With fireplaces warming homes and hearts, snowflakes falling softly to the ground, and Home Alone on replay, you know that winter is here. Although the season has its delights, including sparkling snow, gingerbread lattes, and holiday cheer, it also has drawbacks. Some of those have to do with selling a house.
We spoke with two Westchester real estate agents to discuss the best ways to get your house sold in winter. Fran Klingenstein is a licensed associate real estate broker with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty and Eve Neuman is an associate real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate. Here is their advice.
When putting your home up for sale, there are some general tips to abide by to make buyers feel comfortable. Neuman suggests that clearing up clutter in the house and moving furniture around can make rooms feel bigger and easier to use.
To get your home sold, potential homeowners need to picture themselves living in your space, she says. That’s why she recommends removing personal items, like family photos or projects, when you are showing your home. “These things make a house a home, but when selling, you want buyers to feel that the house can be their home,” she adds.
It is important to keep your house feeling warm and inviting in the winter months. To add warmth and color all year round, Klingenstein recommends placing indoor plants throughout your home.
She adds that since sunlight is not as abundant in the winter, turning on all of the lights will make your home feel more welcoming. “Always keep shades, curtains, and blinds open for daytime showings to allow the house to look bright and sunny,” Klingenstein says. “If it is dark out, make sure to turn on lights to make the home feel warm and inviting.”
Neuman agrees that all lights should be on and suggests that you “use warm bulbs, not the energy-saver kinds, which can cast a cool light.”
Neuman also suggests accessories with a cozy feel. “A beautiful throw on the bed or couch, which might feel heavy in the summer, makes the home inviting in the winter,” she says.
With snow falling outside, it is important to keep your home clean on the inside. When you are having an open house, keep the snow and mud outside. Klingenstein suggests providing booties and posting signs requesting agents and their clients either remove their shoes/boots or wear the booties over them. Klingenstein also recommends that you put down mats for people to wipe their feet carefully before using the booties.
Although the holiday season is filled with cheer, it is important not to go overboard redecorating your home for the holidays if you plan to sell it. Neuman recommends that you make choices that are attractive to as many people as possible. “You don’t want to do something highly personal, which might be very appealing to a small group of people, but not so much to others,” she says. Before you do anything, take a look at magazines and websites like houzz.com to find out what décor is popular with buyers.
Because the kitchen is such an important room in the house, should you focus on updates during the winter months, when you may have more time indoors? Neuman says remodeling a kitchen is always inconvenient because the room is constantly used, but she says if you have time, do it. “There is no reason not to do a minor or major renovation in the winter,” Neuman says. “Since it is such an important room, [the kitchen] is worth updating.”
Neuman suggests that investing in new countertops, painting cabinets, and replacing pulls on doors are worthwhile winter projects. Neuman also recommends that you replace outdated appliances, which can give buyers the impression that a home needs more work than it actually does.
And what about the exterior? Outdoor home improvement projects can be difficult in the colder months. Neuman advises avoiding any kind of exterior work in the winter, including landscaping and masonry. However, she says, if the home needs repainting, then do it. Luckily, professional painters seem to have more time in the winter, so you will likely be able to get someone quickly and for less money. If small paint touchups are all you need, then the project could easily be a DIY.
If you are trying to determine the optimal time to put your house on the market, there are certain months that typically see better business. Klingenstein says the best time to sell a house is February through early June. In her experience, people begin their home searches with time to move in by summer or the start of the school year.
That doesn’t mean you can’t list your home in winter, but because Thanksgiving through January is such a busy time of year for most families, these months are the most difficult for home sales. “People are far more focused on their families and the holidays than house hunting,” Klingenstein says. “The spring market in real estate generally kicks off just after Super Bowl Sunday.”
Although the winter may not be the best time to sell your house, there are benefits to selling in this season. According to Klingenstein, the No. 1 benefit is that there may not be as much competition as in spring and summer months. The winter poses a risk in selling a home because there are fewer buyers, but the slim competition balances out the lower number of potential purchasers. “Even if there aren’t that many buyers out in the winter, if there is a serious buyer looking for a house and yours is on the market, there is a better chance that they will see it and buy it,” Neuman says.
The winter real estate market has potential pitfalls, but if you follow these tips and stage your home accordingly, it will be difficult for a potential serious buyer to resist that cozy, comfortable feeling of your home.
Two real estate experts share tips for keeping the exterior of your home looking good even during the ugly winter months.
1. Fran Klingenstein, a licensed associate real estate broker with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty, says to have a roofer fit your roof with an apparatus that will prevent unattractive and dangerous ice dams from forming.
2. Klingenstein adds, if you have outdoor planters, you might fill them with white birch branches, dried greens, or even artificial greens.
3. Eve Neuman, an associate real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate, says it’s important that all walkways and driveways be clear and safe to walk on. If snow has fallen or if there is ice on the ground, shovel or plow the area and spread ice melt to help prevent falls and make it easier to park a car.
4. Neuman adds that though winter is not the time for flowers, a neutral wreath or sprig for the front door adds a welcoming touch to a home’s exterior.
5. Neuman recommends replacing the doorknob on your front door if it is in poor condition. She also believes the mailbox is important to the exterior of the home and that the front yard can be spruced up with a nice bench.