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Selling Your House in the Winter – Tips, Pros & Cons

You’ve probably heard that spring is the best time to put your house on the market. But this rule of thumb doesn’t work for everyone.

What if you relocate for a job in November, retire and downsize in January, or the chill of February inspires you to start traveling full-time in an RV? You can’t always wait until April to sell your home. You may need to put it on the market right now – even if Christmas Eve is only days away.

Winter selling has a bad reputation. However, there’s also less competition from December through February. Yes, it presents some unique challenges for sellers. But once you overcome those challenges, you might discover a winter listing works to your advantage.

Pros & Cons of Winter Listings

House For Sale No Competition Neighborhood

Selling your home during wintertime isn’t impossible. Learn to leverage the advantages and mitigate the disadvantages to sell quicker and at a higher price.

Pros

1. There’s Less Competition

Most people put their houses on the market in the spring, which means a lot of competition. In the winter, home buyers have far fewer homes to choose from. Homes for sale at this time of year often get more showings and interest from buyers.

Plus, many buyers are less picky when there are fewer options. They’re also more serious. During spring and summer, some people attend open houses for fun. Winter buyers are looking because they truly need a place to live. That often leads to quicker sales and fewer fixes to pay for after a home inspection since desperate buyers are less nitpicky about minor repairs.

Some winter buyers are also motivated to rush through a sale by Dec. 31 to take advantage of tax benefits, like being able to deduct a month or two of mortgage interest and property tax.

2. More People Relocate for Work

Many people relocate for a job during the first quarter of the year. That means they need a home quickly. Homes located near large corporations often attract several buyers during the winter months. And if their employers offer a relocation package, these buyers have more financial flexibility.

3. Online Listings Make House Hunting Easy

Before the Internet, trekking out in the cold was the only way for winter home buyers to see their options. Now, online listings make it easy for people to house hunt during the winter months. Scrolling through listings curled up in front of the fire in their pajamas, they only have to face winter’s chill to see the shortlist of their favorites.

4. Agents Are More Motivated

The busy seasons for real estate agents are spring, summer, and fall. In wintertime, many spend all day twiddling their thumbs. If you get an agent during the offseason, they have more time to focus on selling your home. Just make sure you take time to find a skilled real estate agent instead of someone with nothing but a large marketing budget.

5. Contractors Are Easier to Find

Many homes need updates or repairs before they go on the market. In the summer, finding a trustworthy contractor is challenging because they’re busy. But most have plenty of availability during cold weather. And contractors are often willing to negotiate better rates during their slow season.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a reputable contractor in your area, check out HomeAdvisor. They thoroughly research and do background checks on contractors so you can be confident you’re hiring the right person.

Cons

1. Winter Weather Is Inconvenient

Winter weather can make house hunting an arduous chore. Buyers have to bundle up in boots and heavy coats and get out into the cold. And in some regions, ice and snow make traveling hazardous.

If there’s heavy snowfall or ice, you must keep the driveway and sidewalk plowed and salted for visitors at all times. Potential buyers will also track in snow, salt, and possibly mud. And that means spending extra on a cleaning service after showings if you’ve already moved away.

Pro Tip: If you need to find quality house cleaners in your area, check out Handy.com. You can choose a schedule that works for you and manage everything online.

2. Curb Appeal Is Challenging

In spring and summer, it’s easy to enhance your home’s curb appeal with flowers and attractive landscaping. In winter, it’s more challenging.

If you’re lucky enough to have a fresh blanket of snow on the ground the day you photograph your home, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. But many homes listed in winter look a bit drab and worn because everything is brown and gray.

On the plus side, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money maintaining a picture-perfect yard. You don’t need to plant flowers, mow your lawn, or rake the leaves. If it snows, you shovel. That’s it.

One way you can add some curb appeal is to decorate the outside of your home for the holidays. Many people celebrate during the winter season, and most people will appreciate a festive-looking home. Just keep the decorations moderate and tasteful.

3. Buyers Have More Financial Obligations

Many people have a lot of extra expenses at the end of the year. They buy holiday gifts, travel for winter vacation, set aside money to pay taxes, or winterize their homes or cars. Many also have increased season-related medical expenses.

With a tighter budget, many are reluctant to make such a big purchase. Winter holidays and uncertain weather make people wary of moving this time of year too.

4. Buyers Might Have More Negotiating Power

Some sellers get multiple offers at competitive prices when there are fewer homes on the market. But when there are fewer buyers, some drive a hard bargain. Sellers who are nervous they won’t get another offer until spring tend to take lower offers.


Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter Season

Interior Design Living Room Lighting Minimalism Home Decor

In some ways, winter listings take more preparation and thought than summer listings. But with some extra work and prep on your part, buyers will fall in love with your house no matter how cold it is outside.

