After an especially long, dry summer, the rainy season is starting. Cold, rainy weather and end-of-the-year holidays can keep buyers away.

With Bay Area’s milder winters, we fare a little better than other regions. But even here, the market tends to slow down in November and December.

Planning parties, decorating, shopping, and entertaining — who has time to keep the house “show ready” this time of year?

Selling a home in late fall and winter can be a challenge – especially if you are still living in it.

This year, housing inventory was extremely low in the spring, usually the prime real estate season. Since June we’ve seen more residential properties come on the market and stay there longer, but inventory remains fairly low.

That means many qualified buyers are still out there, looking for homes.

Many sellers choose to take their homes off the market over the holidays, but for others, this may be the perfect season to sell.

Marketing a house or condo this time of year offers: advantages – low inventory, low interest rates and serious buyers; and concerns – holiday decorations, weather and accessibility issues; and opportunities in the form of new marketing strategies.

Advantages

Fewer homes are put up for sale at the end of the year, resulting in less competition. This year is less extreme than last year, but still follows this general rule.

A balanced Livermore market has more than 200 residential properties on the Multiple Listing Service at any one time. A typical December market can plunge to fewer than half that number.

As of the beginning of this week, we had a mere 100 Livermore properties on the MLS, ranging in price from $369,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bath condo to $7.9 million for a 21-acre vineyard estate with a 5287-sq.-ft. home. Most of the listings, however, fall somewhere in between, with an average list price of $998,011 and a median price of $791,000.

Buyers are still shopping. So well-priced homes that do come on the market here are selling fairly quickly. Other Tri-Valley communities are seeing similar results.

Additionally, recent news from the Fed suggests interest rates – currently hovering just under 4 percent for 30-year conventional loans – are likely to remain stable next year, so savvy buyers may want to buy while monthly payments are low.

The folks touring properties and visiting open houses over the holidays are the folks who intend to buy now. Otherwise they would be at the outlet stores or Stoneridge Mall, or spending time with their families.

Concerns

If you are living in the home, go ahead and add a little holiday spirit. You don’t have to deprive your family of the joy of the season just because your home is on the market.

Adding festive lights or other bright touches is nice, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to overwhelm a potential buyer, and remember that your buyer may be of a different religious tradition.

If you’re not certain you have hit the right balance, consult with your Realtor. He or she may recommend you meet with a stager, who can suggest ways to make your property appealing to potential buyers.

When you know buyers are coming by, either by appointment or during an open house, turn on the holiday lights along with the rest of the illumination. A bright home is more appealing.

You may want to light a fire in the fireplace to provide a sense of warmth, especially on a chilly day. Those without fireplaces can use mildly-scented candles in a woodsy or cinnamon fragrance to provide that inviting air.

One problem for many sellers over the holidays is keeping the property accessible for viewing without disrupting family events. Make sure your agent knows your plans. He or she can put a note on the MLS if a particular day or time is inconvenient for you, but try to be flexible. More showings mean more opportunities for the right buyer to find your property.

Perhaps scheduled open houses will work well. Successful open houses can be held even on the weekends around Thanksgiving and Christmas. You may not get a huge number of visitors, but those who show up are likely to be serious buyers.

Opportunities

If your property is just now going on the market, your agent will consider time of year when calculating the right price point and marketing strategies for your property.

If the home has been on the market for several months, it's probably time to change your sales approach.

Those marketing materials your agent created – flyers, websites, etc. — showing the yard in full summer bloom may need to be updated to include a few more recent shots.

Your agent may provide special booties or a sign asking folks to remove their shoes when touring the interior, especially on rainy days. Most buyers are used to this by now and understand the need to keep floors beautiful in the home they may buy.

Take yourself on a tour of the entire property. Are gutters and walkways clear of leaves and debris? Is the house or condo warm, inviting and uncluttered? Have all repairs been completed? Buyers will see what you see, through even more critical eyes. Make sure the furnace is set it at a comfortable temperature; stepping from the blustery winds outside into a cozy home makes a good first impression for potential buyers.

If you do decide to put your property on the market now, consult with your local Realtor. He or she can help you determine the best sales plan for your individual house or condo. A property that is comfortable, attractive and priced appropriately can sell even in the holiday season.

Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties in Livermore.