If your home will be for sale this winter, it is important to master certain seasonal issues that are less significant or even non-existent at other times of the year. Here are 10 bits of advice.
Keep your lights on! The best way to combat winter’s short and frequently cloudy days is to turn on your house lights. For a showing, every single light in the house must be on, even in the closets and utility/mechanical rooms, “Make sure all the bulbs are working and are polished if they are clear. Then stock up on all the right bulbs for lamps and fixtures so burned out bulbs can be replaced immediately. It is also a great idea to keep the lights on in the front of the house even if no showings are scheduled. In today’s market with so many first showings on the internet, people are constantly driving past the house. Keeping it lighted makes it look happy and welcoming. Add natural light to the package by keeping all the blinds and curtains open, allowing that free light to stream in, and the warm glow to flood out into the dark night.
Make sure there is plenty of good parking. Or said another way, move the old van parked in front of the house for two reasons: It’s important that buyers have a convenient place to park as they don’t want to walk very far in cold weather or be forced to climb over a snow bank to exit their vehicle. And the second reason is people driving past need to get the best impression.
Winter showings can get off to an awkward start if prospective buyers arrive with snow, sand or salt on their shoes. Make it easy for buyers to deal with their shoes when they arrive by placing a festive area rug at the front door so visitors can wipe their feet. Then have slippers or disposable booties available, along with a bench or chair, if there is room for one, where a visitor can sit and easily remove or put on their boots.
Some smells are not our friends: many home tend to be stuffy in winter when windows are rarely opened. That can allow odors to build up, which can be a turn-off to buyers. Pet odors can be especially worrisome in winter. Use of a room fragrance can over whelm many a nose. Just make sure to change the cat litter daily. If pets are in the house, consider setting the thermostat control so that the furnace fan runs constantly during the day to keep air moving through the house and dissipate odors. Also try to avoid strong cooking odors, especially if a showing is scheduled that day. However, fresh cookies are always a hit. Just leave a note allowing the buyers (and Realtor) to help themselves. A rich vanilla smell is great.
Appropriate decorations for Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day help give a home a cheerful look during the winter months.Holidaydecorations can help homes sell, but don’t go to excess. Keeping small, decorative white lights on trees and bushes pretty much through the winter season is fine, but other decorations should be taken down quickly once the holiday passes.
Make a good first impression on buyers with a neatly maintained yard. Walks and steps should be kept clear, especially of snow and ice.
If the home you are selling is a condominium, your job as a seller may be relatively easy in winter, with no snow to shovel or yard work to worry about. However, that is only the case if your condominium association does its job well. If the association isn’t doing it, the homeowner may have to take responsibility for keeping the entrance area and hallways clean. If the association isn’t getting snow shoveled promptly, consider buying some de-icing salt and sprinkling it judiciously around the building entry.
We all tend to prefer a specific temperature for our homes during the winter, but don’t blast buyers with hot air. Keep the temperature at a comfortable 65 degrees for all showings. Remember, buyers are likely to be wearing their coats even as they walk through the house.
Another challenge of selling a home during the winter months is the overabundance of cold weather gear. Buyers do not want to find the mudroom filled with boots or the hall closet overflowing with heavy coats. Shift some winter coats to another closet and put anything not needed in the closet into storage. To keep gloves and scarves from piling up in the front hall or mudroom, put a special container for them, such as a decorative chest, where the family typically enters the home.
Never turn down a showing even if you have a wedding reception going on at the house! “Hey it is crazy over here, come on and join the party!” is a great attitude. A home shows to its best advantage during daylight hours, which are relatively scarce in winter. Encourage your agent to show your home before 4 p.m. and have it ready to show by 9 a.m. if you want the best results.
Despite the challenges of marketing a home during winter, there also are benefits, most notably that the buyers out looking at homes in December or January are, as a group, quite serious about buying. Therefore, sellers tend to benefit because each showing is more productive, and fewer showings are needed to sell the property. The challenge of course is keeping the house “showroom ready” for a lower showing frequency.