Strategies for a successful winter home sale
With low inventory, buyers are looking throughout the year for homes to buy. Winter is still not a peak real estate season, but home sales have increased across all seasons- even while the snow flies. According to Zillow research, homes listed for sale in the winter stay on the market about five days longer compared to the yearly average time on the market, from listing to closing, but that is not a lot of time if you are ready to move now.
While it can be a challenge to sell during a chilly holiday season, with some helpful strategies and expert marketing, you can find a great buyer for your home any time of year — even if you have to keep the driveway plowed.
Challenges of selling a house during winter
When we talk about winter, we’re talking about roughly December 1 to February 28, which includes all the major winter holidays, plus Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. Not only is there not-so-great weather, it’s also a time for holiday travel, and time spent with family, so scheduling can be a challenge.
Average days on market
One big bonus to selling in winter is you likely will be moving in the spring. Between the time it takes to sell your house and closing, you be moving your things when the weather is a little more cooperative.
|Season||Average days on Zillow|
|Full year average (calendar year 2017)||84.9|
|Winter 2017/2018 (Dec. – Feb.)||90.1|
|Spring 2017/2018 (March – May)||72.3|
|Summer 2017 (June – Aug.)||74.3|
|Fall 2017 (Sept. – Nov.)||81.1|
Another way to look at winter sales trends is to track the number of total home sales by season. Note, winter has the smallest share of home sales of any season, but it’s likely because there are fewer homes on the market, which can mean less competition for sellers.
|Season||Number of closed home sales|
|Full year average (calendar year 2017)||5,230,046|
|Winter 2017/2018 (Dec. – Feb.)||1,069,581|
|Spring 2017/2018 (March – May)||1,390,203|
|Summer 2017 (June – Aug.)||1,542,963|
|Fall 2017 (Sept. – Nov.)||1,302,383|
Who’s buying in the winter?
Simply put: All kinds of buyers shop in all seasons. It’s a common misconception that most home buyers have school-aged children, and that they only shop for homes during summer vacation. In fact, according to Zillow research, more than half of buyers don’t have kids under 18 at home, so they’re not limited by school schedules.
More benefits of selling a house in the winter
- Motivated buyers: While more buyers are looking in the spring and summer months, the buyers actively shopping for a new home in the winter are likely very motivated — often moving because of a job relocation, change in financial situation, or change in family needs.
- Less seller competition:With fewer homes on the market in winter, there’s less competition from other sellers, and a limited inventory for buyers.
- More time off work:People tend to take time off work during the winter, and three-day weekends like MLK Day and Presidents Day can be popular home shopping days. As a seller, it also means more options for showings and open houses!
- More attention from agents:When agents have fewer listings, sellers receive more of their undivided attention. The same goes for buyers’ agents — they have more time to arrange showings and negotiate deals.
- Tax benefits:Buyers looking to purchase homes before the end of the year for tax purposes find December listings ideal.
Challenges of selling a house in winter
- Lowball offers: Buyers may think winter home sellers are desperate to offload homes, so be prepared to field lower offers than you might during other times of the year.
- Curb appeal is limited:In the dark, dreary winter months, it’s a challenge to show off a home’s exterior, especially landscaping.
- Financing can be delayed:Due to vacation schedules and bank holidays, it can take longer for buyers to get financing finalized during this season.
- Less likely to get multiple offers: In the busy spring and summer season, sellers often find themselves in multiple-offer situations, where they’re able to pit multiple buyers against each other to increase the final selling price. This is less likely to happen in a slower selling season.
- Some home flaws are more apparent:If a home is drafty, dark, or leaky, these flaws tend to show themselves more dramatically during the cold winter months.
Holiday selling tips
Spruce up the online listing
When the weather’s bad, more house hunting happens online. Make sure the home is being shown in its best light with great photography and an engaging and complete listing description.
Invest in professional photography
Quality real estate photos are everything, and making a home’s interior seem light and bright during the winter takes a professional. And, when selecting a photo of a home’s exterior, consider one of the tried-and-true tricks to selling a house: Use a picture from the previous spring or summer.
Hire the right agent
When interviewing agents, make sure to ask about their experience with selling in the winter or in slow markets. Find out how they plan to market the home when there is a limited pool of buyers. We would be happy to share with you our strategy!
Price to sell
A well-priced home can sell quickly no matter the season. Using recently sold comparables from the neighborhood, have your agent help you price the home to attract the biggest pool of potential buyers.
Consider a pocket listing
A pocket listing is when an agent spreads the word about a home without actually listing it on the open market. The key here is hiring agents, like Tom Verhelst and Karen Zell, who have a big network to shop the home around to other agents. With a successful pocket listing, the house sells without endless showings and open houses disrupting the busy holiday schedule. Worst case, if it doesn’t work, you can always list it traditionally.
Staging tips for selling a home during the holidays
There’s something about the holiday season that makes a house feel like home. But when selling, less is more, so avoid excessive Christmas decorations. Aim for tasteful holiday decorations like a small tree in one corner, a few wrapped gifts underneath (consider wrapping empty boxes in case of package thieves!), a nice wreath on the front door, or an understated pine cone centerpiece.
Baking cookies before an open house is a classic real estate technique, but it works especially well when selling at Christmas. Invite potential buyers in with the scent, and keep them exploring the home with a tasty treat.
Make it cozy
Winter is the perfect time to emphasize cozy features. Turn the fireplace on, decorate with warm colors, and add a few throw blankets around the home.
Add some (winter) curb appeal
When selling property in winter, curb appeal takes on a different look. Shovel snow, offer umbrellas, illuminate pathways, and make sure there’s a doormat for visitors to wipe their wet feet.
Turn the lights on
Daylight hours are limited during winter months, so maximize light whenever possible. Install higher wattage light bulbs and turn on additional lights, both to make a home’s interior look its best, and to create a warm glow from the street.
Turn the heat on
Drafts are less noticeable with the heat on, so make sure that potential buyers are welcomed inside with warmth. If it’s been a while since examining the HVAC system, now is the time. Affordable fixes like adding insulation, replacing weather stripping, and servicing the furnace can go a long way.
Clean the gutters
Overflowing or broken gutters can be one of the first (negative) things buyers notice. Once fall ends, be sure to clear out all those leftover leaves.
We would be happy to walk through your home before you put it on the market, and give you other easy tips for over-winter selling. Drop us a line at email@example.com.