When Is the Right Time to Enter the Market in 2024?

Every year around this time, in my 30+ years in business, I get the same question from my clients: “When is the right time to put my house on the market?”

The truth is, 2024 is no different than any other year except for the fact that interest rates are trending down and more buyers are entering the marketplace. 

So to answer the question: “The time to put your house on the market is NOW.”

Fortunately, here in Southern California we don’t have a seasonal marketplace like they do in the Midwest and East Coast where sellers have to worry about ice, snow and inclement weather. It’s a four-seasons market in California and people are looking – and can easily look – for homes all the time.

This coincides with another trend that was exacerbated during the pandemic: People are always on their devices 24/7. Whether they’re on vacation in Cabo or Hawai’i or sitting in their living room on a mild January evening after the kids go to bed, people are always looking at real estate all hours of the day and night. 

So, you have a group of buyers who are habituated to look for properties but with higher interest rates, these prospective buyers weren’t taking action. They were just looking. Now, as interest rates trend downward, the people who stepped away from the market are looking and ready to dip their toes back into the decidedly warmer home-buying waters. 

On the ground, I’m seeing evidence of this trend at play. In the beginning of December, we had about two to three parties coming through our open houses. This past Sunday, we had about 10 to 15 parties coming through all of our open houses. It just goes to show that the market is waking up. More people are back in the marketplace, as evidenced by open house activity quadrupling from what it was in December. It’s a good omen for 2024, foreshadowing my earlier statement that if you’re ready to put your home on the market, the time to list is now. 

Traditionally, I’ve always thought of the Super Bowl as the official kick off to the real estate season, and I think that will be particularly true this year, as long as interest rates continue to trend lower. On February 11, when the NFL teams kick off in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII on February 11 this year, consider the real estate season open and ready for business. 

But that doesn’t mean you should engage your favorite listing agent on February 11th with a call to say, “OK I’m ready to list right now.”

There’s a lot that has to happen to prepare your listing. It’s best to start now so your home IS ready by Super Bowl/Real Estate kick-off. 

Sometimes people think, “Shouldn’t I wait for spring to list my home? This way, we can take photos when the roses come up in the front yard and the house will look much better.” 

Two words to answer that question: Virtual staging. 

If a flower is holding you back from listing your home, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. (Literally!) Let’s create some virtual blooms on the bushes and keep the process moving. This way, buyers can get the appearance of what the bushes will look like come springtime. 

You do have to be careful with virtual staging and there are certain things you simply can’t add in. For instance, you can’t add in a Hawaiian sunset if your home looks out onto office buildings or remove phone poles from the view. Virtual staging can never delete something or reimagine something that might impact a buyer’s decision to buy a house. It’s not about being deceptive, it’s about accentuating what’s already there.

When we do virtual staging, I still prefer actual staging for most properties because the downside of virtual staging is that the home looks so great online and when the buyers show up for a tour, it can be a little bit of a let down. 

Buyers like to sit down and get a feel for what it would look like sitting at the dining room table or lounging in the living room. They want to be outside on the pool deck to imagine how it might be when they’re spending time with family and friends around the pool. This is especially true for luxury buyers. If a buyer is interested in the house, they’ll probably want to sit down and get a feel for what the backyard could be like. When you don’t have physical staging, you’re at a bit of a detriment, but if virtual staging is the only option because of budget or timing, it’s better than showcasing empty rooms online, which always looks flat. Virtual staging can give your house some personality online, and 99% percent of first views are online; if buyers don’t like the way the house looks online, they’ll move onto another property. Also, MLS rules require you to show the virtually staged room and the empty room, so when you include virtually staged photography, buyers will see both the staged and unstaged images.

Another practice that impacts online views is photo placement. One of my real estate pet peeves is when the first picture of a listing is the garage or a photo of the window air conditioner unit (I’ve seen that and far worse). Online home shopping is just like online dating. The first three or four photos need to be intriguing enough to get the buyer interested to keep going and see the rest of the house. Otherwise, they’ll swipe left and never come through the front door. The point of online advertising is to get buyers through the front door to see more.

The big takeaway? List now. Inventory remains low and buyer demand is building back up as interest rates go down. Smart sellers are also adjusting prices as we come into the new year, so with the combination of new listings and good houses on the market that were simply overpriced, expect more inventory to come on the market very, very soon. To take advantage of a less-competitive marketplace, the time to list is right now. My other big takeaway for these first few weeks of 2024 is to remember that just because interest rates go down, buyers will not pay more for a house. Some sellers might be under the misconception that they can raise prices or keep prices the same as last year because there are more buyers on the marketplace. If the house didn’t sell last year at a certain price, it isn’t going to sell this year at that price. The best-case scenario is that you lower the price, receive multiple offers and buyers can bid up, but that situation doesn’t happen unless you’re properly priced. 

So, price right, list now and enjoy the fantastic opportunities this new real estate year will surely bring!

Andrew Manning • REALTOR® • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties • DRE: 00941825 • 818-380-2147 • andrew@andrewmanning.com