Martha Baker-Jordan had hoped to sell her four-bedroom home in Placentia by now.
It has a pool, plenty of parking and a separate entrance for her piano studio, so music students can enter without going through the house. But after 90 days on the market, only about three people have even bothered to come see it.
So when her real estate listing agreement expired last week, she dropped her price and signed up to keep the home on the market right through the holidays.
"I really want to move. I really want to downsize," Baker-Jordan, a retired university professor, said of her decision to persevere through the holidays. "I'm tired of the maintenance. I'm tired of taking care of the pool."
Traditionally, the holidays are when the housing market takes a break.
Homeowners who don't have to sell temporarily take their homes off the market in November and December to avoid showing their digs to strangers while presents are under the tree and family gatherings are planned.
Buyers traditionally take time off from home shopping as well, devoting more time to gift shopping instead.
This year is no different, several local real estate agents said - except that many sellers have no choice but to keep their homes on the market.
As a result, the number of Orange County home sellers this holiday season is the highest it's been in at least a decade, said Steven Thomas, an Aliso Viejo broker who tracks the housing market.
There were 16,803 homes for sale in Orange County as of Tuesday, Thomas said. That's 3,200 more than this time last year and double the number in 2005.
While some sellers are exiting the market until January, a lot don't have that luxury because of financial pressures to sell or job transfers, said Scott Brady, owner-broker of Coldwell Banker Excellence in Placentia. Those sellers are stuck, having to keep their homes tidy in case a buyer wants to see it.
"Their Christmas wish is for a good, qualified buyer," Brady said. "A lot of agents have that wish, too."
Cesar Alvarez and his wife, Elinor Bracho, must sell their Yorba Linda home through the holidays because Bracho is getting a job transfer to New Jersey. They have just two or three months to find a buyer, said Alvarez, 50.
Christmas and New Year's are big holidays for the couple and their two children, with decorations, a tree and big dinners. But Alvarez doesn't believe selling during the holidays will be too inconvenient.
"If somebody's really interested, they can see how the house will look for Christmas for them," he said. Also, Alvarez noted, if someone is looking at homes this time of year, he or she must really be serious about buying.
"If they're looking at houses, it's because they need to buy a house," Alvarez said.
Patrick and Tricia Cosby, both 41, decided a month ago to list their Yorba Linda house for sale because it now takes longer to sell a home. The couple wants to be ready to move into a new condo development when it opens in the spring.
Even though there are fewer home shoppers during the holidays, Tricia Cosby believes chances for finding a buyer are good.
"It only takes one person who wants your house," she said.
Not everyone is staying on the market.
About 500 sellers took their homes off the market in the last two weeks, with about 50 sellers leaving the market every day, Thomas said. But the number of listings remains high because fewer homes are selling.
Rich Cosner, president of a Prudential California Realtychain in Orange County and the Inland Empire, believes that it's smart for sellers to keep their homes on the market through the holidays. The buyers you see from Thanksgiving to Christmas are the most serious ones, he said. And chances are that sellers will have to sell for less if they wait until next year.
"There's a huge number of foreclosures down the road," he said. "Because of these foreclosures, I think (prices will) get less and less every month."
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