By Cary Teller
While homeowners traditionally wait for spring to list their home—the peak home-shopping season—there are many good reasons to sell in the winter. Buyers shopping in winter usually have more urgency to buy quickly and a recent study even found that sellers net more on average above listing price in winter than spring, even in areas with very cold weather.
Selling a home in winter can be a bit of a different ball game, though. You can improve your chances of selling quickly and for maximum dollar by knowing what to expect and planning your sale.
Curb Appeal is a Must
Drab weather and gray skies make it more important than ever to make your home eye-catching. First impressions count, so help your home stand out from the gloomy environment with simple landscaping and colorful cold weather plants on the front porch. Be sure to address any signs of deferred maintenance by caulking the windows and repairing any damaged window seals which cause condensation.
Traffic Will Be Lower
Expect foot traffic to be lower than you may expect during the winter. You will most likely have fewer showings and less traffic at the open house, so it's more important than ever to make a good first impression. The good news is the buyers who are out and looking for a home in the winter tend to be much more serious and motivated to buy than spring shoppers.
Set the Mood
As buyers walk into the home, they should immediately have a sense of warmth. You can stage your home carefully with seasonal touches like stacked wood at the fireplace, throw blankets, and cinnamon pine cones, but stay away from decorating for a specific religion, like with a Christmas tree, for example.
You'll also want to keep your home warm. A good tip if you have a loud HVAC system is cranking up the thermostat a bit higher than normal, then setting the temperature back to the regular setting before you leave. This way, the HVAC system won't kick on while the buyer is present.
Focus on Heating and Energy Costs
Winter home buyers pay extra attention to issues related to home maintenance and heating. Make sure your roof, HVAC system, and furnace are inspected and take care of any maintenance issues like replacing your furnace air filters and cleaning out the fireplace.
Keep in mind many winter buyers also consider heating costs when buying a home, especially if you live in a cold weather area. This may be the ideal time to look into cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient windows and new insulation to cut your utility bills.
Stay on Top of Snow Removal
A unique challenge for home sellers during the winter is dealing with the snow and ice. It's vital that buyers have a clear and safe path into your home, but you also need a plan to keep visitors from tracking a mess throughout the house. Stay on top of snow by shoveling the walkways often and sprinkling the path with sidewalk salt or sand for traction. When it's wet outside, add a rubber mat near the front door for shoes.
Use Spring Photos
Marketing photos for your home should be done before the trees lose their leaves and the temperature drops for the best effect. This way, buyers can see what your home will look like in other seasons when the landscaping is green and beautiful. Photos of barren, snow-covered ground and bare trees simply aren't as compelling.
Bring in More Light
During the winter, days get shorter and the sun sets earlier. This can make it challenging to show the home to potential buyers if the home is too dark to really see. It's a good idea to install landscape lighting outside if you don't have any and bring in additional lighting in rooms that seem dim.
While selling in winter may require tweaking your strategy a bit, it can help you attract more serious buyers and even net you more from the sale of your home as long as you know what to expect.