“Spring cleaning” for many real estate agents is more of a winter activity.
When skies grow dark early and the winter chill creeps in, the housing market typically slows down significantly. Many real estate agents use this gap between the autumn and spring seasons to get organized and put themselves in position to take full advantage of the busier times to come.
“I like to look at winter as a cleanup,” Jennifer Leahy of Douglas Elliman in Greenwich said. “Kind of like what you do in your house in the spring, but I do it for my business.”
The tasks include reviewing listings she will put up in the spring, letting her snowbird clients know about new houses or condors on the market, making sure her inventory is up to date in the system and communicating with clients.
“Anything I forgot to do the rest of the year, I’m doing those things now,” Leahy said. “Once spring comes, I know I’m going to be insane, so this will benefit me ten-fold.”
Cynthia Hughes, of Coldwell Banker in Danbury, uses the end of the year to set up herself for success in the year ahead.
“I get my marketing plan in order, making sure they are updated with any accolades and community involvement. Usually I plan my strategic year by quarter,” she said. “Last, but not least, is updating my contacts. I get all my contacts together — names, birthdays, kids — all that information. In November I order calendars and in December there are Christmas cards to send.”
Among Hughes’ new accolades is being named by her peers to the board of the Northern Fairfield County Association of Realtors. The board consists of a president, four real estate agents and two real estate attorneys or mortgage brokers.
This year, a busier-than-usual November has Hughes pulling double duty: tending to listings and preparing for 2017.
“Generally this is a slow time, but this year I’m more busy now than I was in the spring. People are still buying and I have a few listings coming up,” she said. “July and August can be slow, too, and I use that time to assess how my plan for the year is going and get my ducks in a row for the fall market.”
From 2013 to 2015, the number of homes sold in Danbury is substantially fewer in January, February and March than the rest of the year. Those weak numbers reflect the winter market starting in November. November and December appear to be strong months, based on the numbers, but that is a reflection of the tail end of the fall market.
In that three-year period, 126 homes sold in Danbury in January and 128 sold in February. By contrast, in that same three-year period, 265 sold in July and 232 sold in August, reflecting the end of the spring market.
If November and December are slow periods in real estate, the down time does not appear to trigger any mass exodus of agents from the industry, whether from retirement or if they are struggling to make a go of it. Employment data from the Connecticut Department of Labor the past several years suggests the real estate industry maintains its workforce numbers carrying over into the new year.
At the East Norwalk offices of William Raveis Real Estate, luxury property specialist Adelaide Waring says she sees the post-Thanksgiving stretch as a time to regroup but also when she can reach out to clients her team has helped in years past.
Waring is hosting a Sunday gathering for clients who will walk away with pumpkin, apple or pecan pies from Stew Leonard’s. After that, she will have time to mull the 2016 market and what is to come next year.
“We were extremely busy until a week or two ago,” Waring said. “I think there was a lot of anxiety around the election … (and) people are concerned that interest rates will go up next year.”
Some Stamford real estate agents have turned to auctions as an alternative strategy for building interest in properties at this time of year.
Linda Sentementes, a Stamford-based real estate agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, is representing a client who has decided to auction his home at 165 Davenport Farm Lane West in North Stamford. The auction is scheduled for Dec. 17, with bids set to start at $1.4 million.
The 2.5-acre property was originally listed for $2.75 million when it went on the market in July 2015. It was most recently listed for $1.995 million.
“The market is very quiet in those higher price points in Stamford,” Sentementes said. “We’ve put the home through traditional ways in MLS, advertising and websites. After discussion with the homeowner, we were trying to think of different ways to get people into the door. We felt strongly that once we get people through the door, there will be someone who falls in love with this home.
“He is very interested in trying to sell this home by the end of the year, in 2016,” Sentementes added. “Historically, we removed houses from the market at this time of year to give them a little bit of a rest. But there are people who feel strongly that they can sell at this time of year.”
With fewer traditional listings to represent or show potential buyers, the winter paperwork is integral to a real estate agent’s success for the rest of the year.
“I’m making contacts all throughout the winter months rather than getting to the beginning of 2017 and having a panic attack that I won’t be busy,” said Rob Johnson of Halstead Property in Greenwich, who has worked in real estate as an investor for 10 years and an agent for four. “It takes a couple years to realize that what you do in the spring is based on what you do the fall and winter before. You have to plan that far in advance.”
Winter should be considered a valuable time for sellers to get ready for the spring season, too, Jennifer Leahy said.
“Sellers should take those three months to do their own homework,” she said. “It doesn’t take a week to prepare a house for the market.”
Sunday, November 13, 2016