When you sell a home in the spring and summer, you have nice weather, longer days, sunshine and the impending school year to motivate buyers. When you sell a home in the winter, there are a lot more factors working against you, like shorter days, dreary skies, snow and freezing temps. But here’s the thing – there are also a lot of factors working for you. It’s all about knowing how to recognize these benefits and learning how to use them to your advantage. These tips for selling a home in the winter can help you do just that and meet your sales goal this season.
Pros And Cons Of Selling A Home In The Winter
As a real estate professional, you know there are pros and cons to selling a home in any given season. Here are a few that are specific to winter.
Why Winter Is The Best Time To Sell A Home
Serious and motivated buyers. Purchasing a home in the winter can be an inconvenience with the inclement weather and busyness of the holidays. Whatever a buyer’s reason for purchasing a home in the winter, you can be sure they are serious about it. People aren’t going to take time out of their hectic schedules or come out into the cold and snow just to window shop. They can do that online in the comfort and warmth of their home. These people aren’t just serious; if you are selling a house in November or December, chances are they are also motivated buyers who are trying to get in a home before the year ends.
Flexible schedules. While the weather may be inconvenient, schedules around the winter holidays may be a little more flexible. People may have more time off of work, the kids have winter and holiday breaks, and there is generally less going on in terms of extracurricular activities. That means you can schedule more showings throughout the day both on the weekends and during the week.
Less competition. Since winter is technically the off-season for selling homes, there will be less competition among sellers. And since there is lower inventory, there could be more competition among buyers, depending on the market. That could equate to better offers and a shorter time on the market.
Specific seasonal demand. If you’re selling a home in warm-weather climates or ski towns, it may not be the off-season after all. You’ll come across buyers who may be looking for a seasonal or vacation home, and winter is the perfect time to show off the property’s potential.
Financial boosts. Winter is also the time for holiday and year-end bonuses or tax refunds, which could be the final amount needed to make that down payment or pay for the closing costs. With that extra money, buyers may feel more empowered to upgrade to a bigger house or make the leap into homeownership for the first time
The Disadvantages Of Selling In The Winter
Poor curb appeal. If you live in an area that experiences winter weather, you know that the season also brings with it gray skies, bare trees, dead plants and less-than-lush lawns. One major disadvantage of selling a home in the winter is that you won’t have curb appeal on your side – unless, of course, you have buyers visit just after a fresh snowfall blankets the property with pristine, white snow.
Hibernation woes. Dismal winter weather can make it impossible for anyone to want to go outside, so you may find it hard to get buyers to attend a showing. On the same note, it may be tough to get your sellers to leave the home throughout the week. And with more time spent inside, the harder it can be for your client to keep their homes tidy and presentable.
Other financial obligations. The time between November and February can be an expensive few months for many people. If you’re selling a home in November or December, you’ll be competing with holiday expenses like gifts, meals, parties and travel. If you’re selling a home in January, February or March, you may end up competing with taxes or New Year resolutions to save money.
Lowball offers. Thinking sellers are desperate to get rid of their houses during a slow season, buyers are more likely to put in lower offers than you may get any other time of year.
Slow progress. Homes tend to stay on the market longer in the winter partly because things just move slower. Between November and February alone, there are six holidays in which the banks are closed: Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day. With a focus on the holidays – decorating, entertaining, shopping, etc. – and people taking time off to travel home or take a vacation, sometimes business slows or pauses entirely. This can cause a delay in financing or getting the proper documents passed through the proper channels in time.
Tips For Selling A Home In The Winter
Feeling frozen at the thought of selling this season? A few real estate professionals agreed to share with us their tips for selling a home in the winter.
Update Your Listing And Marketing
The search for a new home doesn’t cease when the seasons change. It is a year-round process. And when it’s cold and dreary out, people will typically hole up indoors and take to internet listings to find their next home. Make sure your listing stands out by adding seasonal touches to your listing descriptions and photos. Consider updating exterior photos to match the season, as outdated pictures can lead people to believe the house has been on the market for a long time. However, if you have a yard with special features, you may want to keep a few photos that highlight its use in nice weather.
