By Christopher DeGroot
Although it’s hardest to sell your home in winter, there are certain advantages to selling during the cold months.
To begin with, when the market is comparatively slow, you can take more time to consider offers, and with fewer homes on the market there is less competition. Plus, the reasons for new home purchases—a new job, a growing family, up- or downsizing—happen all year round, so there are still buyers, you can be assured.
The goal is to use winter to accentuate your home’s cozy charm.
Take care of the exterior
Potential buyers won’t even want to see the inside of your home if the outside isn’t attractive. So be sure the property projects a warm and inviting feeling to anyone who passes by. Repaint the front door, trim the hedges, and mow the lawn. As you should during any time of year, make sure that the house looks well maintained and cared for, with eaves troughs clean and minor repairs taken care of. Though you can’t paint in winter, washing paintwork and siding with warm soapy water on a mild day can make quite a difference.
Tend to foliage
Make sure that shrubs and tree-branches bent down with snow don’t obstruct walkways or entrances; brush the snow off or prune if necessary. Ensure that the walkway is shoveled and ice-free before every showing; not only is this a courtesy and vital to making the home look well maintained, if a visitor slips and is hurt, you could be liable for damages.
Adorn the entryway
A wreath on the front door, Christmas lights and a garland hung on the doorframe or front porch make for a welcoming entry. Plant urns with festive greenery, the fuller the better: along with cedar or pine boughs, tuck in sprigs of holy, dried berries, magnolia leaves, corkscrew hazel or red osier branches, with silver ball ornaments and perhaps gold wire ribbon woven through the arrangement.
Make a good first impression
Once a prospective buyer comes inside, remember that you may have only 10 to 15 minutes to make a lasting impression. (A small but crucial point for unoccupied homes: make sure the heat is turned on several hours before the showing. All the window-dressing and staging in the world won’t entice buyers to linger inside a home that is freezing.)
Clean the windows
Unkempt and dirty windows can turn off buyers before they even enter a house, and a strong southern light in the winter can reveal grime that otherwise wouldn’t be as noticeable. Make sure the windows are immaculate. Maximize light Light is important, especially during the time of the year when daylight hours are shorter. Open the shades wide and let in as much sunlight as you can, and avoid nighttime showings if you can. Also make sure all the light fixtures are clean, and use bulbs with the highest wattage they can safely handle. Turn on lights whenever you show the home to make it shine.
Appeal to visitors’ sense of smell by lighting fragrant candles or placing bowls of potpourri in main rooms. Protect the floors To protect your floors, put down rubber mats by the door for snowy boots. Buy a few pairs of comfortable one-size-fits-all slippers from a department or discount store for visitors to wear while they view your home.
Another way to make your house feel like a home is to play soothing music during a showing. Choose something soft and inviting on the radio, and turn it down just enough so that you can hear it in the background.
Is your home on a street that gets plowed often or next door to a school so that kids don’t have to wait in the cold for a school bus? Make sure to point out ways that your home makes it convenient to deal with inconvenient weather. Use winter to your advantage Some homes can use winter as a selling point. Is your house near a popular ski area? Do you have winter views of water or mountains that are obscured during the summer? Is there a great sledding hill down the street? People want to hear about the winter perks they will enjoy living in your home.
Make it feel festive
When showing a home, you want to make possible buyers feel like they’re invited guests. Set the dinner table with your good. Put out small snacks and drinks like cookies and cider. You don’t want the home to look stale—reflect the possibilities the home has for entertaining guests when showing your house.
Light a fire
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, light a fire and let it glow during the showing. Put big, colorful poinsettias in each main room, including the kitchen. Consider more modest winter flower arrangements or amaryllis blooms in other rooms, such as the bath and master bedroom. Decorate banisters and mantels with pine garlands (natural ones impart a delicious, nostalgic fragrance). A decorated and lit Christmas tree or menorah enhances an image of home and family.
Utilize smaller inventory
Inventory often shrinks during the winter. With fewer houses on the market, it’s easier to give your listing a comparative advantage. Review comparable properties and make a list of your home’s unbeatable features. Is your house the only one in its price range with a fireplace? Is your listing the only home available within a preferred school district? Unique features can be tough for buyers to notice on their own, so don’t be hesitant to boast your listing’s greatness. Those distinct advantages could make the difference between a winter sale and a winter slump.
Negotiate your broker’s commission
Since you may have to list your home for lower than you would like, it’s worth asking if your broker is willing to accept a reduced cut as well. By handing a smaller cut to their agent, sellers can help soften the blow of the sluggish market. Negotiate your commissions beforehand, especially if you are already pricing very aggressively.