a copy of your itinerary and emergency contact information in case something comes up.

Be cautious on social media.

The holidays provide countless opportunities to share updates, photos and stories with your social media followers. Unfortunately, your friends and family aren’t the only ones with Facebook and Instagram profiles. Several studies have shown that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of burglars are using social media to find potential targets. Location tags and photos of your expensive new gifts can catch the wrong person’s eye. Save the sharing for after you return home from your trip.

Invest in a timer for your lights.

Leaving a few lights on while you’re away to make it look like someone is home is usually a good idea, but if you leave the lights on throughout your entire vacation, your electric bill will be an unwelcome surprise when you return. Purchase an automatic timer that’ll turn the lights in your home on and off according to a programmed schedule. Unplug any other appliances that won’t be in use while you’re gone to further save on the electric bill—think computers, televisions, coffee makers and toasters. Be sure to inspect any holiday lights or wiring, and consider unplugging them before you leave town. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December is the most popular month for electrical fires. Keep an eye out for frayed cords, cracked bulbs or faulty wiring to prevent any accidental fires.

Protect your pipes.

If you live in a cold climate, you need to prevent your pipes from freezing while you’re away. Frozen pipes can crack and burst, which will translate to a lot of water pouring into your home in a short amount of time. Make sure your pipes are properly insulated, and leave the heat on low to prevent pipes from freezing. If you’ve recruited a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on things, have them turn on the faucet every couple of days—if only a few drops of water come out, your pipes may be frozen. Also, be sure to show them where the main water shutoff is located in case of a burst pipe.

Keep your insurance up-to-date.

Whether you’re a homeowner or a landlord, insurance exists to protect you from those worst-case scenarios. If something does go wrong while you’re away, insurance can help you repair or replace the damages. Landlords: Your renters still may not understand the benefits of renters insurance, including the replacement of stolen items or even their car. Many landlords and property management companies even require renters insurance in their lease terms. With the holidays approaching and many renters traveling home to family, it’s a great time of year to remind them of the importance of renters insurance if they don’t already have it. Homeowners: Be sure your insurance is up-to-date before you take off on any vacations to make sure your home and your belongings are protected.

The holidays are a time to celebrate and relax with loved ones, so don’t spend the season worrying about your home. With some simple precautions in place, your property will be set up for safety, and you can spend your holiday season focusing on what really matters.

By Brentnie Daggett, RISMedia’s Housecall