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House covered in snow

Weekends in December are for outings to light displays, tree farms and the mall, right? Well, yes, unless you’re in the market for a house, and then, you’ll likely be spending your weekends perusing holiday open houses.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Even though most of us consider spring or summer as homebuying season, there are plenty of reasons someone would need to buy a home at other times of the year, even during the holidays.

The great news is that holiday homebuyers are on a mission, so sellers are bound to have serious shoppers rather than ones who are out playing reindeer games.

If you’re trying to sell your home during the “most wonderful time of the year,” here are some tips for hosting an open house that will make prospective buyers put your property on their wish list. 

Prepare the Entry

Fantastic curb appeal is good to have any time of the year, and adding festive touches to the outside of your home is easy with lights and a welcoming wreath. However, the part that you really need to focus on involves safety – making sure that your street, driveway, and paths to the front door and patio or other backyard areas are continually shoveled and de-iced so visitors don’t slip. Don’t forget to double-check that both the front and back are well-lit, since dusk falls earlier every day.

Then, in your entry, foyer or mudroom (if you’re lucky enough to have one), create a small area where guests can shed their winter gear, both for their comfort and for the cleanliness of your home. Indicate where they can leave their wet boots and gloves and provide sturdy hangers so they can shed their coats without having to toss them on a chair or carry them around, suggests Noemi Bitterman of Warburg Realty.

Set a Cozy Stage

The golden rule of selling a house is to play up its advantages, so seize on the merriment of the season and give your open house the trappings of a party.

“Holiday open houses can make any property feel extra homey,” says Alexander Boriskin of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. It’s easy to appeal to all the senses this time of year, he says. So turn up the holiday tunes, offer gingerbread cookies and cider or hot chocolate, and spice up the air with a pine-scented candle – but don’t be too heavy-handed, please. And be careful of candles and fires if you choose ones with real flames. While a yule log can look inviting, it can quickly become a fire hazard, so make sure any flames are well-tended.

Decorate — But Not Excessively

Not everyone celebrates the holidays, so going overboard can be a turnoff to some home shoppers, and excess décor can fall under the category of “clutter,” which home sellers are well-advised to contain.

However, you want prospective buyers to see how jolly the house will look when they host their own celebrations, so don’t Grinch out. Just keep the décor relatively neutral – think winter vs. Christmas or Hanukkah – and make sure it doesn’t cover every surface, Bitterman suggests.

But don’t neglect to spotlight any particularly ideal entertaining areas. For example, you’ll want to set a festive table to showcase how perfect your dining area will be for their family gatherings.

Watch the Temperature

As people come in from the cold, they want to be welcomed with a cozy house. But they can quickly become overheated, too, so resist the urge to turn the heat up too much. And the more people you have, the warmer it will be, so advise your agent to stay on top of the temperature and adjust it as needed.

Secure Your Valuables 

Packages can be especially tempting to some guests, so keep your valuables secure.

A tree bursting with presents can look inviting, but make sure these gifts are just decoys – empty wrapped boxes, instead of real gifts, which often contain valuable items and gift receipts that make returns a piece of cake. Stash your bounty offsite or in a locked cupboard.

Schedule Wisely

Buyers could be busier during the holiday season, so Boriskin likes to host open houses more often than usual and add weekdays as well as weekends.

“Giving lots of choices means that buyers are able to get in to see these homes, even with an extremely busy holiday schedule,” he says.

And sellers are probably busy, too, so getting out of the house can be less of a chore than at other times of the year.

That’s right: You have permission to head to the mall and shop while your festive home sells itself.

Have you ever bought or sold a house during the holidays? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!

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