“If there is a pool or landscaping that is particularly lovely during warmer weather, consider including pictures of those features on the MLS,” suggests Jeremy Browne, senior vice president at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
When marketing the home, use the season to your advantage and promote it as the best holiday gift for buyers and their family. If it’s past the holiday season, market the house as a new home for the new year.
Set The Right Price
“My main tip for selling in the winter is just to price it right. No matter the time of year, if a property is priced right, it will sell,” says James McGrath, co-founder of NYC real estate brokerage Yoreevo.
“Seasonality is not that extreme regarding both the number of buyers out there and the price you can get. Buyers are still out there and prices do not fall [drastically],” he says, pointing out, “If they did, everyone would buy in the winter.”
But, according to McGrath, just because there are buyers out there, it doesn’t mean it is the right time for optimistic pricing. That’s because there are still fewer buyers in the winter compared to other seasons. Instead of focusing on the season, focus on the home’s value.
“By pricing in line with the home’s real value, you’ll make sure you’re seriously considered by all the buyers out there,” says McGrath.
Take Seasonal Precautions
Winter weather can expose such imperfections as furnace problems, poor insulation, drafts and leaks. Make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions to avoid these issues.
There’s no bigger turnoff when buying a home in the winter than coming out of the cold and into a space that isn’t any warmer. Furnaces are a big expense and home buyers are not looking to tack that on to the other costs of purchasing a home. And when it is frigid outside, a broken furnace will be impossible to hide. Before a showing, make sure the HVAC system is working properly and is evenly heating the house. You want buyers to feel protected from the elements when they step inside.
“Make sure there are no drafts from doors or windows and that the home feels very closed to cold weather,” says Nikki Watson, owner of The Design Quad, an interior design and home staging studio.
Check for any drafts in the home caused by the two main culprits listed above by moving your hand around the frames to feel for a soft, cool breeze. You could also try holding a lit candle around the area and seeing if the flame flickers or goes out. Drafts bring in the cold and waste energy, equating to higher heating bills, something a potential buyer will think about when deciding if the home is right for them. Depending on the source of the drafts, you can easily fix them with weather stripping, door sweeps, foam tape, insulated curtains or caulk.
To warm up other cold areas, Watson suggests placing rugs in large rooms with hardwood floors and other hard surfaces. “It breaks up the cold feel and makes the room feel a bit cozier,” she says.
Along with warmth, you’ll also want to add more light. “With daylight savings, the days are shorter and it gets darker earlier. Replace some of your lights with brighter bulbs to add more light for evening showings,” says Nathan Garrett, a realtor at Garretts Real Estate Group – Coldwell Banker McMahan Co. If you’re showing during the day, take advantage of the little time you have daylight and open all of the curtains and blinds in the home to let more light in.
If the home is vacant, Browne suggests making sure it is winterized or the heat is kept on to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting. Not only does this common cold-weather issue require new plumbing, it can also cause water damage to the home. If you’re continuing to heat a vacant home, make sure the thermostat is set no lower than 55 degrees. If you’re still concerned about pipes freezing, use pipe insulation for added assurance.
Of course, one of the biggest winter hazards is outside of the home, on the driveway and sidewalks. If you’re selling in an area that experiences snow, ice and sleet during the winter, you want to always have the driveway and walkways shoveled and salted. A blocked walkway could turn some potential buyers away or, worse, cause them to fall and injure themselves.
Play Up The Season
While winter does come with a few perils, it’s also one of the most beautiful and magical seasons of the year. Emphasize that.
Have a little fun outdoors and build a snowman to greet your visitors. On the inside, appeal to the senses. Hang a winter wreath and place winter foliage like holly, poinsettias, snowdrops, pansies or winter Jasmine near the door. Add soft, cozy touches to the rooms of the home with plush throw blankets and cable knit pillows. Along with bringing the look and feel of winter into the house, try appealing to the other senses, too.
“Use winter scents like cinnamon-scented pinecones, a fresh sage wreath or even fresh-cut pine to help make your house more inviting for buyers,” suggests Garrett.
Draw buyers in with the aromas and tastes of winter treats like candy canes, hot cider or hot chocolate. Get even more creative and host a hot chocolate bar to make your showing a little more memorable.
