4 Tips for Service Members Selling a House over the Holidays

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A key shaped like a house dangles in the foreground of a sparkly image of a snow-dusted, garland-wrapped house
(Adobe Stock)

Military homeowners know that although selling a home over the holidays isn’t ideal, it's often a necessary part of military life. The good news is that selling a home over the holidays isn’t like past seasons, when a shortage of motivated buyers was the norm.

Recent real estate trends show that demand is as strong as ever, even during a housing shortage and with high interest rates. You just have to make sure that you’re marketing to the right crowd, that your home is in good shape and that the sale price is attractive. Easy, right? In some markets, maybe, but in others, you’ll need a few tips to ensure a smooth selling process.

1. Work With an Experienced Real Estate Professional

When you work with an experienced real estate agent, their expertise really shines during an already stressful time of year. If you’re selling due to a PCS move, you know how much time and energy goes into getting the house ready for the movers.

A confident agent removes some of the burden by helping you price your home, prep and stage the property, manage your listing, host open houses, and field inquiries. Later, they’ll negotiate the best price on your behalf. Plus, they’re always happy to answer questions about the process.

If you have the time and are savings-conscious, conducting a “For Sale by Owner” is also an option. You’ll handle most of the selling details, from the marketing to showings, but you will need to hire a couple of real estate professionals, such as a real estate attorney, to handle the legal details. Keep in mind: If you expect VA loan buyers, your property must meet VA’s minimum property requirements (MPRs) before you can sell.

2. Create Custom Marketing for Your Ideal Buyer

Buying a home over the holidays isn’t the most convenient time for typical buyers, so you know that home buyers searching at this time are ready to pounce when the perfect house becomes available. Once you’ve researched who your largest buying pool is, why not tailor your marketing just for them?

It's a logical leap that, as a military homeowner, you’re probably selling to a military buyer population. Use this connection to draw their attention. Add these facts to your ads.

Assumable VA Loan

These are hot right now because interest rates are high. If you have an assumable VA loan with a low interest rate, you should prominently feature your rate as an in-demand selling point. You might have to ask your VA loan-savvy real estate agent to educate the buyer's agent about the process.

Military Family-Friendly Features

List anything about your home that military families specifically look for, such as:

  • A short commute to the base (work and child care)
  • Access to top-ranked schools
  • Parks in the neighborhood
  • School and commuter bus stops near the house
  • Range of after-school activities nearby
  • In-demand health care outlets
  • Military family neighborhood
  • Quick trips to locals’ favorites such as restaurants and shops

Selling to Non-Military Home Buyers

If you own a home in a non-military market, many of the above features apply to civilian buyers, but you’ll have to tweak the marketing to address their needs specifically. If they’re home shopping over the holidays, they likely have a strong reason due to a job or lifestyle change. Or, maybe they were priced out of a summer market or lost multiple bidding wars. Now, this time around, they’ve saved more money for housing. Don’t forget that non-military buyers are eligible to assume a VA loan.

3. Consider Making Seasonal Updates

Your home is more attractive to holiday buyers if it's move-in ready. After all, they’re hoping to open presents under the Christmas tree or celebrate New Year's Eve near the fireplace’s glow in their new home. Why not make it easier for them to move right in? Of course, you should discuss the return on the investment with your real estate agent, but seasonal projects could improve your chances of selling quickly.

You can go big/functional and install a new roof or simply mention that the furnace has had its seasonal tune-up. Other ideas include adding money-saving smart home features such as a thermostat, needed fireplace inspection and repair, and replacement insulation in the attic.

4. Create a Warm and Festive Atmosphere

Most real estate agents recommend warming up your home with holiday decorations, but they always suggest that “less is more” when deciding whether to display your entire vintage nutcracker collection. It's widely known that home buyers envision gatherings at the house when considering buying a home, so don’t overwhelm them with your personal take on holiday decorations. The optimal decorating strategy is to accentuate your home’s best features with holiday trimmings.

  • Decorate the mantle with stockings and show off a unique fireplace with a neatly stacked wood pile.
  • Pre-set a holiday table with festive tableware to showcase the spacious dining room.
  • Place a lit Christmas tree framed by a large picture or bay window viewable from the street.
  • Highlight a beautiful staircase with garland and greenery.
  • Maximize holiday scents during an open house. Simmer and serve cinnamon apple cider, or bake fragrant cookies.

Selling your home over the holidays might not be your first choice, but sometimes, thanks to military life, it's the only choice. Home-selling trends over the holidays have drastically changed in recent years, so the chance to sell your home quickly for the best price is better than ever.

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