Are Christmas viewings a good idea?
It is no coincidence that Rightmove debuted its new ad on Christmas Day last year, or that it had done the same twelve months before. The site’s visitor numbers rocket over the festive period as an influx of family members opens our eyes to how cramped our current homes are.
But browsing online and viewing in person are very different experiences, which can give you starkly contrasting opinions of a home – particularly over Christmas and the New Year. What should you be aware of when booking a viewing in mid- and late December? And what do you need to know if you are selling?
Beware the cosy glow
Christmas lights, an open fire, the heating cranked up as the night draws in… it is easy to make a house feel cosy, even if the reality is somewhat different. Much of what makes a house appealing at Christmas is artificial, so be sure to check windows (look for blown panes and perished seals), ask about insulation, and put a hand close to the radiator. An efficient home will need minimal heating, even as the weather turns, so cool radiators in a warm room are a positive.
Look beyond the clutter
With trees and decorations, chairs brought in from the garage and, of course, presents, it is easy for a house to look cluttered at Christmas. As a buyer, you need to see beyond the yuletide jumble, which can make large rooms look poky and, worse, distract from potential problems.
Is the Christmas tree obscuring mould? Is that extra chair conveniently placed in front of a structural crack? Is the room too dark to properly judge the décor? If so, don’t be afraid to turn on a light or two.
Houses viewed at Christmas are seen in their most atypical condition, so reserve judgement until you have had a second viewing – after the decorations have been taken down. You will get a better idea of the true size of the property, and may spot problems that weren’t obvious before.
Don’t expect a quick answer
Estate Agent Purplebricks recorded a sale on Christmas day, “accepted by the vendor as the country settled down to a festive dinner” – but such timing is an exception to the rule. Although Christmas and Boxing day are busy, Rightmove reports that “those people looking at houses early in the new year are generally at the start of their property search and may take several months before they have seen enough property to start making decisions.”
Sales can be put on hold at Christmas, agents and solicitors take their remaining leave, and families’ priorities change. If you are viewing in late December, you may be out of sync with the rest of the market. So by all means, book a visit, but prepare yourself for a wait if the vendor isn’t in a similar position. It could be March or May before they are ready to vacate.
Selling? Plan ahead
Contact an agent before you put up your festive decorations. While we have already seen that listings draw clicks over Christmas, The Advisory rates December and January as ‘bad’ months to sell, with the market picking up as we enter March.
If there is potential for your house to be on the market for several months, it is important that your photos don’t show how difficult it is proving to shift. Pictures with snow on the ground or – worse – a Christmas tree in the lounge look far from evergreen when spring rolls around, and vendors are likely to ask themselves what is wrong with your property and why it is still on the market. When listing your house in December, instruct an agent before you put up the tinsel, and factor in a slower turn-around on your EPC and floor plan.
Don’t give in too easily
Consider any pre-Christmas offer with care: buyers know that vendors would prefer to wrap up a sale before they unwrap their presents. They may be tempted to chance their luck with a low offer – and you may be tempted to accept.
To reduce the risk of seller’s regret, hedge your bets. January sees a surge of buyers registering with local agents, one of which may be happy to offer you full asking price.