Selling your home during the winter can be a bit stressful. But it doesn’t have to be.
This time of year, the lawn is brown, trees are bare and the skies are grey. The days are shorter too which means you have less time to show off your home during the daylight hours.
All we have to do is adapt. The winter season makes staging even more important and you should be prepared to put a little more effort into it. But if you do it right, the winter season can actually be used to your advantage.
Here are a few tips for selling your home in the winter:
1. Keep snow and ice at bay.
If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it’s been maintained. If you’re away frequently or don’t have the time to keep up with the snow regularly, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salt or shovel the driveway and sidewalks.
2. Warm it up.
If you’re showing during the winter, think “warm, cozy and homey.” I know it keeps the energy bill down to not blast your furnace, but before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. Buyers who come in and aren’t comfortable won’t stay long.
If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house a little ambiance. With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.
Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.
3. Take advantage of natural light.
Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours. At this time of year, if you show after work, you’re totally in the dark.
Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.
4. Get the windows washed.
Buyers act on the first impression. Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter, sunlight or light reflection from the snow outside can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.
5. Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background. It’s soothing and soft classical music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. I think people tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.
6. Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home.
7. Emphasize winter positives.
Is your home on a bus route or some other vital service that means it’s plowed or de-iced regularly in bad weather? Be sure to mention that to the buyers.
8. Set up timers.
You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past. But you’re not home all the time, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers.
Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.
9. Make it festive.
Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. Have a plate of cookies for your guests, some warm cider or even chilled bottles of water.
First impressions are so powerful. If it looks like you’re expecting me and greeting me as company, that’s a powerful impact.
10. Give the home a nice aroma.
The No. 1 favorite in winter? Chocolate-chip cookies. Just about everybody likes that smell.
Other popular scents: cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast.
But don’t overdo it. Scented candles in every room or those plug-in air fresheners can leave buyers wondering what you’re trying to mask.
Watch the bad smells, too. Pet smells, smoke and musty odors can cling to curtains and carpets. Ask your real-estate agent or a friend to give it a sniff test. Then clean the house, air it out and replace drapes, carpets or rugs before you show it.
11. Protect your investment.
Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper “booties” over their footwear before touring the house. Many buyers actually like that. It indicates a pride of ownership and meticulousness that resonates with buyers.
12. Use the season to your advantage.
While the holidays are over and it’s time to take down the holiday decorations, you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to spark interest. Anything seasonally appropriate is fun.
In the winter, with the leaves off the trees, you might also have a nice view that isn’t as apparent in the spring and summer months. You can see the views better this time of year.