Winter is the time of year when most home buyers, like bears, retreat to their own cozy homes and hibernate. So what if you have a house you must sell right now, winter be damned?
Despite what you've heard, winter can actually work to a home seller's advantage. With fewer homes on the market, it's easier to stand out with some home staging—i.e., a few little tweaks to presentation that make your place shine like that crown jewel you know it can be.
Don't skimp on curb appeal
If you live in a snowy climate, you know there's little you can do about the white stuff piling up outside. But you can stay on top of your yard maintenance, so buyers have an easy path to your front door and walk away with a feeling that your place is easy to maintain. Shoveling the driveway and paths to your home is a must. And you'll want to clean out your gutters, so ice isn't backing up and giving the impression that you have roofing issues.
You can also add some winter-themed outdoor decor.
"I love putting evergreens next to the door and on the porch," says Rebekah Scott, real estate broker for Atlas Real Estate Group in Denver, CO. "Everyone knows how elegant evergreens look with snow on them, so it's a good way to really showcase the snow."
If you can, now's also the time to make sure your front door has a fresh coat of paint. A bright, colorful front door will stand out all the more in the snow, and that can really wow your buyer.
Turn up the heat
Many homeowners like to keep the thermostat set down in the 60s to save on their heating bills, but you don't want a potential buyer to think they're visiting a house that's hard to heat.
"A cold house can hurt the sale," explains Scott. "When a buyer enters the house and wants to hurry up and get out of there because it is so chilly, it probably means they are going to have a bad memory associated with the home, no matter how great it is. You want to provide a warm and inviting environment so buyers will want to take their time and linger. "
To make buyers feel they're right at home, turn up the thermostat. You'll also want to fix any drafty spots around the house. You may be fine shoving a towel under the front door to keep the cold air out, but buyers will not look kindly on linens on your floor, or a chilly breeze on their feet.
Fire up the fireplace
Not only is it a good way to ensure the house feels warm, but making use of the fireplace is a good way to show off a great feature of your home.
"I love when a home has a fireplace, and I can highlight that feature by turning it on during open houses," says Scott. Whether it's wood-burning or you have gas logs in that fireplace, by lighting that fire, you're giving potential buyers a window into what it would be like to cuddle on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and their feet in front of the fire.
"Hitting all of the buyer’s senses creates a memorable experience that will hopefully lead to them purchasing the home," she adds.
No fireplace? Play up the warm ambience with candles, fur throws, and other items that give off cozy vibes.
Add seasonal scents
It's always wise to clean your house and make the place smell nice and fresh, but the winter months are a time to focus on seasonal scents, Scott says. That means mulling seasonal spices such as oranges, cloves, and cinnamon on the stove, to go along with freshly baked holiday cookies cooling on a rack in the kitchen.
Music should also be seasonal, though not too heavy on the silly Santa songs. Scott suggests some smooth jazz that evokes the festive feel of holiday entertaining.
It's not a bad idea to have hot coffee on hand, says Dale Schaechterle, broker/owner at Realty Executives Integrity in Milwaukee, WI. Not only will it cut the cold, but it can boost the mood of potential buyers.
Pump up the holiday decor
You don't want to turn your home into the real-life version of Clark Griswold's over-the-top house in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," but Aaron Bowman, of Mazz Real Estate in Tolland, CT, says the holidays can actually make it easier to sell a home, if you decorate well.
"The main reason is that buyers like to picture themselves in the home hosting holiday get-togethers, and it's much easier to show them the potential of a house when it's decorated for the winter months," he says.
He recommends a big wreath with a bright red bow on the front door and some (electric or battery-operated) candles in the windows. Avoid blow-up lawn decorations or anything over-the-top or garish inside and out, favoring the sort of classic decor you'd expect to see on a greeting card.
And if the holidays are over, and you're still showing your home, remove the decor immediately! Got that?
So before you throw up your hands and take a home-selling hiatus, try these home-staging ideas for the winter months to make your house stand out.