Selling a House During The Cold Winter Months

The winter season is upon us, meaning shorter, busier days. As the cold weather sets in and holiday travel and festivities approach, home-buying traffic decreases substantially—often up to 50% of what it is during other times of the year. For you, as a real estate agent, this means new considerations when selling homes.

To share some tips and tricks for making sales during the winter months, Acuity teamed up with RE/MAX Universal Realty’s Trish Valleskey, Associate, and Gary Beaudoin, Broker/Owner.

Based out of Sheboygan Falls, Trish and Gary serve the greater Sheboygan area and have over 30 years of combined experience in the real estate industry. They focus on both residential and commercial properties, including lakefront properties, house flippers, and new construction.

1. The holiday season is a busy time of year. How do you keep buyers engaged in the market amidst the craziness of the season?

Keeping the lines of communication open is key. Using a customer management system that pushes listings out to potential buyers in real time is an excellent way to keep buyers engaged. This type of system allows you to build a profile for your clients based on certain parameters, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms. When a new home is listed, the listing will be automatically emailed to clients who match the home’s parameters. Any changes in the listing will be automatically emailed out to the appropriate clients as well.

Also, know who to target. Serious buyers are the ones who will be out shopping even in the cold winter months. By targeting these people, you can still see a steady stream of winter sales.

2. Winter can be dreary and snowy in many regions. What can you do to boost curb appeal and make the home feel inviting and cozy during this time?

The biggest thing is to keep everything crisp—ask the seller to keep their property inviting, festive, and well shoveled. Encourage the sellers to set a holiday mood with decorations inside and outside, music playing, a candle or two, and warm cookies. Because it is darker in the winter, request all lights be turned on for a showing and, if there is a fireplace, turn it on for a warm, cozy feel.

3. Do you market differently during the winter?

Keep everything fresh and current with the season. Capture the weather changes in your property photos, from fall to 5 feet of snow to receding snow. Also, remember the things a potential buyer does not see during the winter months, such as flower beds in full bloom or an in-season patio. Ask the seller for photos of these features to post online and set out in the home for private showings and open houses.

Remember that everyone is busy during the winter season, so responding in a timely fashion is critical. If you don’t get back to people in four to six hours, you will easily lose buyers. Fortunately, with today’s technology, responding in a timely fashion is easier through texting, apps, and email.

4. Do you advise your sellers to do anything special in the winter?

In a climate like ours, winter is always a concern. Due to cold temperatures, it is critical to keep the heat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain structural integrity. Not doing so can cause cracks in drywall and pipes to burst, both of which can lead to major damage and losses in time and money. If a property is not going to be heated or is vacant, ensure that it is winterized. When it’s cold outside, you need to keep tabs on the house as well. Walk through it at least two times per week, depending on temperatures, and address any issues quickly to mitigate damage.

Also, advise sellers to have their furnace checked prior to the season, so they are not waiting in line, and make sure carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly.

If your seller is out of state, provide a list of resources, such as home inspectors, storage units, lawn care, movers, snow maintenance, and home cleaners, to make it easier for them to maintain the house while vacant.

5. How do you keep the house clean and free of hazards during sloppy and icy weather?

Outside, make sure the property is accessible and safe to enter with shoveled walkways, driveways, and entryways. If the house has a deck or patio, advise the seller to shovel these areas as well, so they are on full display to potential buyers. Just in case the seller has not fully cleared the walkways, keep a shovel and salt in your car.

Inside, ask people to remove their wet, muddy shoes to keep the home clean. Bring along a carpet remnant for people to place their shoes on. For those who prefer not to remove shoes, bring along booties as an alternative.

6. What other tips do you have for helping your clients make top dollar during winter?

Just like any other time of year, presentation is key when selling homes. Create space by keeping rooms decluttered and moving or removing furniture as necessary. Clean homes show better than unclean ones, so bring cleaning supplies in case a last-minute cleanup is needed. Good smells, such as warm cookies and candles, along with soft music can make a home feel more welcoming.

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