There’s a change in the air, these past few weeks. The endless heat of summer has slowly softened into more mild days. The nights are longer, and bring with them a definite chill unlike any we’ve felt in months. Fall is most definitely upon us…and the air isn’t the only thing changing.
In real estate, business has a tendency to follow a seasonal pattern. Spring historically brings an uptick in business, peaking in the summer, then steadily declining through the fall to reach a low during the winter, bottoming out right around the holidays. This pattern makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. Numerous factors make the warmer months more attractive to buyers and sellers: less rain means more motivation to go outside and visit potential listings or move large loads of furniture; summer vacation allows for a grace period in terms of school, a boon for anyone wanting minimal disruption in their children’s education; less distractions from holidays and work functions mean more time to plan a move and less need to accomodate visiting relatives. All these and more contribute to what can be referred to as a year-end lull for the real estate industry. As such, many real estate agents begin to slow down as the year comes to a close…after all, why continue putting in the same amount of work when the seasonal trends promise diminishing returns?
The trouble with that line of thinking, though, is that the real estate business is far too complex to be defined by such simple patterns. General economic conditions play far more of a part in determining a hot real estate market, for example, and any number of other factors influence the ebb and flow of the real estate economy. Seasons are a market influencer, but not a sole determinant.
In addition, I’m located in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area region of California, which is one of the most active real estate markets in the country, so “hot” is certainly relative. That is to say, even the slowest times of year for home sales are very active, with high prices and, on average, short times on the market. It’s like comparing molten lava to a bonfire: sure, one may be hotter than the other, but they’re both still hot by any definition. The winter may have a tendency to slow home sales down, but buyers and sellers aren’t exactly going into hibernation.
In fact, the so-called conventional wisdom of slower seasons can backfire on agents who put too much stock in it. For one thing, with the proliferation of real estate information on the internet, consumers are more well-informed now than ever. The seasonal cycle and its effects are no secret, and buyers are often keen to utilize that inormation in the hopes of snagging a deal when competition is at a low point. Sellers, meanwhile, can see a chance to fetch top dollar for their home, taking advantage of demand at a time when inventory is more limited. Add in the fact that, in the cultural melting pot known as the Bay Area, many people just don’t consider the holiday season to be much different than any other time of year, and it becomes clear that opportunities are out there.
The trouble is, if an agent has already decided to slow down for the latter months of the year, these opportunities can pass them by, snagged by colleagues who have decided to brave the sleet and snow (well, this is California, so it’s more like braving the occasional rain and somewhat chilly temperatures) to keep working hard at expanding their business despite the quieter office and early onset of night. Looking around at all those empty desks and dark offices at a real estate office in December is proof enough that there are roles out there that need to be filled. You can be the one to fill them.
This isn’t to say that one cannot take time for a vacation, or spend time with their family during the holidays. These sorts of activities are important in order to avoid burning out. But one must be cautious of taking it too far, and giving oneself too much time off, losing focus and missing opportunities that are right in front of them. One of the great things about real estate is the ability to set one’s own schedule. Take advantage of this by working when so many others are not, and you might end up having the hottest winter on record. And there’s no better time to start thinking about this than now, as the leaves take on vibrant shades of yellow and red, and sweaters start making their way out of the dresser drawer. While you’re carving your jack-o’-lantern in the days ahead, think about carving some time out during the holidays as well to make the seasonal shift work for you. You (and your clients) will be happy you did.