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Secrets to Selling or Buying a Home in Winter

“Don’t list your house in winter, you’ll never sell it!”

“Trying to buy a house and move during winter is crazy, wait until spring.”

If you’ve ever heard these comments—or others like them—you’re not alone. And while it’s true that spring and summer are peak real estate seasons, that doesn’t mean you can’t find buyers in the winter months if you’re trying to sell your home, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find some good deals as a home buyer.

Selling a house in winter

For those selling their home in winter, the obstacles to overcome include bad weather keeping prospective buyers away and making the property dreary. Barren trees, dead grass, and slush puddles can rob even the prettiest home of its curb appeal! Your goal should be to focus on enticing buyers through the door and creating a cozy atmosphere that makes them want to stay.

Here are some ideas for highlighting what makes your home cozy, hinting at what makes it great in summer weather, and creating a compelling emotional experience for prospective buyers.

  • Keep all pathways to the front door from the driveway and sidewalk shoveled and clear of snow, including the stoop or porch steps. Even if only a dusting of snow has fallen since you last shoveled, footprints on fresh snow quickly turn to ice. Pour salt or sand on walkways to avoid ice buildup.
  • Put a rubber mat outside the door and another inside with clear space for shoes and umbrellas.
  • Open all window shades and curtains to maximize the light pouring into each room and to allow the alluring glow of inside lights to spill outside and entice buyers in.
  • Turn on all lights, even under cabinet and closet lights. If you have time, buy energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs that offer a range of hues. In the kitchen, bathrooms, and basement hobby spaces, go for brighter lighting in cooler shades. In bedrooms, living room, and dining room, use softer, warm lighting.
  • Clean all those nooks and crannies! Wash windows to let in more light; dust lighting, ceiling fans, and built-in furniture nooks; polish wood surfaces, silver, and granite countertops; clean out the fridge and regularly take out the trash (in winter when windows aren’t left open, smells can get trapped and become overwhelming and very evident to visitors).
  • Turn up the heat a degree or two to give prospective buyers reason to linger, explore, and imagine themselves curled up in the space. If you have a working fireplace, use it.
  • Lay out soft textures like plush pillows and comfy throw blankets on chairs, sofas, and beds. Don’t forget clean towels in all the bathrooms.
  • Play soft jazz or classical music throughout your home. Nonreligious holiday music can be a nice touch.
  • Serve refreshments like warm cider, coffee, or cocoa and treats like fresh-baked cookies. Simmering spices in water on the stove is another way to create a snug, homey atmosphere. Beware, though! If you have cinnamon wafting from the kitchen, visitors will expect cookies and will be disappointed if there aren’t any.
  • Have photos available of the outside of the house and lawn in summer, especially garden areas and outdoor living spaces.
  • Position printed cards next to room features or window views to provide further information the buyer might miss. Think about mentioning parks and shops within walking distance, nearby neighborhood and community events, any community garden plots, birds that frequent the bird feeders, extra insulation or sound-proofing measures taken, energy-efficient windows, etc.

Because buyers, especially in winter, do most of their home searches online, the quality of your listing photos and any video tours needs to be top notch. Use high-quality photos with good lighting, including exterior photos during warmer seasons.

Buying a house in winter

Homebuyers in winter will have fewer options to choose from as listings taper off from November to February; however, they will have a strong bargaining position with those properties on the market.

One of the factors contributing to that strong bargaining position is that properties for sale in winter usually can’t wait long on the market to be sold. Their owners must move soon. And, because most people don’t want to move in the middle of winter with the weather and holidays to work around, buyers are in shorter supply than homes for sale.

When supply (homes for sale) is greater than demand (buyers looking for homes), the deals are better for buyers! If you do make a home purchase before year-end, you can take advantage of tax benefits, like writing off some of the expenses of the home purchase.

No matter if you’re a buyer or seller this winter, you can take advantage of your unique position to find the best deal for you.