Holiday Home Buying Struggles: What Keeps Sales Down During The Most Magical Time of the Year?

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Buying a home during the holiday season is tough. NAEBA surveyed exclusive buyers agents to find the source of home-buying woes at Christmastime.

It seems that, when Christmas edges closer on the calendar, emails meet the same fate as airplanes flying over Bermuda Triangle. They are lost in the ether, never to be heard from again. Why? Because most people are checked out as the holiday season is in full swing.

Maybe its the eggnog, but the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents says that shopping for a home during the holiday season is rife with challenges, and some of them are interesting, to say the least.

Among the woes reported by real estate brokerages that represent only home buyers in a recent NAEBA survey inquiring about the challenges of shopping for a home during the holiday season:

  • A 100-year-old, faded, one-armed Santa.
  • Christmas trees in every room of the house.
  • Photos of the current homeowners wearing nothing but their birthday suits and a few Christmas accessories.
  • Aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party including passed out guests complete with open and spilled adult beverages.

The biggest gripe by far was not being able to actually show a home. One NAEBA member answered the survey saying, “Many sellers have limited showing times during the holidays, particularly on weekends — hard to get into houses when people are entertaining, have visitors, etc.” Another member reported, “Sellers reluctant to show because house is a wreck or too much company in house.”

Other challenges were reported as well. Many cited even lower inventory due to sellers temporarily taking their homes off the market. Another challenge mentioned was that the decorations can alter a person’s perception of the house. Decorations may cover flaws or make a room look smaller than it actually is. A few members reported difficulties in meeting deadlines when financial institutions or other offices are closed or industry personnel (loan officer, inspector, etc.) take time off around the holidays.

Those members in colder climates also mentioned the challenge of getting to a home when the homeowners haven’t cleared away the snow from the entrance and the need to be cautious on icy sidewalks and steps.

Not all members pointed out challenges, however. One member stated, “Not a challenge but an opportunity for buyers. Since we know anyone whose home is on the market during the holidays
is highly motivated, we can be more aggressive in offering price and terms of the contract.”

“While buying a home during the holiday season can pose extra challenges, NAEBA members are aware of those challenges and can help a home buyer overcome them,” said NAEBA President Dawn Rae.

What is your biggest holiday home buying challenge?

Here are a few more from NAEBA survey respondents:

“The seller’s pet cat was stuffed and laying on display on the kitchen island shelf.”

“No holiday decorations come to mind but the New Year’s morning when I opened a home for a scheduled showing only to find a bunch of folks sprawled all over the furniture and floor with countless liquor bottles spilling their contents everywhere.”

“Halloween decorations were still up.”

“A Christmas tree in place before we’ve even celebrated Thanksgiving.”

“It’s always silly to show a property that has blow up Santas and snowmen in the yard.”

“A 100-year-old, one-armed Santa. The red had faded to brown and his beard to yellow. The owner claimed he lost his arm in WWI.”

“I once showed a home that had 13 (thirteen!!) Christmas trees. There was at least one in each room and they ranged in size from 7′ to 2′. Of course, the trees weren’t the only holiday decorations. You can imagine how excited the listing agent was. When he called to get feedback on the showing, I told him the buyers were a bit distracted by the Christmas explosion.
He sighed and said, ‘You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you how it looks on a typical year. You saw their ‘dialed back’ version!'”

“In a barn was probably 75 or so boxes, labeled with last names. Some boxes were kind of opened and Christmas lights were visible. Among the boxes were also some wreaths and other
decorations. On the same property was a garage apartment, filled with more labeled boxes, and Christmas decorations. I jokingly said to my clients that the owner must be a “Christmas light putter-upper.” Before we left, the owner, who had been riding his tractor, walked over to speak with us. I asked him about the boxes. Sure enough, the boxes belong to his son, who is hired to decorate homes.”

“Naked photos on the walls of the couple in Christmas stuff.”

“We have a three-block neighborhood called Candy Cane Lane where (with a few exceptions) the houses are fully decked out with lights and displays … so if you are buying a house in that neighborhood during December you understand that it comes with that expectation.”

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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