People tend to wait until spring to put their house on the market or start house-hunting, having heard November and December are lousy months to buy or sell a house.
But the many benefits to buying or selling during the holiday months actually make it a perfect time.
"The fourth quarter can be a successful time for both buyers and sellers in the residential markets. Q4 sellers are serious and motivated. This together with less competition can provide a prospective buyer with an edge," said Will Doerlich, a broker associate at Realty ONE Group and past president of Bay East Association of Realtors.
This year, there are several points that might prompt buyers and sellers to move forward during the last two months of 2018.
With the Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates again in December, prospective buyers who have sidelined themselves are considering becoming active again. Doerlich said there is a "stream of buyers jumping back in the market" in active East Bay markets.
Because there are more buyers, this is also an opportunity for sellers.
Sellers might think people are less likely to see their home in the midst of their hectic holiday schedules. That can definitely be true, but most people have more time off around the holidays.
And if a buyer is house-hunting instead of curled up under a blanket in front of a fire, they are serious. Many winter buyers are working against a deadline, whether it's an expiring lease, relocation or a contract on their current home.
The holiday seller is also likely to be serious and motivated. So what a buyer might lack in choice of available homes could be balanced out by dealing with a more flexible seller.
Most sellers have a compelling reason for putting their house on the market during the holidays. They might be facing a relocation and want to get their kids settled before the new term. Or they might just be feeling some stress if they listed their home in the fall and it's still languishing post-Halloween, making them just a little more anxious and eager to deal.
"If there is a time constraint or a need, the client is committed," Doerlich said. "Sellers with their home on the market (during the holidays) are serious and actively engaged in selling the property."
Many sellers might also want a contract in hand for tax advantages. If it's a rental property on which they incurred a loss, they are likely to want to take the deduction this calendar year.
Tax advantages go both ways. Homeownership brings numerous tax perks, from deducting mortgage interest to property taxes. Keep in mind, though, that recent changes to the tax law capped the property tax deduction at $10,000 and deduction of interest on mortgages up to $500,000, down $1 million.
Private mortgage interest (PMI) and closing fees might also be deductible. Always double-check with a tax expert or accountant about any tax questions.
Another advantage to buying during winter months is that you might get a more realistic view of the house and can check for issues that you'd notice only during colder, wet weather -- like a door that swells shut or a leak. These are less likely to catch during warmer, drier months.
Of course, don't forget that issues that crop up more during summer will be less accessible -- such as how well the air conditioning works. Make sure that the home inspector does a thorough job on those fronts, too.
Speaking of home inspectors, since November and December are generally slower months, you will likely have easier access to professionals like inspectors, movers, real estate agents and mortgage brokers. They are less busy during the holiday season because, again, there are just not as many home sales happening.
In addition, motivated real estate agents and lenders might share your desire to get it done and in the books before Jan. 1 rolls around.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year, and the emotional aspect of the holidays can help sellers. Holiday buyers are going to be caught up in the "hearth and home" season.
"The holidays are a time of gatherings with family and the home is often decorated differently than other times of the year," Doerlich said. "The festive decorations also enhance the emotional appeal of home."
Buyers thinking of family and holiday gatherings can be the emotional nudge to motivate a purchase, or even the purchase of a larger home than they might otherwise have, with an eye toward family, friends and the future.
Sellers should remember to present their home with this in mind. Keep decorations simple and small so the room gets the attention. Set the mood by lighting a fire and having a smell of sweets and cider wafting through the halls, and even offer treats to the holiday house-hunting guests.