Provide a list of winter activities to do around the area so they can learn more about the neighborhood. Is there a perfect sledding hill down the street or an ice skating rink nearby? Let them know. For buyers who just want to hunker down for the cold season, show the home’s hibernation potential. Talk about how that extra room could be transformed into a space so the kids can play when it’s too cold to go outside. Make the fireplace a focal point of a space and have buyers dip their hands in the relaxing waters of the all-seasons hot tub in the backyard.
While you can help them experience winter in the home and provide tangible examples, there are some benefits you may just have to explain. There are many reasons people buy a home in the winter, and you’ll want to share those with potential buyers. For example, if you’re selling a home in November or December, mention that it’s the last chance to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with purchasing a new home for the year. And while rates don’t always go up, it could be their chance to purchase a home before rates increase in the new year. Both of these benefits also add a sense of urgency to purchase before the year is over.
Increase The Cozy
When the weather outside is frightful, make the home you’re selling more delightful. People don’t want to go out in nasty weather, so reward them for coming in a way that makes them not want to leave. When it comes to selling anything in the winter, coziness is key.
If the home has a working fireplace, use it. The warmth, light and crackling of the fire will draw people in and help them picture themselves wrapped up in front of its glow. Just make sure the chimney is cleaned and the flue is open. Blockage can cause carbon monoxide leaks, smoke buildup or fire.
Add warm, cozy textures like velvet pillows on the couches, flannel sheets and down comforters on the beds and rich wood centerpieces or candles in the dining room or kitchen.
Part of feeling cozy is feeling comfortable, which can be hard to do when you’re lugging heavy coats and other apparel around a home. When you host open houses in the winter, chances are some folks will be wearing coats, hats, gloves, scarves and even boots. Provide a place where they can take off their winter gear and hang it to warm or dry. Don’t forget about snowy boots and shoes that could leave wet footprints through the home. “Have an absorbent mat at the front door for people to wipe their shoes before entering the house,” suggests Browne.
How To Sell A Home During The Holidays
The holidays are mentioned numerous times through this article, and for good reason. Between the months of November and January alone, there’s Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve. While not everyone celebrates all of these holidays, if you’re selling a home during this time, you’ll be doing so through one or more of these important days. That’s why it’s important to know how to sell a home during the holidays. Here are a few tips.
Consider decorating for the season, not the holiday. People want to picture themselves in the home, and if you decorate it for a holiday they don’t celebrate, they may feel excluded. Instead, consider simple winter decorations like snowflakes, snowmen, snow globes, stars and glitter. Luckily, winter decorations can be fun, beautiful and luxurious with gold, silver, red, blue and white colors that can work for a number of different holidays. If you or the seller do want to decorate the home for a specific holiday, do so without going overboard.
“Keep your decorations simple and classic, setting up just a tree, wreath, lights and accent decorations,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Atlanta House Buyers, adding that you should also keep space and clutter in mind. “Make sure that when you set up your tree that you remove furniture to make more room,” he warns. “You don’t want to make your living room feel cramped, which could turn off potential home buyers looking for larger family rooms.”
Whether your decorations include the holidays or not, you can still play on the positive emotions and overarching themes of the holiday season: family, friendship, happiness, goodwill and love – all the things one can experience in a home of their own.
When it comes to selling a home during the holidays, remember to respect your client’s and potential buyer’s time and reverence during this season. Know when to pause to allow your clients and yourself to enjoy this time of year. Don’t bother them on the holidays unless you have exciting news that will make their celebration even better. Talk to your clients to get on the same page about communication around this time and learn what their plans are. Will they be too busy preparing a Thanksgiving meal for 20 people to answer your call? Will they be hosting a few out of town family members the week of Christmas? If so, an open house at that time is out of the question. Figure holiday plans out early, so the season won’t be even more hectic than it needs to be.
Use The Winter Season Wisely
Even if business is slow, there are still other things you can do this season to set your business up for success.
“You can do extra marketing of your properties during the winter season to help your business and sell your listings,” says Brett Ringelheim, a licensed real estate agent with Compass Realty. “You should also continue to work on your pipeline for the winter months, so you can start off the spring season strong.”
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