I read articles over the weekend that reminded me of a couple of items that should be on homeowners’ minds as the get ready to put their homes on the market (and, perhaps, move to a warmer climate). One has to do with whom you choose to list your house for sale, the other with when you list it.
First, many consumers believe that the commission they pay a real estate agency to sell their home is fixed at 6% (or 5% in some states). As I learned in real estate classes, the commission you agree to pay a brokerage if they sell your house is negotiable. True, in many areas, real estate agencies are reluctant to negotiate their fees, but that 6% is not fixed, and you are within your rights to shop for an agency willing to offer you a commission rate of, say, 5%. (Note: The risk is that when your agency publicizes the lower than typical rate in the MLS (multiple listing service), other agencies that represent potential buyers could be less than enthusiastic about pushing your home.)
More and more homeowners have taken to negotiating the commission rate, and some real estate agencies are starting to lower their rates even before being asked. The national average commission rate in 2015 was 5.26% and industry officials expect a further reduction when 2016 numbers are finalized. Of course, a percentage point difference is relative, depending
The other issue has to do with what time of year you sell your home. Based on what I have read, and my own personal experience, the answer is “whenever is most convenient for you.” On the face of it, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day should be the worst time to sell since most everyone is focused on the holidays, and all their energy to spend is directed toward malls and online shopping. But in late 1986, my wife and I were eager to live in a real colonial home in Connecticut and we took time out from the holiday shopping season to look at a 200-year-old home in Connecticut that was being sold by a divorcing couple. We loved it, they were in a hurry to sell and split the proceeds, and we wound up satisfying our old home urges at a price more than 10% lower than the listed price. I had the feeling that in the weeks the home had been on the market, few other folks had taken time out from their holiday activities to look at it. We had little competition but the sellers had the only traffic they needed.
Although relatively few people look for a home during the holiday season, you can count on those that do being serious. My conclusion is that the best time to list your house for sale is whenever it fits your lifestyle and timing. At the end of the day, your house is going to sell if it is priced appropriately no matter when.