Make the Most of Wintertime Home Buying and Selling


Finding snow in next week’s forecast, are you beginning to contemplate pulling the plug on your home buying or selling efforts until spring? While it’s true that summer is the most popular time to buy and sell homes, wintertime home sales offer unique advantages to both buyers and sellers. Less competition on both sides allows both buyers and sellers to have more attention from real estate agents and loan officers. Serious sellers won’t be lost in a sea of choices. Serious buyers can walk into a house knowing that it isn’t likely to receive multiple offers. However, there are also certain challenges that come along with buying and selling a home during this time of year. The following tips will help you make the most of your wintertime efforts to buy or sell a home.

Tips for Home Buyers

Think before you shop. Create and stick to a modest budget for your holiday expenditures, from gifts to parties to travel expenses and everything in between. Racking up debt during the holidays will make it more difficult for you to qualify for the mortgages and other loans you will need in order to make the purchase.

Set reasonable expectations for costs. While it’s true that some sellers urgently need to sell their homes if they’re on the market during this time of year so may accept a lower offer than they hypothetically would during the summer, there are very many reasons why people opt to have their house up for sale during the winter. Do not go into the process expecting a bargain. What’s more, if you make a basement-level-low offer on a house, the seller might be insulted and unwilling to work with you to negotiate a reasonable offer.

Anticipate delays. It always makes good sense to factor in unexpected delays in the home buying/selling process and in most things in life. But the multiple holidays falling at the end of the year, inclement weather closing offices and making it more difficult to complete necessary tasks, and your own personal busyness during the holiday rush make delays more probable during this time of year. Early on in the process, consult with your real estate agent, loan officer, and other professionals involved in order to form a realistic timeline and expectations for communication over holidays.

Take advantage of the winter’s challenges to spot potential problems in the property. Be keen to notice issues in roofs, gutters, walkways outside and leaks, drafty windows and doors, poor insulation, and furnace/boiler issues inside.

Prepare yourself to encounter winter realities, but don’t let a few inches of snow on a gray day turn you away from an ideal house. Ask to see if photos of the house taken during the warm months, when flowers are in bloom and trees are stocked with leaves. When you are on the property, consciously imagine yourself there year-round.

Tips for Home Sellers

Make sure all pathways are shoveled, swept, free of ice, and illuminated. Make sure a doormat is out and ready for visitors to use. Winter is a reality in the Northwoods! Showcase how well your house rises to the occasion by being livable, comfortable, and safe all year.

Perfect your online listing. Consider hiring a professional photographer and including a 3-D home tour in your listing. Because of limited daylight hours and challenging weather conditions, potential buyers will more heavily rely on your online listing during the winter.

Take advantage of every possible opportunity to let the light in. Open the blinds, curtains, drapes, and shutters. Place strategic spotlights on the floor behind furniture to light dark corners in windowless rooms. Take a good look at the quality of light your lightbulbs provide and swap with soft white bulbs that create a bright but cozy ambiance, as necessary.

Clean it so it shines! Any traces of dirt or clutter will absorb light and make your space seem dark and drab. So wash the windows and mirrors. Clear the cobwebs. Dust all the surfaces you see. Bleach the grout and recaulk your tubs and showers if they need it. Wash or polish the floors so they gleam, and vacuum your carpet daily. Take out the garbage and recycling every day, too. Even clean the less obvious places, like under the sink, where your prospective buyers will be checking for leaks. You don’t want your prospective buyers’ first impression of your home to be the gutters overflowing with September’s fallen leaves, so clean out those gutters.

Capitalize on coziness. Your visitors will stay longer if you provide them with a comfortable haven from the cold outside temperatures. Turn up the heat a degree or two. If it won’t be left unattended, light a fire in the fireplace. Drape the arms of your sofas with a couple of tasteful, neutral throw blankets and pillows. Create a relaxed and inviting mood. Inspect the seals of your windows and doors and feel for any drafts. Make sure every reasonable effort is taken prior to putting your house on the market to address any insulation and furnace issues.

Use scents wisely. In general, go easy on the scents—especially spray air fresheners, artificial perfumes, and even candles. Many people have sensitivities and allergies to fragrances, and so it’s not worth the risk of putting off a potential buyer. However, the scents of spices simmering in a pot of water on the stovetop or freshly baked cookies are safe bets. They go over even better if you also leave treats for your visitors to enjoy. They’re sure to linger longer with warm cookies, apple cider, or hot cocoa in hand.

When it comes to holiday decorations, less is more. There’s for the home to be completely devoid of signs of the holidays, but keep them understated—like a few wrapped (empty) gift boxes clustered under a small tree that is strung with white lights and standing in a corner, or a prim wreath on the door.

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