What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter. The weather is usually bad and, unlike the longer days of summer, you have less time to show it off during daylight hours.But not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home buying season to plant that “for sale” sign, and while it’s true that in most areas you’ll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers.
That makes staging — the concept of showing your house at its best — even more important. Be prepared to put a little effort into it. It’s more difficult to make something look really appealing this time of year. Do it right and you can really make your house stand out.
Keep snow and ice at bay.
If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it’s been maintained. If you’re away frequently or live in an area that’s subject to bad weather, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salts or shovels the driveway and sidewalks.
Warm it up.
If you’re showing during the winter, think warm, cozy and homey. Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. Sellers like to turn the temperature down because of heat costs. Buyers who come in and aren’t comfortable won’t stay long.
If you have a gas fireplace, turn it on right before the tour. With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. If you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.
Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.
Take advantage of natural light.
Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours. At this time of year, if you show after work, you’re totally in the dark. Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.
Get the windows washed.
Buyers usually act on the first impression so windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.
Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you just hear it quietly in the background. It makes the walk around experience so much nicer. Soft classical music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. People tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.
Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home.
Emphasize winter positives.
Is your home on a bus route or some other vital service that means it’s plowed or de-iced regularly in bad weather? Be sure to mention that to the buyers.
Set up timers.
You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past. But you’re not home all the time, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers. Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.
Make it festive.
Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. Have a plate of cookies for your guests, some warm cider or even chilled bottles of water.
Again, its all about first impressions which are so very powerful. If it looks like you’re expecting somebody and greeting me as company, that can be a powerful impact.
Give the home a nice aroma.
Try baked cookies or another type of desert or candylike aroma. Just about everybody likes that smell. Other popular scents are cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast. Just dont overdo or make it to obvious. Scented candles for example in every room or those plug-in air fresheners can leave buyers wondering what you’re trying to mask. Watch the bad smells, too. Pet smells, smoke and musty odors can cling to curtains and carpets. Ask your real estate agent or a friend to give it a sniff test. Then clean the house, air it out and replace drapes, carpets or rugs before you show it.
Protect your investment.
Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper booties over their footwear before touring the house. Buyers might like that as it gives a feeling of respect towards the real estate profession and good manners ofcourse. A friend once said, that it indicates a pride of ownership and meticulousness that resonates with buyers.
Use the season to your advantage.
While the holidays are over and Christmas coming down, you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to give interest. Anything seasonally appropriate is good. In the winter, with the leaves off the trees, you might also have a nice view that isn’t as apparent in the spring and summer months. It’s actually a great time to sell waterfront properties as you can see the views better this time of year.