Secrets for Selling a Home in Winter
It's a challenging season, but these tips can make your property hot
Traditionally, houses don't sell well in the winter. Unless you live in a perpetually sunny clime, it's not the ideal time to put your home on the market: Bad weather discourages buyers from venturing forth and often makes a property look dreary. However, you can still take some steps to make the home showing pleasant: letting in the light, creating a warm ambiance (both literal and figurative), even serving refreshments. Here are several tips to entice buyers to come in out of the cold.
Clear a Path
Continually shovel a path through any snow, even if flakes are still falling. Footprints on freshly fallen snow will turn to ice if the temperature is low enough, so scrape the walk and steps periodically, and sprinkle a layer of sand or salt over them. Remember to open a path from the street to the sidewalk so that visitors aren't forced to crawl over snowdrifts. Put a rubber mat by the front door or a container to hold wet umbrellas and shoes.
Let in the Light
Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, push back the drapes on every window (unless the view or outdoor scenery is particularly undesirable). Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. You can further brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spotlights on the floor behind furniture.
Make Everything Sparkle
Washing the windows enhances the precious daylight hours. Clean out cobwebs and dust furniture, ceiling fan blades, and light fixtures. Bleach dingy grout and, if necessary, recaulk tubs, showers, and sinks. Polish chrome faucets and mirrors. Clean out the refrigerator; it probably needs cleaning anyway. Wash or polish floors, and vacuum daily; if you have plush carpeting, vacuum in one direction. Empty trash and recycling bins every day.
Turn Up the Heat
You want the temperature inside to be comfortable and to give the buyer more incentive to linger, especially on a cold day. So pump up that thermostat. It's better to heat the house a degree or two warmer than usual and then set the temperature at normal; this prevents the heat from kicking on when the buyer is present (some HVAC systems are loud).
If you have a fireplace, light it up, but be sure to open the damper, place a screen in front of it, and don't leave it unattended for very long.
Create a Mood
You want rooms to appear especially warm, cozy, and inviting. Make your living room romantic by placing two champagne glasses near a champagne bucket on the coffee table; toss afghans or throws across the arms of your sofa. Dress your dining room table for a dinner for two. In the bedroom, set a breakfast tray on the bed containing a coffee cup and saucer, napkin, and reading material. Turn your bathroom into a spa by hanging plush robes on the door, placing washcloths and towels in baskets, arranging a grouping of soaps, lotions, and shampoo.
Evoke a sense of summer. Place vases filled with flowers around the house. Display photographs showcasing flower gardens and lush green lawns.
Turn On the Sound
Don't neglect the aural ambiance. Have soft music playing throughout; light jazz or classical music is always soothing. If it's the festive season, nonreligious holiday music is a nice touch. Don't turn on a commercial radio station; instead stream your tunes from a computer or tablet, using iTunes or a service like Spotify, so that your music will be continuous. Mute the ringers on telephones and answering machines.
Ease Up on the Scents
Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don't spray the air or plug-in air fresheners. Don't burn candles or spray perfume in the bedroom for the same reason.
If you're going to bake cookies or simmer spices in water on the stove, put out munchies so that prospective buyers aren't disappointed. More than one visitor has been lured into a room by a mouthwatering aroma, only to say sadly, "Oh, darn, I thought there were cookies in here!" Speaking of which...
Serve Winter Foods
Hot apple cider and cocoa make great beverage choices. Creamy soups and stews are delicious on a cold day; to avoid dealing with utensils, serve them in shooter glasses or paper cups. Otherwise, stick to finger foods.
Provide Specific Information
Attach printed cards to items and in rooms that provide further information the buyer might miss or might not know. You have so little time to make an impression. If you have an antique chandelier that's staying with the house, put a card on it that discloses its age and other important details. If you have removed the washer and dryer from the laundry room, attach a card to the wall describing the room so that visitors know where they are. If your basement stairs are steep, attach a card to the railing that cautions buyers to watch their step or their heads.
Take care when placing a card that says: "Not included in the sale." That tag makes a buyer want it, but you can play that later to your advantage.
Plug indoor lamps into a timer to automatically turn on at times you're showing the house. Consider using motion sensors that light up in the evening when a buyer approaches your doorstep. Program your crock-pot to warm up soup at a designated time or your oven to bake or reheat breads or cookies.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.