What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter. The lawn is covered in snow, the weather is usually bad and, unlike summer, you have less time to show it off during daylight hours.
But not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home-buying season to plant that “for sale” sign. And while it’s true that in most areas you’ll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers.
Winter makes staging — the concept of showing your house at its best — even more important. If you do it right, you can really make your house stand out. Here are some tips to set the stage for a quicker sale
1. Keep snow and ice at bay.
If buyers can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff.
2. Warm it up.
Think warm, cozy and homey. Before buyers come through, set the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. If you have a gas fireplace, turn it on to give your home ambiance.
With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.
3. Take advantage of natural light.
Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during the daytime. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.
4. Get the windows washed.
Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t consider. In winter, that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.
5. Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background.
6. Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed.
7. Emphasize winter positives.
Is your home on a bus route or some other vital service that means it’s plowed or de-iced regularly in bad weather? Be sure to mention that to the buyers.
8. Set up timers.
You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers. Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.
9. Make it festive.
Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. First impressions are powerful.
10. Give the home a nice aroma.
The No. 1 favorite? Chocolate-chip cookies! Other popular scents: cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast.
11. Protect your investment.
Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper “booties” before touring the house. Make sure there is a large rug for future homeowners to take their shoes/boots off on. Many buyers like that, as it shows pride in ownership.
12. Use the season to your advantage.
While the holidays are over, you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to spark interest.