Let’s face it — we can’t all migrate south to sell homes in Florida when cold weather hits. Despite the idea that the home-buying market freezes when the precipitation does, many homes still sell quite well in the winter. Most buyers who are going out to look at homes in subzero temperatures are highly motivated to buy to put an end to the process. With a knockout listing, some weather considerations and a few other winter-selling tricks, you can improve your chances of getting that home sold by March. Keep reading for some of our best tips for selling a home in the winter.
Evaluate Your Listing
The first step to improving your chances of selling is to reevaluate your listing. Take a close look at what the home has to offer and how you can make it more enticing to potential buyers. Consider your market analysis and what people are likely to be looking for at this time of year. By listing in the winter, you may have one crucial advantage — less competition. As a real estate agent, you can use this to your advantage. If everyone abides by the idea that they shouldn’t list their homes in winter, there aren’t going to be many houses on the market for the people who do need to buy at that time. There are many reasons that people need to buy a home in the dead of winter, including:
- Job relocation, which often occurs during the first quarter of a new year
- End of a lease
- Change in financial situation or other needs
Many winter buyers are highly motivated. After all, most people don’t want to run around in below-zero temperatures and slick roads to shop for no reason. Usually, they need to find a place quickly, so you may have fewer window-shoppers to weed through before finding serious buyers. You’ll need to show the buyers what you’re all about right away with a premium listing. Below are a few of the factors you should evaluate when it comes to posting your listing.
1. Use Great Photos and Video
How do you like to shop in the winter? Is it bustling around in a hectic, Black-Friday-induced craze at the mall, or is it curled up on the couch with a warm blanket and your laptop or phone? In the winter, people do an awful lot of online searching. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, a whopping 98% of older millennials used online searches when looking for a home. The average of all generations was 93%. These people may be seriously searching for their next home, wistfully searching for the place to put their home decor ideas to use or looking for a house they can move into fast because they just relocated for work. Whatever the reason, people tend to look online to save time and get a better idea of a place before they decide to trudge through the snow to see it.
When buyers are looking online like this, the importance of photos can’t be understated. You want to show potential buyers as much as possible of the inside of the house. After all, the outside isn’t particularly attractive at the moment. A virtual tour is an excellent way to let people in without making them brave the weather. You will definitely want a professional photographer to use their expertise in making the home look bright and inviting in a dreary, dark time of the year. Real Estate Exposures can help with that.
Summertime offers the appeal of a beautiful yard and that oh-so-enticing pool in the back. You have a lot more to work with in terms of curb appeal. In winter, a peaceful snowscape can work in some markets, but it typically doesn’t have the same pull as a gorgeous green yard. If you have photos of the property from summer, be sure to include them, so buyers have a better idea of what the exterior will look like at that time and may increase their interest in it.
2. Think About Your Staging
In a similar vein to the first suggestion, staging is also vitally important for displaying the home. It may be a good idea to offer professional staging as a bonus to entice people to sell in the winter months.
You and your clients don’t have to spend a fortune furnishing a vacant house to add staging. With a little help from Real Estate Exposure, you can use virtual staging for a reasonable price per image. Staging can help position the home as a cozy, inviting place that the buyer can genuinely envision themselves in.
3. Make Sure Pricing Is Realistic
The value of setting a realistic price is even more pronounced in the winter. If your clients overprice their home so it doesn’t sell, they’re more likely to relist with a new real estate agent come springtime. Be sure to remind your clients how valuable a realistic price is when potential buyers are making an effort to fight the weather and see their home.
Be Mindful of the Weather
Every season offers unique characteristics when it comes to selling a home. Summer might be the best time to sell, but it also has extensive landscaping needs. Winter, on the other hand, puts sellers on high alert for problems with mud, draftiness, darkness, leaking and safety concerns, among others.
One of the most notable issues is mud, which every person viewing the house will track in. Many real estate agents will have viewers take off their shoes year-round, but in the winter, this is a necessity. It keeps the floors in good condition and eliminates the unsightly effects. To accomodate this need, it is a good idea to provide doormats at the entryway, along with a chair for people to use to take off their shoes instead of balancing against the wall. Another option is to offer shoe covers.
You’ll also need to consider the aspects of a home that winter tends to accentuate. The cold weather makes any drafts apparent and frequent snowmelt can also cause leaks to appear. Perform a thorough inspection of the property before a visit and look for any of these issues. Consider the following steps:
- Review the weatherstripping to ensure an effective seal that prevents drafts from letting cold air in.
- Make sure insulation is up to par.
- Crank up the heat, so visitors get a warm atmosphere instead of any drafts.
Don’t forget our tips on staging from the previous section. The contrast between a dreary cold day and a cozy, inviting house can make it feel like a home for the buyers.
Now that the inside of the house is ready for the weather, we can turn to the outside. In the winter, curb appeal is pretty low. There is no greenery to accentuate or sunlight to brighten up the landscape. You might be lucky enough to have a fresh blanket of snow on a viewing day, but that usually won’t last long as people or creatures stamp it down to a muddy mess. While you may not be able to rely on the exterior of the property as a strong selling point in the winter, you can certainly take a few steps to increase the curb appeal.
