What Does ‘Homes for the Holidays’ Really Mean?

By Andrew Manning 

It’s officially the holiday season, so it makes sense we’d be talking about “homes for the holidays” right now. I’ve written before about why now is a fantastic time to buy (less competition, serious sellers, faster closings) but I want to really dive into what “homes for the holidays” means. Because sure, it’s about buying and selling real estate during what is typically a slower period, but it’s also about using this downtime as a way to prepare your home for sale. 

During the holidays, people have time off, workloads get a little lighter, and if you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, it’s the ideal opportunity to purge and clean your spaces! If your kids are in town for the holidays, this might be the best time to tell them to finally get those elementary school things out of their bedroom that they haven’t lived in for 20+ years. Your home should not be a storage facility for your kids or grandkids, especially if you’re trying to sell. 

And you’d be surprised by how quickly nostalgia fades. I have a client whose daughter hadn’t been to the house in seven years – she even moved across the country – but when my client said they were selling and throwing out her old things, she flew back to clean her room. You know what happened next? She didn’t take a single thing!

If you have clothes or items to donate, click here and use the Goodwill Donation Center Locator to find a place to donate near you. If there’s no convenient Goodwill nearby, visit your house of worship of choice or a community center and see if they can help you find a place to accept your donated items. Habitat for Humanity is another great resource for giving. Habitat ReStores are home improvement shops that accept small and large donations of new or gently used furniture, appliances and even building materials! Plus, most locations will pick up your furniture at your house. The proceeds from the sale of the items you donate helps Habitat then build communities and homes around the world. The only caveat here is that you may want to call ahead. During the pandemic, our local Habitat for Humanity had a six to eight week waiting list for picking up furniture, so be aware timing-wise that this may not be the best option if you’re looking to remove the furniture or appliances now. Also, make sure if you’re donating appliances that they’re in working condition. That broken dryer won’t fly as a donation!

Another option for getting rid of furniture or large items that you can’t donate is through LA Sanitation (LASAN). You can call the 24-hour Customer Care Center at 1-800-773-2489 or use the MyLA311 app to schedule a pick-up on your trash collection day. The city has a separate truck that goes around during your trash collection day and picks up the items curbside for free. Convenient, right?

I often use a company I like called Jedi Junk Removal. They’re not free but they’re efficient and fast. They’ll schedule a pick-up and come to your house and remove the items for you. The other option would be a temporary storage unit though if you go this way, make sure you remember that you put your items there! The general rule is to always get rid of what you don’t need before putting anything in storage because once it’s in storage, if it’s more than temporary it will be there forever and you will forget. Ready for a classic story? My wonderful mom, who passed away several years ago, had $3,000 worth of items put away in temporary storage and we found out she spent more than $80,000 over the years to store everything! It was another $10,000 to move the items from the storage units to my sister’s garage, and you know what? They’re still sitting in my sister’s garage today! So, don’t spend $90,000 on items worth $3,000 and take this tale as a cautious reminder that it’s not worth storing what can be donated or thrown away.

Remember this motto: When in doubt, give it away or throw it out! 

The same rule applies to cleaning out closets. If you neglect to clean out your closet and simply use it as cluttered storage space, buyers won’t be able to see past it. They’ll think, “Nope, there’s no room in here for me to hang up my clothes or store anything!” 

Make sure that in addition to your other spaces, you’re clearing out your closets, too. Here’s an insider’s tip: When buyers see listing photos of neat closets, it signals to them that the sellers take great care of their house. I always make sure we photograph neat closets and market these closets as a key feature of the house because it’s an indication that the home is in order and well-maintained. Conversely, messy closets will have a buyer questioning what else in the home has been neglected, too.  

Buyers can be the most imaginative people in the world but when it comes down to buying a home, they don’t want to use any imagination. What they see is what they believe they’ll get. If your house is too stuffed with items and papers and clutter, they won’t be able to imagine themselves living there. Nobody wants to walk into a space that looks like an antique or resale store. They also don’t want to walk into a completely stark space, so it’s up to you and your real estate professional to strike that perfect balance.

So, you’ve taken my advice. You’ve shredded your documents. Donated your furniture to Goodwill, had LASAN pick up your broken dryer and now, you’re ready to put your home on the market. What next? 

I usually recommend listing in mid-January once your home is prepared for the sale. I find that the first two weeks of January are what I call a “holiday hangover.” People are slowly recovering from endless parties and celebrations, slowly getting back into the groove of regular work. A lot of schools have staggered schedules, which means sometimes kids are off until early or mid-January. Then, right around the time of the Super Bowl, it’s real estate kick-off and time to list your home. 

But it’s not like your home is just sitting there, waiting in all its organized, de-cluttered glory to go on the market. During this time, we can get it ready to go with photography, videos, winter landscaping, freshen up the lawn and make sure it looks great for not only the MLS but also your guests. A win-win! It’s why I say if you’re selling your home, don’t waste the holidays. All this cleaning will make your home even more inviting when guests come to stay. The only thing I usually tell my clients about is holiday decorating. If you’re planning to go all out with the seasonal decor, it’s best to take photos before the lights are strung and the gifts are wrapped. Nobody likes to look at a house in February or March with holiday decoration; it’ll make them think the home has been on the market forever. 

Now, if let’s say, your timeline is a bit faster, and you need to list your home in December (maybe you bought a house or need to be somewhere starting January 1) – that’s perfectly OK! While I typically don’t recommend listing your house during the last two weeks of December and Reports on Housing’s Steven Thomas says New Year’s Eve is the lowest real estate demand day of the year, there’s nothing wrong with putting a well-priced house on the market right now. It’ll still get plenty of attention from all those people who are on their tablets as they sit by the fire and sip hot toddies or a contemplative glass of pre de-cluttering Cabernet. And a home listed early in the holiday season can certainly sell fast. I’ve sold homes on Christmas Eve and Hanukkah every year. People are always looking. There are serious buyers out there waiting for a home just like yours. 

There’s another strategic option available when listing around the holiday season. The local MLS allows for a 21-day “coming soon” feature where the listing indicates that the home will be available for showings on January 5, or whatever date you choose. During this “coming soon” period, the property is still getting exposed on all the search sites and will start showing up in active sections of the multiple, however days on market doesn’t show yet, so the marketing clock doesn’t start ticking down. Then, on day 22 the listing has to go live. It’s a great way to generate interest in a home, though rules have changed, so it’s best to figure out if your MLS allows for this option before including it in your selling strategy. 

Ultimately, if you’re looking to sell your house soon, now is the time to prepare. Work with your real estate professional to devise a strategy, clean out your spaces so they’re ready for photographs, and revel in your newly de-cluttered, organized space as you host holiday parties and family get-togethers. After all, “homes for the holidays” isn’t just about the festive holiday season, it’s also celebrating the undeniable comfort of home. 

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