Tips and Tricks For Successful Winter Home Sales
Carla Ayers7 minute-read
November 18, 2021
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 some factors working against you, like shorter days, dreary skies, snow and freezing temps. But here’s the thing – there are also factors working for you. It’s all about knowing how to recognize these benefits and learning how to use them to your advantage.
We’re going to go over some tips and tricks to help you and your clients get a hot offer for your winter listings.
Pros And Cons Of Selling A Home In The Winter
There are pros and cons to every real estate transaction. If you’re planning to sell your home when the snowflakes start to fly, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
Pros Of Selling A Home In The Winter
Spring is traditionally the most popular time to sell a house. The weather is tolerable, kids are getting ready to be released for summer, and buyers are looking for a great deal. But there are great advantages to listing a home in winter.
Serious and motivated buyers: As much as your sellers don’t want to list their home in the winter, buyers aren’t dancing in the street at the thought of moving a couch in wind and snow. Buyers who are serious about purchasing a home in inclement weather tend to be ready to make decisions quickly.
Schedules might be full in the winter but they tend to be more flexible. Kids are on vacations and winter holidays provide ample time to prepare the home for sale and schedule showings.
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.
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.
Financing may be faster: Since there is more of a lull in the market during the winter, lenders may be less busy. That means potential buyers may be able to get their home financing completed faster with more personal attention in the process.
Cons Of Selling A House In Winter
Every season has its disadvantages, here are some not-so-ideal circumstances you and your client could encounter with a winter home sale.
Poor curb appeal: If the house is in an area that experiences more extreme winter weather, you know that the season also brings with it gray skies, bare trees, dead plants, and less-than-lush lawns. You won’t have the advantage of curb appeal to entice buyers. Be sure the entrance is well let, tidy, clean, and easy to access. Adding additional exterior lighting can add warmth and dimension to the home against the drab backdrop of winter.
Hibernation woes: It can be hard to find the motivation to shovel the driveway during winter, let alone clean the house and make it ready for potential buyers. There are more no-shows during this time, which is frustrating for you and your client.
Other financial obligations: 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’s 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. Of course, if inventory is low and demand is high, you may not have to worry about this.
Slow progress: Homes tend to stay on the market longer in the winter partly because things just move slower. With a focus on the holidays and people taking time off to travel, sometimes business 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? Here are a few tips and tricks to warm you up to the idea.
Update Your Listing And Marketing
When it’s cold and dreary outside, buyers will be scrolling available listings from their cozy warm recliners. So be sure your listings are fresh and thorough. Provide as much information as your MLS will allow you to input, so buyers stay engaged and curious about your listing.
Stage the listing for the season and accentuate the property’s winter features and benefits. Is there a wood-burning fireplace? Take time to add winter-themed evergreens to the mantle and build a cozy fire for photos. If your listing has unique exterior landscape or exterior features, include photos from summer.
“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 families. If it’s past the holiday season, market the house as a new home for the new year. The public is already in the mood for sunny days and new beginnings, make sure your listing reflects that.
Set The Right Price
Setting the right listing price is important because you have a less competitive pool of buyers. By no means should you encourage your sellers to discount their home in the winter but they should understand a realistic starting list price will have a wider audience considering their home.
“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.”
Consider The Cold
Winter weather can expose expensive imperfections like furnace problems, poor insulation, drafts and leaks. These systems are often expensive to repair or replace. It’s sometimes helpful to have the HVAC system inspected by a professional prior to listing to give buyers peace of mind. Do your best to ensure the home is warm so potential buyers feel protected from the elements.
If the home is vacant, be sure it is winterized before listing. It’s wise to have the heat set no lower than 55 degrees to ensure the pipes don’t freeze and cause potential water damage.
“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.
Don’t Forget To Add Extra Light
The days are shorter and the natural light isn't as bright. Replacing dull or burned-out light bulbs on the interior and exterior can be an affordable way of improving your listing’s curb appeal. Speak with your sellers about setting lights on timers to ensure the home is well-lit in the evenings for drive-bys and nighttime showings.
Take Seasonal Safety Precautions
Discuss the importance of winter safety with your sellers. Have a plan in place to ensure snow and ice are removed from walkways and ice melt or salt is applied. A blocked walkway could deter a buyer, or worse, they could fall and injure themselves. If the home is vacant, consider hiring a property management company or snow removal service to ensure the home can be accessed safely at all times.
Explain Added Benefits For The Buyer
If sellers are hesitant to list their home in the winter, remind them of a few of these benefits buyers may be thinking when purchasing a home in the winter:
- Individual attention: Buying a home can be intimidating, so purchasing a home in the winter when there is less pressure from competition may be ideal for some people. Movers, appraisers and other vendors will likely have more time to provide better customer service and flexible scheduling.
- Tax benefits: Buyers looking for a home in the fourth quarter may be looking to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with purchasing a new home and will be motivated to get the deal closed quickly.
- Secure rates: Rates don’t always go up in the new year but they could. Many buyers are motivated to get a new home closed by the end of the year.
- Less competition: One of the biggest benefits of shopping for a home in the winter is less competition. Less competition means the odds are greater that you’ll be able to get into the house you want, and that you’re less likely to have to participate in a bidding war to do so.
Decorate 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. Consider simple winter decorations like snowflakes, snowmen, snow globes, stars and glitter. 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 want to decorate the home for a specific holiday, do so without going overboard.
If your clients insist on decorating for a specific holiday, encourage them to take their decorations down soon after it’s over. Seeing Christmas decorations up in January or February can be off-putting to potential buyers.
Use The Winter Season Wisely
Even if business is slow, there are still other things you can do this season to set up your business for success. Don’t let a lack of listings or buyers get you down, the winter can be a great time to plan for your spring success.
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