1. Decorate Mindfully

Don’t go overboard with the decor. Having too much stuff makes your home look small and cluttered. Instead, focus on using a few attractive, high-quality pieces.

That’s especially true if you decorate for the holidays to improve curb appeal. Keep in mind some people are allergic to common Christmas tree varieties or the mold they often carry. So it’s safer to go with an artificial tree. Religious decorations are also a turnoff for some buyers.

2. Focus on Lighting

Winter poses some serious lighting challenges. The days are short, and clouds are often low and gray. Make an extra effort to ensure your home is as bright and inviting as possible.

Start with your windows. Take the screens off and make sure each one is sparkling clean to ensure they let in as much daylight as possible. Before buyers arrive, open all the blinds and curtains as far as they go. Also, turn on every light in the house, including all closet lights and the front porch light. Brighter bulbs are a good investment.

Invest in some flameless candles for the living and dining room. They won’t add much light, but they will add plenty of cozy ambiance. Small spotlights placed on the floor and angled up against a wall are also an inexpensive and unobtrusive way to add more light to a dark room.

The color of your walls also affects how bright your home is. A dark room that looks opulent in summer often looks oppressive in winter. Fortunately, repainting isn’t expensive. Choose lighter colors to reflect more light.

Many buyers are also only available for showings in the evening after work. Since many places get dark around 5pm in winter, invest in landscape lighting. It doesn’t just help people see to get safely to the door. It makes your home stand out and creates a wow factor when they arrive.

3. Check for Drafts

Check all the windows and doors for drafts and seal them with caulk. A drafty window is unmistakable on a cold day. You don’t want buyers to question the integrity or coziness of the home. The lower utility bills are also a nice bonus.

4. Clean Everything

First impressions matter. Before the temperature drops below freezing, pressure-wash your home’s exterior and deck or patio thoroughly. And sweep up every last spiderweb left over from fall.

Give the yard plenty of attention too. Rake the last of the autumn leaves and pick up sticks and branches. Put down a thick layer of fresh mulch on all the flower beds to make them look tidy.

Inside your home, make sure everything sparkles. Get into spring-cleaning mode early or hire a cleaning service through Handy.com to get you started. Some often-overlooked areas to focus on include:

  • Ceiling fan blades
  • Under sinks (including pipes)
  • Inside the refrigerator
  • Around and behind the washer and dryer
  • Light fixtures
  • Sink, tub, and shower grout

Your home should also smell clean and fresh, but don’t go overboard with air fresheners. Many people are allergic to strong smells, and for some, commercial air fresheners induce a headache or worse.

A living room air diffuser is a better option. Use generally agreeable essential oils like vanilla, lemon, orange, or pine. In the kitchen, potted herbs like rosemary and thyme add a fresh, inviting scent.

5. Have Your Furnace Checked

Call an HVAC technician to check and service your furnace before your home hits the market. A broken furnace is the last thing you want during a showing. Ask the technician to leave a dated magnet or sticker on the furnace so buyers can see it was serviced recently.

6. Go Hygge

Winter is a time for getting cozy and gathering with family and friends. This spirit is embodied by the Scandanavian concept of “hygge” (pronounced HUE-guh), which, roughly translated from Danish, means “cozy and wholesome.”

On a subconscious level, winter buyers are looking for shelter from the storm. If you want them to make an offer, make sure your home is warm, welcoming, and comfortable.

To add more hygge to your home, add some color-coordinated throws to your living room couches. Indoor plants add that spark of life that’s missing outdoors. If you have a fireplace, light a fire for each showing – just make sure you have a sturdy screen in place to block sparks.

Before you start the tour, let buyers warm themselves up with a hot drink. Create a coffee and tea station with to-go cups and an electric hot water kettle or Keurig. Other popular winter beverages include hot cocoa and hot apple cider. Include some fresh-baked cookies or healthy snacks so potential buyers don’t have to leave early because they’re hungry.

7. Show Buyers What They’re Missing

During winter, the trees and flowerbeds are devoid of life and color. So set out several photographs of your home, deck, and yard to show buyers what they look like the rest of the year. It helps them envision summer life in the home.


Final Word

Even some real estate agents believe houses simply don’t sell well in winter. But winter isn’t always a bad time to list.

There are plenty of ways to make your home stand out in the cold-weather months. Simple steps like making sure it’s sparkling clean, repainting rooms to look brighter, and sprucing up the yard are all inexpensive and make an impact. Other steps, like adding spotlights to dark rooms, cost a bit more. But they could pay off big by making your home look open and bright on even the darkest days.

Have you ever bought or sold a home in winter? What tips can you share?

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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