Selling a Home in Winter: Is it a Bad Idea? Some Helpful Tips
You planned to put your house on the market in June or July. Suddenly, it’s October and you’ve missed that traditional spring/summer window. As the days turn cooler, homeowners might wonder if selling a home in winter is really harder, or if that’s just a myth.
Putting a house on the market during winter months can present some challenges for homeowners, but it’s far from a bad idea. By following a few strategies, you can increase your chances of finding a buyer before springtime.
Why Selling a Home in Winter Can Work
Since people do have such high hopes for springtime, selling in winter can mean less competition… and realtors with more time to dedicate to each client. Sellers are also more likely to see only serious buyers, rather than a parade of folks who are just testing the waters (or those who go to open houses simply for something to do on a lazy summer weekend).
And remember, seasonal cycles are not the only pattern at play. Populations regularly migrate to or from city centers, or into and out of the suburbs, based on economic and social conditions. For example, in 2020 the pandemic and work-from-home opportunities changed people’s needs and priorities. For some, living in an overcrowded and often overpriced city center to be close to the office became unnecessary. And while a summer spent with everyone staying home may not have been bad, by winter, some families were more than ready to upsize from their cramped quarters.
It’s also important to remember that buyers don’t always have a choice of when to shop for a new home. Things that drive them to look, like job relocations and new babies certainly don’t wait for nicer weather.
We’ve compiled some tips for sellers who decide that wintertime is the right time to put their house on the market:
1. Make the Most of Online Listings
The internet has changed the way people shop for just about everything, and houses are no exception. Buyers don’t have to leave home or even change out of their pj’s to browse listings. Make sure your online presence shows off your home at its best with professional photos and a 3D or video tour.
Bonus tip: Since cold-weather landscapes are drab, check your camera roll for snapshots of your house when the grass was lush and the trees and flowers were in full bloom. It’s okay if they’re not too recent, as long as things haven’t changed much. Including them will give viewers of what the property looks like without bare trees and a brown lawn.
2. Show Off Winter-Readiness
Selling a home in winter is a good opportunity to show off how well it handles the cold. Be sure to point out features like double-pane windows, insulation, weather-stripping. A new, energy-efficient furnace is a good selling point, as are heated floors. Fix any drafts or heating problems before listing.
Bonus tip: Draw buyers’ attention to features they may not notice right away. South-facing windows capture winter sunlight, so be sure to show off those rooms by opening blinds. Make sure they note the short, flat driveway that is easily cleared and won’t be hard to navigate in the snow.
3. Capitalize on Coziness
Stage the house for maximum warmth and comfort. Winter days can be gloomy, so turn on warm lighting throughout the entire house to create a welcoming environment. You may also want to bump up the heat a few degrees. If there’s a fireplace, have it crackling. Use pillows and throws to make the furniture cozy and inviting. Maybe create a reading nook with a comfy chair and reading lamp.
Bonus tip: Real estate agents have always known the power of scent when showing a home. The smell of cookies baking is commonly used to produce a homey feel. During the holiday, evergreen or apple cider scents can do the same thing. Just be careful that they’re not too overpowering.
4. Keep Out Winter Messes
Winter weather can mean extra cleanup, especially if there are kids or pets in the house. Be sure to keep the front hall free of wet, muddy footprints. Hang up winter coats, hats, and mittens, and hide boots in a closet. Make sure there are plenty of doormats for potential buyers to wipe their feet too.
Bonus tip: Think about setting up a temporary coat rack for the family’s winter gear in the garage or basement. It will be a temporary inconvenience that will keep entryways free of clutter and ready for showing.
5. Decorating for the Holidays
No one expects you to ignore the holidays, but if you’re selling a home in winter keep the decorating low-key. Opt for a few tasteful decorations that go with your staging and leave the collection of 150 nutcrackers in storage. And save the giant inflatable lawn decor for next year. It’s a small sacrifice to make the house show well. It’s a good idea to run decorating plans past your real estate agent. They’ll be able to strike the right balance.
Bonus tip: Decorate to show how fantastic your house is for entertaining and hosting guests. Set the scene for future holidays spent gathered around the kitchen island baking. Set the dining room table for a Thanksgiving feast. Prepare guest bedrooms with cozy touches. Help them imagine the holiday memories they will make in your house.
6. Curb Appeal Still Counts
A lot of advice about curb appeal focuses on landscaping and flowers, but what can be done in winter? Plenty! First, make sure to clear away autumn debris like fallen leaves or dead plants. They can look bad, especially if snow mixes in with them. Be sure to clear walkways of snow and put down salt or ice melt. Good outdoor lighting can make a big difference on dark, blustery days.
Bonus tip: Consider all of your outdoor spaces when thinking of curb appeal. Patios and decks are a selling point in the summertime. Keep them clear of snow and ice in winter too. Also, a fresh blanket of snow can make a house look really pretty. It might be tough, but try keeping the kids and dogs from trampling through it right away.
7. Open Up For Open Houses
Just because a winter open house might only bring out a handful of people, doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. After all, potential buyers can view your home online. Anyone who comes out in person on a cold, blustery day is probably pretty serious. Remember that five or six determined buyers are better than a dozen “looky-loos”.
Bonus tip: As we mentioned before, holiday scents bring with them a sense of coziness. If your house smells like cookies or cider, back it up by offering the real thing at the open house.
8. Keep Your Calendar Flexible
Keeping up your normal holiday traditions might be a challenge if your house is on the market. Be aware that your realtor might want to show the home when out-of-town guests are scheduled to arrive or the morning after your big annual holiday party. If you’re serious about selling a home in winter, you’ll need to be ready to show it at a moment’s notice. This means keeping it clean and having somewhere to go for a while if your agent calls.
Bonus tip: Believe it or not, some buyers want to see a house on a holiday. They may be in a hurry to find something, or they’re from another city and have a limited time in your area. All the more reason to let someone else host Thanksgiving or other big gatherings this year.
9. Find a Great Agent
Because so many people are under the impression that they need to wait until spring to sell their home, real estate agents may not be as busy during winter months. They may have more time to devote to showing your house to potential buyers and making the sale.
The bottom line is that any time can be the right time to put a house on the market. You can have just as much success selling a home in winter as waiting until spring or summer.
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