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This column is devoted to questions on real estate submitted by Deseret News readers to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. If you have questions about real estate, write "Questions," c/o Debbie Cox, Salt Lake Board of Realtors, P.O. Box 9228, Salt Lake City, UT 84109.

Q: We have had our home on the market throughout the summer without much luck. Now with winter approaching, together with the additional demands of the holiday season, we dread the thought of having to "keep up appearances." We want to be able to relax and enjoy the festivities without worrying about potential buyers walking into our messy house or interrupting our Christmas activities.Therefore, we are contemplating taking our home off the market until next spring. Our problem is that my husband has been told he will be transferred within the coming year and we need to be ready to move when that happens.

Would we be better off keeping our home listed and hope potential buyers (should any come through) will understand if we don't have time to clean thoroughly of if we can't be as flexible with scheduling as we've been in the past? Or, is there a possibility that the market will pick up next spring so that the probability of selling our home would be better?

A: Every year as winter approaches, listings begin to decrease. It is quite common for sellers to take their homes off the market during this time.

There are many reasons for this, some of which you have already expressed. It is perfectly understandable that you would want to have your privacy during the Christmas holiday to spend time with your family and relax without the additional demands placed upon you when your home is listed for sale.

However, as food for thought, let me present you with a few ideas to consider in making this decision.

First, bear in mind that since many other sellers are going through this same mental process, your competition will undoubtedly decrease.

Second, and the most important factor at pres-ent, is that rates have been going down lately. This is a great time for a buyer who wants to get 9 percent for a minimal number of points. Winter or not, when rates go down, buyers light up and activity increases. Our market today, cold as it may be, is hotter than it was during most of the summer months.

And, third, it is very difficult to predict the future. Many people in the finance industry have been predicting that rates will continue to decline. But for how long? This kind of speculation must be dealt with carefully - there's no guarantee that rates won't increase just as spring knocks at the front door.

Ultimately, the decision to keep your home listed throughout the winter or pull it off the market until spring rests solely upon your shoulders. This is a very individual decision where all factors involved must be weighed according to your own personal needs and desires.

Should you decide to keep your home listed, I am sure you will find that most prospective buyers understand that you have a life outside and inside of your home and that selling your home is not the only thing you are involved with; a little clutter, a little inconvenience in scheduling should not make that much of a difference. Actually with all of the Christmas decorations and festivities, most homes usually show better than ever.