There was once a time when only the most desperate of sellers would list their home in January. And for good reason - cold weather means less traffic at open houses, people are still getting themselves situated after the chaos of the holidays, and homes have much less curb appeal without blooming flowers and growing grass. But, and it's a big BUT, there are several factors that significantly outweigh the disadvantages of putting your home on the market at the first of the year.
First, the vast majority of "typical" sellers would still prefer to list their home in the late Spring or Summer months, when the sun is shining and the school year is over. During these months, there will likely be a number of comparable homes on the market in your neighborhood or school district, giving buyers options, or in other words, leverage. If you have a flexible timeline and don't need to work around the school year, then putting your home on the market in January enables you to take advantage of a supply-and-demand balance that's skewed in the opposite direction for much of the year.
Second, buyers have SO MANY virtual resources for viewing a home and gathering information about it, that in many cases they formulate a strong opinion about a home before they ever even see it in person. Sure, there are some real estate photographers who can perform small miricals with lighting, angles and editing software, but for the most part, buyers have access to such a plethora of information, photos and virtual tours of homes, that few walk into a showing expecting something completely different than what they see. This is helpful to sellers listing in January for a couple of reasons. First, it makes open houses less important, which is great because buyers become much less motivated to spend the day walking through the city from open house to open house when it's rainy and cold. Second, it helps sellers rectify the issue of minimal winter curb appeal, as sellers can use listing photos that are taken in Summer months - giving the buyer an idea of the homes seasonal potential.
Third, the holiday season can make people reflect on their life and establish goals for the new year. Home ownership is a common and reasonable goal for many, and one that can often be made more attainable by financial opportunities that present themselves around the holidays - bonuses, inheritances, gifts from family members, etc. People also have a tendency to examine their finances during this time, and are more likely to consider the tax implications of home ownership, and the financial disadvantages of renting.
Today's serious buyers have been looking at homes online every day for months. They check sites like Zillow and Trulia multiple times a day, get listings sent to them through email or by text, and have their finger on the pulse of the local real estate market. So use the low inventory of the winter months to your advantate. Buyers are out there and you have a better chance of them finding you, and not your neighbor, before the barrage of listings hit the market in April.