Spring is typically when the real estate market starts to pick up, but not everyone is ready to make a move after the snow melts. In fact, some situations — like relocating for a job — may find you trying to sell your home during the winter months.
But a little frost on the windowpanes doesn’t mean you should be discouraged. While selling a home in the offseason may seem daunting, you can increase your chances of success by adjusting your sales strategy to reflect the time of year.
Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter Months
Selling a home in the winter is not the same as selling in the spring or summer. Many different factors need to be considered, from less natural light to how much seasonal decor is appropriate.
If you’re planning to sell your home in the winter, use these tips to impress potential buyers.
1. Stage Your Home for Winter
Staging a home in the winter means doing your best to create a snug and cozy vibe. Winter buyers who come for a showing need to see your home’s full potential so they can envision themselves living in the property.
In the winter, this means helping future homeowners to picture themselves curling up in front of the fireplace or enjoying a mug of hot cider.
Use throw blankets and pillows on sofas and armchairs to inspire a feeling of comfort and warmth. Leave a kettle on the stove to spark thoughts of hot cocoa and tea. If you decide to use scents, stick to seasonal aromas like cinnamon and clove.
Put away any out-of-season items and snow gear and have a coat rack ready for potential buyers to use. Set the stage for an idyllic winter season spent toasty and warm while snowflakes swirl gently outside of the window.
2. Make Lighting a Priority
One of the trickier aspects of selling a home in the winter is dealing with lighting. Because the sun sets earlier and rises later, you’ll have much less natural light to work with during photo ops and showings.
To let in as much sun as possible, clean your windows (inside and out) and open your blinds and curtains. Swap out dim bulbs in light fixtures for brighter ones.
In the evenings or on gray, cloudy days, use ambient lights to create a cozy atmosphere. Flameless candles, lamps, and track lights are a great way to light up dark corners and hallways without looking too harsh.
If you have to take listing photos or film a 3D tour in the winter, schedule them for the late morning or early afternoon on a bright day so potential buyers who view your home in the evening can get an idea of what it looks like when the sun’s up.
3. Keep a Comfortable Temperature
Part of evoking a cozy ambiance is the temperature of your home. It’s going to be hard to give off a cozy vibe if your thermostat is turned down to 60 degrees. Keep your house nice and warm, at least for showings, so potential buyers can focus on your property instead of their chattering teeth.
If you have a fireplace, light it before a showing both to give off some heat and to add to the atmosphere.
4. Clean Everything
Regardless of which season you sell a home in, you probably already know to do a lot of cleaning. In the winter, harsher lighting, more time spent indoors, and disuse can cause some parts of your home to look dirtier than they do in the spring or summer. Make a point of:
- Dusting ceiling fans that are no longer in use
- Wiping down cupboard doors and light switches
- Shaking out and vacuuming area rugs
- Cleaning baseboard heaters, furnace rooms, and floor vents
- Leaving out a rubber mat or boot tray to collect snow, salt, and slush
- Cleaning up water marks and salt stains on the floors from anything tracked inside
You should also wash any wet snow gear, like mittens and coats, to ensure your front entrance doesn’t smell unpleasant or off-putting. If you dry boots or gloves over a floor vent, put them away once they’re dry to reduce clutter.
5. Show Your House in Other Seasons
While a potential buyer is viewing your home in the winter, that doesn’t mean you can’t show them what it’s like in the spring or summer months. If possible, take pictures of your property in other seasons when the grass is green and the flowers are in bloom so your realtor can include them in your listings.
You can also make a physical photo album for guests to flip through at viewings. Show off your patio, garden, and backyard when they’re at their best so buyers can see how appealing your home is year-round.
6. Pay Attention to Curb Appeal
While it’s true that you won’t have to do as much landscaping in cold weather, it’s still important to keep your yard neat and tidy. The curb appeal of your winter home has a major impact on a buyer’s first impression of your property, especially when you can rely on lush gardens and green grass to set the mood.
Make sure that your home property looks well-maintained and inviting before buyers even get to the front door by:
- Using outdoor lighting along paths and entranceways
- Displaying winter planters on your front step
- Cleaning up dead leaves, plants, and flowers
- Putting away seasonal items like decor, furniture, pots, and lawn tools
7. Keep Seasonal Decor to a Minimum
Although a Christmas tree and some outdoor lights may make the holiday season bright for you, not all prospective buyers share your cultural beliefs or decorative tastes.
And while you don’t have to forgo decorating altogether, you should keep your holiday decorations simple and understated. For example, multicolored lights and mechanical dancing Santas can come off as garish and distract potential buyers from your home’s more attractive features.
Instead, use white lights and natural decor like greenery to make your home look appropriately festive without being overwhelming. Try to keep your decorations contained to one area of your home, such as the living room, instead of strewing them throughout the house. This will give you a chance to enjoy the season without distracting buyers touring your home.
Avoid decorating over anything that a home buyer would want to see. For example, covering your stair railings in pine garland may look beautiful, but it will hide a structural and aesthetic aspect of your staircase that house hunters may want to examine.
If you do opt for holiday decorations, don’t leave them up for too long. Put them up in December and take them down at the beginning of the new year.
8. Be Flexible With Showings
As a home seller, you already know you need to accommodate showings and open houses. But in the wintertime, you have to be more flexible than during the summer months. A variety of factors can impact when your real estate agent shows your home, from storms and poor driving conditions to less natural light and holiday obligations.
This may mean that you need to let potential home buyers reschedule a viewing or book a second visit during more favorable conditions.
You can always tell your realtor when your home is closed to showings, like on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, but otherwise be as open as possible.
Although you’ll benefit from less competition in the winter, there are also fewer buyers looking for homes at this time of year. This means you need to be available to the ones that do come along. If you aren’t flexible when it comes to bad weather or allowing for multiple showings, you risk drawing out your home selling experience.
9. Shovel, Salt, and Sand Paths and Driveways
One of the reasons winter isn’t an ideal time to sell is because you have to deal with ice and snow. Ensure buyers can easily walk to any outbuildings like garages or sheds, and keep your driveway, paths, patios, and decks clear of snow and ice so potential buyers can safely access and view your entire property.
Don’t make visitors trudge through a snowbank or relive learning to skate just to get to your front door.
10. Keep Up On Seasonal Maintenance
If you live in a colder climate, you know the seasonal tasks you need to take on in order to winterize your home each year. This includes responsibilities such as:
- Getting your furnace or HVAC system cleaned and inspected
- Using caulk and weather stripping to seal drafts from doors and windows
- Clearing gutters and trimming trees
- Checking the roof for damage
- Booking a chimney inspection
Keeping up on these duties when selling your home means you won’t have to worry about them during showings. It would be embarrassing and inconvenient to have your furnace stop working right before a potential buyer showed up.
And, as an added bonus, completing these maintenance tasks will help you to pass a home inspection if you end up getting an offer.
If you’re planning to sell your home in the winter, failing to prepare for the season is one of the biggest home selling mistakes you can make. Selling a home during cold weather isn’t impossible, it just takes a little forethought.
Focus on making your property feel comfortable and cozy, keep a snow shovel handy, and be flexible when it comes to showings to turn your listing into someone else’s new home.