Personal Finance

Why January might be the best time to sell your home

New year, new home? Amid global economic uncertainty, property owners may be questioning whether now is a good time to try to sell up.

Two-thirds of economists surveyed by The Times expected house prices to drop by more than 4% this year, “making 2023 the worst year for the housing market since 2009”, said the paper. But despite fears of an impending property market crash, there will always be demand for homes.

And January may be a good time to list your property, especially if you follow experts’ advice and tips. 

Serious buyers only

The property market “tends to follow the same trends each year”, said residential property group Leaders. March has had “the highest number of buyer enquiries per property” on average in recent years.

But the new year brings a lot of “new leaf” syndrome, said TheAdvisory, as “potential buyers start to commit to making it ‘this year’ that they move and so estate agent applicant registers start to fill”.

And while there may be fewer people house shopping in January than during some other months, “that can be a blessing”, said estate agent Petty Son & Prestwich. Rather than viewers who are just “tyre-kicking” (checking out properties with zero intention of buying), January viewings are more likely to be by people who are “definitely looking to move”. 

The typically lower property supply at the start of the year means homes tend to sell slightly quicker too. In summer, properties take an average of 65 days to sell, compared to 60 days in January, according to OnlineMortgageAdvisor. 

You may also get offers “closer to your asking price than you might receive in the warmer months when buyers have so much more choice”, the website added. 

Is the 2023 housing market unique?

Sellers listing their homes for sale in January “will likely beat the spring influx when thousands tend to put their homes on the housing market”, said the Daily Express. 

That said, 2023 may prove to be slightly different from other years, because of the cost-of-living crisis and rising interest rates. Some buyers might be tempted to wait for potential drops in property values and mortgage prices. 

Property website Rightmove has predicted that after “the incredibly busy home-moving period” of the past couple of years, the market will slow in 2023 as buyers wait for the right home to become available. This could create a stand-off in the comiing months “between some sellers who are in no rush to drop their prices, and affordability-strapped or hesitant buyers”,  said This is Money.

Estate agent Charlie Gibson, managing director at Oliver Bernard Private, has advised sellers to “choose an agent who’s accepted that the buyer demographic has changed”. Gibson told the London Evening Standard that setting a realistic price was also important, to avoid the property “looking stale” on listing websites and attracting lower offers.

Tips for winter sellers

Listing your home for sale during the dark, cold winter months does bring challenges, but there are ways to make your home look more attractive to buyers.

Create a cosy feeling: dress your home for the season, using accessories to create an atmosphere of “warmth and homeliness”, said The Times. Your own home may already have cushions, candles, wool throws and sheepskin rugs, “but if you’re selling a holiday home or a buy-to-let, invest in some, and arrive an hour early to turn the heating on”, the paper added. 

Tidy up the garden: although they may not get much use during the winter, an “outside space is still top of many wish lists”, said Savills. Make sure the patio is clean and sweep up fallen leaves, which can be slippery as well as untidy. Investing in winter flowering plants such as camellias, mahonias, poinsettias and winter heather “to brighten the dullest of days and provide a heady scent” may also “work wonders”.

Feed buyers’ imaginations: potential buyers often struggle to see a property’s full potential, wrote home staging expert Jonathan Welford for Great British Life, so give them a flavour of what your home can offer by setting an inviting scene in each room. Ensure your home is clean too, and don’t overlook dusty plants, pictures or skirting boards. “A top tip is to use a scented surface cleaner, and pour a little bleach down each plughole every day,” Welford said. 

Be a good host: make yourself and your property memorable by welcoming potential buyers “in from the cold with a hot drink”, said House Beautiful. “By doing this, viewers will feel right at home, and will subconsciously associate your property with warmth and friendliness.” 

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist, specialising in business, property and personal finance. He has a master’s degree in financial journalism from City University and has previously worked for the FT’s Financial Adviser, the financial podcast In For a Penny and MoneyWeek. 

Recommended

Personal Finance

What is Don’t Pay UK?

Personal Finance

How to plug the pension gap by buying National Insurance credits  

Personal Finance

Brexit: what you should know about the £40bn ‘divorce bill’

Personal Finance

State pension changes: everything you need to know