Jergler: Merry Christmas! Now list your ho-ho-house

While many people are busy planning holiday parties and shopping for presents, Sari Ward is working just as hard, or possibly harder, than she's worked all year.

Ward, a real estate agent with Prudential California Realty in Laguna Niguel, views the holidays as a great opportunity for residential real estate sales, and that's something she wants to sell to sellers.

"Buyers are out there. They're serious," Ward said. "The buyers who are out in December in the rain looking at houses, when it's cold and they could be shopping — they're hot, and they're looking to buy something."

Ward believes that though there are fewer buyers out there this time of the year, those who are out there are ready to buy. If they weren't so serious and possibly pressed to make a purchase, they would look at another time, when the climes are a bit warmer, and there is less to do to contend with the holiday madness.

Ward said she's seen not only more interest in her listings in recent weeks, but more offers.

"I would say it's been a busy last few weeks," she said.

Ward has the listings for two homes priced at just under $550,000 in Laguna Niguel. One is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family home, which has had five offers on it, and the other is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium that has received six offers so far.

"I've been in multiple offers," she said. "I just think with the conditions being so good for buyers and interest rates so low, it's a great time to buy a house."

There are many reasons holiday home shoppers can be considered more serious buyers than their fair-weathered counterparts. They may be out there looking because there is less competition for the homes they want during the holidays, or they could be last-minute types who want the massive tax break buying a home will give them.

And many of the latter are all-cash investors either looking for a property they can rent out, or sit on, Ward said.

"Fourth quarter is usually a hot time for investors to be coming in — to get a tax write-off," Ward added.

For tax purposes, a deal must close by the end of the year, so it's often a quick negotiation process, and it's often an all-cash deal that circumvents the sluggish lending process.

Since it's the buyers who are on a time schedule, it flips things around and puts the sellers in position to negotiate a good price, Ward said.

But not all experts feel the holidays are a good time to have a home on the market, and some believe there are advantages to taking it off the market for the holidays.

"If you don't have to sell between Thanksgiving and New Year's, take your home off of the market," writes guide Elizabeth Weintraub, who has 30 years of real estate experience. She's the broker-associate at Lyon Real Estate's midtown Sacramento office.

One of Weintraub's biggest arguments against having your home on the market right now is: "Buyers will think you are desperate. You're appealing to a much smaller inventory of buyers who have very specific needs that your home might not match."

And there's an advantage to removing your home from the market over the holidays, Weintraub argues, because "it can go back as a new listing in January, thereby drawing more traffic because it's fresh."

But for Ward, who has the "you have to be in it to win it" mindset, the chance to sell your home to an all-cash investor who may be willing to go a bit higher on price is reason enough to leave your home on the market over the holidays — or put it on the market if it isn't already there.

"From a seller side, if your take your house off the market just over the holidays … you're taking yourself off the market for these investors," she said. "Don't take yourself out of the game."

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