- Perform essential maintenance: We’ll talk more about this in the next section, but keeping a clean yard goes a long way.
- Consider path lighting: Again, there is a certain dreariness to the winter weather, regardless of the time of day. Often, path lighting can help guide the way and brighten up the area, especially after the early sunset.
- Add some evergreen: Think about adding winter-friendly plants, like pine, holly or witch hazel, in pots near the doorway. Evergreen plants can help liven up the space and add some color.
Remember that the weather isn’t the only thing that changes come wintertime. Peoples’ shopping habits and behaviors change, as well. While you might see fewer buyers out and about, chances are they’ll be more committed than your summer house hunters. Anyone willing to muddle through the snow for a home must be serious about it. Window shoppers tend to be less common, which means your potential buyers probably mean business, and you don’t have to have as many showings tracking mud in the house. If you have several showings planned for a client in a day, add some extra padding time to account for any travel problems that come with the weather. You may even want to consider hiring a driver.
When snow arrives, so do the holidays and hectic schedules — although they may be less hectic than you think. Even though people have holiday shopping, parties and get-togethers to attend, they also have more time off than other parts of the year. Plus, at the beginning of the year, you have long weekends like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day that make ample opportunity to shop for a house. Another factor that can make people want to buy in the winter is taxes. Some want to close on a home before the new year for the tax benefits that come with it. Consider these features as you work with potential buyers in the wintertime. They could also help you convince your clients that selling in the winter is less difficult than they may anticipate.
Other Tips and Tricks
Aside from mitigating the adverse effects of the weather, there are many other things you can do in the wintertime to help the client achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) and increase the chances of selling.
1. Play Up the Cozy Factor
In a similar effort to staging, winter is a great time to play up the cozy elements of a home. After they’ve plowed through the snow and frost, a toasty warm living room could be just the thing someone needs to see themselves in a home. Some of the ways you can help amplify the comfort level of a house include:
- Drawing attention to cozy features, like a warm fireplace, reading nook and fluffy blankets and rugs.
- Making the home appear bright and energizing, a pleasant contrast to some of the dreariness outside. Homes that rely on natural lighting in the summer may struggle with brightness when it gets dark at 4 p.m.
- Using warm, seasonal scents like cinnamon or freshly-baked cookies to make the home more pleasant.
- Adding very subtle holiday decorations that don’t distract from the rest of the home.
2. Ensure Heating and Roofing Are Intact
We mentioned checking the home for drafts, but you should probably inspect the HVAC system, too. Make sure the heater is working correctly and is capable of heating the house in frigid temperatures. If the home is prone to inefficient heating, visitors are likely to notice when they enter.
Another thing you’ll want to look at is the roof. High amounts of snowmelt can cause leaks to appear, while dense piles of snow can be damaging if the roof isn’t structurally sound.
3. Set Client Expectations Upfront
We’ve talked about identifying realistic prices with your clients, but you’ll also want to make sure they understand that selling during winter can be a different process than at other times in the year. It may take a little longer and seem slower, but remind them about the lack of competition and the motivated nature of their buyers. Informing them can keep them from getting frustrated during the process.
4. Improve the Curb Appeal
We’ve mentioned some of the changes you can make to increase the curb appeal, but one of the most effective ways to do so is to simply maintain the yard. While no one has to mow the grass or trim the hedges, winter maintenance is still a necessity to a clean, professional-looking environment.
- Keep the yard clear: As a simple improvement, keeping the yard free of fallen branches, debris, trash and anything else that shouldn’t be there can make it look much more appealing.
- Shovel and salt the pavement: You’d hate to arrive at the property only to find that there is a new layer of snow on top of the sidewalk, making the walk to the front door a challenging one. Make sure you or someone else takes on the responsibility of shoveling and salting the pavement, so your potential buyers can both see where the pavement outside the home is and enjoy a non-slip walk to the entryway.
- Remove leaves from the gutters: Particularly towards the beginning of the season, this step can greatly improve the cleanliness of the home’s exterior.
5. Make Other Small Improvements
Of course, there are other steps you can take that will add to the value of a home, many of which you can do at any time of the year.
- Renovate: It may go without saying, but identifying areas for improvements with high ROI can help your clients sell for more without breaking the bank. Replace out-of-date fixtures, wallpaper, peeling paint and doors.
- Add features that are useful in winter months: Consider inexpensive additions that are winter appeals for homebuyers in cold climates. Heated flooring and smart thermostats can help make the winter months more bearable.
- Paint as needed: If the rooms are particularly dark, a lighter coat of paint may brighten them up, making the house more welcoming. Of course, repainting any discolored or deteriorating areas can also go a long way.
Confidently Sell Your Listing This Winter
Selling a home in winter tends to be taboo for some, and while the business can slow down, it doesn’t have to freeze completely. Between targeting highly motivated buyers, having an excellent listing and making weather-related considerations, you can make winter selling a much more comfortable process. You can take steps to get your listing in front of more potential buyers and increase your chances of getting them to bite.
One of the best ways to do that is by improving your listing. Real Estate Exposures can help. We offer a variety of services that help your listing stand out, including professional photography, video, 3D tours, virtual staging and more. To see what Real Estate Exposures can do for you this winter, reach out to a representative today.