Selling a home in a cooling winter market could turn anyone into a scary green Grinch. In a typical winter, a home goes under contract in about 30 days, compared to seven days this past May, likely because there are fewer buyers who may take longer to home shop due to holidays and bad weather.
But for people thinking of trading up to a more expensive home, the savings they are likely to see on their new home may make selling during the slower season worth it. With that in mind, Zillow is giving the gift of advice to help every seller win in the traditionally slower season.
Sellers say their biggest regret is not prepping their home for sale further in advance of listing it. On average, sellers make at least two improvements before listing. Tackling weather-dependent projects early, such as exterior painting and roofing, ensures a home will show well during the winter. Sellers would also be wise to prepare for all kinds of winter weather while their home is listed.
“Your home should be safe and welcoming for all buyers, so be prepared for winter weather in your local area,” said Jennifer Landro, team leader at Landro Fox Cities Realty in Wisconsin and a Zillow Premier Agent in a news release. “If you live in a place that gets a lot of snow, make sure areas are clear and deiced to make it safe for people to be on your property. On the other hand, it can still be very hot in some places across the country, so it’s just as important to have air conditioning in warmer climates so buyers are comfortable in your home.”
Make it Cozy
Once potential buyers step inside your home, give them a personal, emotional connection to the home by appealing to all five senses. Natural light can be hard to come by in the winter, so sellers should add flattering lighting throughout their home to brighten up dark corners, or they could consider playing a crackling-fireplace video on a TV screen for more coziness.
“As the days get shorter, keep your house light and bright, even during the daytime,” Landro added. “Having all the window coverings open and all the lights on is just as important during the day as it is at night during the winter. Create a welcoming mood right from the start by having good exterior lights for a bright first impression and to guide buyers into your home.”
Disperse a very subtle, pleasant scent throughout the house by plugging in an aromatherapy diffuser — warm smells like vanilla, apple pie, and cinnamon work best in the winter. Incorporate texture with cozy, inviting textiles, like Sherpa-style faux fur, wool or chenille throws, and pillows. Turn on soft music or hang wind chimes to create a relaxing atmosphere. And lastly, it never hurts to have freshly baked cookies or even warm spiced apple cider at an open house!
Showcase the Best Features
Cozy features such as fireplaces, heated floors, and a winterized garage are top of mind for winter buyers. Be sure to highlight those features in your photographs and listing description. Zillow research finds home listings mentioning the keywords “heated floor” or “radiant heat” in their descriptions can sell for 3.2% more than expected.
Holiday Décor Dos and Don’ts
Incorporating the holidays into staging can give a home a more inviting, homey feel, but one buyer’s “merry” could be another buyer’s “tacky.” And it’s important to be mindful that not every buyer may celebrate the same holidays.
“It’s important to be inclusive during the holidays. Go very neutral with the holiday décor when staging your house,” Landro recommends. “If you are adding seasonal items for the holidays, minimize other décor and furnishings. When there’s too much décor going on, your home might look and feel cluttered to a buyer.”
Landro suggests that any holiday décor should match the current color scheme of the home and that sellers should rely on items like garlands and wreaths to accent a home’s best features, such as a mantel or staircase. If the seller must have a holiday tree, be sure it fits the space appropriately. A big tree in a small area can make a home look smaller and cluttered, while a small tree in a big space will make it look empty. And Landro recommends avoiding holiday yard inflatables and high-wattage exterior lights. Not everyone loves a Griswold-style light show.
Show Online Curb Appeal
Around 95% of buyers now use online tools in their home search, and in the winter months, fewer home shoppers are inclined to spend chilly weekends touring open houses. Instead, they winnow down their options from the comfort of their living room.
Savvy sellers should showcase their home’s best features online by featuring professional photography, drone photography, and a free 3D Home virtual tour in their listing. Research finds listings on Zillow that include a Zillow 3D Home tour draw about 45% more views and 57% more “saves” than homes without.