Winter is not usually a time of year when you would think of selling your home. After all, everyone gets into holiday and hibernation mode. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day (during the winter housing market), home sale inventory is usually trimmed by an average of 50 percent and contract activity is significantly reduced.
But this winter will be different. Rising interest rates and pent up demand could make the housing market very active this winter.
Consider that mortgage interest rates are on their way up. Freddie Mac (freddiemac.com) reported last week about a mortgage interest “spike” that can get fence-sitters to jump into the winter housing market. The rate for the 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.94 percent, which jumped from the prior week’s average of 3.57 percent. On the face of it, the increase doesn’t seem significant. But the difference is about $70 per month on a $300,000 mortgage.
Last week’s interest rate surge could be the beginning of interest rate increases we’ve been anticipating (for five years). Speculation is that the bond market is anticipating and pricing in a Fed interest rate hike at next month’s Open Market Committee meeting. Of course, the next sixty days could be a lead up to new mortgage rate expectations, which could exceed 4.5 percent by the end of next year.
Historically low interest rates for a 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage have become part of our lives. Upward movement will be met with hyperbole and excitement from the media, claiming reduced home sales and a faltering real estate market. However, let’s put it in perspective. Mortgage rates averaged above 4 percent throughout 2014. The last time we had an average mortgage rate above 5 percent was 2010. In fact, the average mortgage rate at the height of the go-go market during 2006 was above 6 percent.
What does it mean for you if you’re planning a sale? Don’t wait until spring! Consider selling during the winter housing market. You won’t have much competition; and serious home buyers, who are sensitive to interest rates, will be looking through the holidays and winter.
If you decide to sell during the holidays and the winter housing market, make sure your home is ready. Decluttering is the most important aspect of home preparation. However, winter decluttering may be more difficult because of the colder weather and our desire to slow down during these months. Besides our inclination to “nest,” it’s easy to accumulate items in the house that make us cozy and comfortable. But winter clutter can be minimized by organization and a daily straightening-up for incoming buyers.
Check your home’s systems. Have licensed professionals inspect your furnace and roof. Besides keeping the house warm and dry for buyers who visit, checking these systems can prevent surprises when a home inspection is performed.
After a weather event, clear your walkways and driveway of ice and snow. Besides making it easier for home buyers to visit your home, it lessens the possibility of someone falling and getting hurt.
If your home is vacant, have a licensed professional winterize it. Winterizing your home can reduce the risk of bursting pipes and damaging plumbing fixtures. If you are out of town, have a trusted person check on the home regularly (even if you are listed with a real estate agent). Your “stand-in” should also be available to take care of any house related issues that occur in your absence during the winter housing market.
By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2016
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.