The Queen's Speech, pulling crackers and Brussels sprouts are all Christmas traditions but statistics show that we can add looking at houses for sale to that list.
It's one of the nation's favourite festive pastimes and statistics from property portals prove it. Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market record a dramatic spike in views, especially on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
It's a wake-up call to those who are waiting until spring to put a “For Sale” sign up and to those who plan to take the homes off the market “for a break” over Christmas.
Amanda May, head of Dale Eddison's Skipton branch, which covers part of the Yorkshire Dales, says: “Rightmove statistics clearly show that there's a gradual downward progression of their website hits from the end of October right up until Christmas Day and Boxing Day when there's a sharp and very noticeable uplift.
“We also see also a lot of visitors to the area during the Christmas and New Year holidays. People who are visiting friends and family often take the opportunity to see what homes are available for sale.
“In an area like ours, where second home sales are high, some of those visitors will use the break to view properties, so it's important that vendors don't take them off the market during this period.”
She adds that agents like to use the Rightmove alerts to their best advantage, so choosing the right time to launch a new property is key.
Rightmove and other property portals alert would-be buyers on their database when a property is new to the market; when it is re-offered to the market and when it is reduced by at least two per cent of its former asking price.
“Clearly a new instruction alert is valuable, as it is likely to bring attention to a property and that's why many agents will launch it either over the Christmas period or early in January when they expect interest levels to be higher,” says Amanda. “The same applies to price reductions.”
Edward Stoyle, Head of Residential at Carter Jonas in York, adds that the idea that it is best to sell your house in spring and summer is a popular misconception.
“That's when the market is flooded with new properties. There's also a misconception about September, which people think is a busy time. In fact, 80 per cent of buyers over 50 are away on holiday so it can be quite a slow month for viewings.
“Now is actually a good time to put your home up for sale. There is less choice so it is more likely to stand out, especially as supply is so low at the moment.”
He adds that anyone looking to buy just before Christmas tends to be serious and motivated.
Viewings are also more likely to translate into sales, according to estate agent Andrew Beadnall, of Beadnall Copley, who has clocked up 45 Christmases selling property.
“I would urge anyone who is serious about finding a buyer for their home in these last few weeks of the year to take the plunge and get that for sale board up along with their Christmas tree.
“Viewers at this time of year are always the most committed to buying as they may well have just agreed a sale on their own home and now need a new one.
“I've always sold houses right up to the Christmas break. If you don't sell before then you will then get a second chance at the beginning of January, which is always one of the busiest times in the house-selling calendar.”
One of the main reasons people cite for not putting their property on the market in winter is that their garden doesn't look its best.
“People are obsessed by their gardens but prospective buyers can see past them. They know what a garden looks like in summer. What I often advise people to do is to show prospective buyers photographs of the garden in full bloom.
“If the house is still on the market in the spring, then the marketing pictures can easily be re-shot to include a spring garden,” says Edward Stoyle, who adds that some properties can look better in winter, especially cottages with roaring log fires.
If you do put your property on the market or intend to keep it open for viewings at this time of year, Andrew Beadnall has these tips on how festive marketing and viewings :
*Showing your home at Christmas time can be positive if you make it look welcoming. By using festive lights and decorations you can transform your property into that perfect yuletide home where buyers can imagine hosting their own Christmas get-togethers for years to come.
*Make sure that all rooms are lit and have a fire on. Not only will they look cosier, they will feel it.
*Place a lavish wreath on the front door and have a fabulous tree bedecked with baubles and lights, along with seasonal scented candles around the house.
*If there is snow on the ground, don't forget to clear the drive and the path to the front door and if the house is full with family and pets over Christmas, ask them to make themselves scarce while viewings are taking place so as not to overcrowd your house, making it feel smaller.