List in Winter: Prepare for Flurry of Opportunity

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Inventory levels at the beginning of 2017 are at multiyear lows and sellers are facing little competition.  Homeowners would be wise to list their property now instead of waiting until the traditionally busier spring market. 

But while sellers may benefit from listing their property earlier in the year during the winter months, certain weather-related considerations should be taken.  Working with a real estate agent to create a storm-proof go-to-market plan are key first steps.

Is Now the Time to List?

Many sellers are under the impression that it is best to list during the spring market.  But there are many market statistics to demonstrate that properties still move quickly during the winter.  Given the smaller inventory, sellers are getting more attention from buyers on their property. 

For example, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom $695,000 townhouse in my neighborhood listed by Coldwell Banker was on the market for only five days in early January.  It was competing against only two other similar properties, where in the spring it would be competing against ten or more.

The demand from buyers is still there.  Winter months bring more serious, motivated buyers who are wiling to brave the cold as opposed to more casual window shoppers.

Setting Expectations

While some properties do sell quickly, sellers need to be prepared to cushion their timeline to accommodate for possible weather-related disruptions.  One snowstorm could derail a week’s worth of potential sales activities due to transportation challenges.  I live in Washington, DC, where a mere inch or two of snow on the ground has been known to shut down the entire city.

If a property doesn’t sell with the first two weeks, consider holding off on making any price adjustments if it is clear that the weather is responsible for hampering your sale.  In the winter, price adjustment can wait for three to four weeks, unless the seller feels strong pressure to sell immediately.

Keep it Clean and Safe

When the snow and sleet hit the ground, your home should be safeguarded to handle any potential damage that could befall buyers or the property itself.  Driveways, walkways and stairs should be shoveled and iced to prevent injuries.  As there are fewer hours of daylight, be more cognizant of outdoor lighting.

To avoid water damage on hardwood floors or rugs, potential buyers should politely be asked to remove their boots and shoes.  If you’re selling a condo, boots can be left in the hallway.  If you’re selling a home, designate an area near the front entrance or garage for shoe drop-off.  Plenty of towels should be kept on hand to clean up slush or rock salt.

Finally, clear out all holiday decorations, whether they be for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day.  Remove the Christmas tree and limit it to a simple wreath on the front door, if inclined.  Such decorations can be a turn-off for buyers.

Cold-Proofing Your Home

During winter months, buyers are more conscious of how a home is fortified against the elements.  Are cold drafts coming through windows or doors?  Do windows shake and rattle when it is windy?  Can the roof and gutters support large snowfalls?  Before putting a house on the market, sellers must be sure that all heating and plumbing systems are in perfect condition.

Seasonal Highlights

Be sure to highlight any home features that are a plus during the winter, such as a gas or wood-burning fireplace.  Make the family room look cozy with throw pillows and tasteful blankets.  Highlight the mudroom or the spacious garage that can be used to store shovels, skis or snow blower.

Present the Sunniest Picture

Finally, sellers should have photos available of what their property looks like during warmer, sunnier seasons.  A buyer may be curious to know what lies behind the snow-buried yard and dry, lifeless trees.  If a seller has amazing landscaping with colorful rose bushes, bright pink magnolia blossoms and a rainbow of perennial tulips, images of this beauty should be captured and included in property listings.  During Open Houses, perhaps have a tasteless display of these pictures set up for perusal. 

About the Author

John T. Murray, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Washington, D.C.,  Having grown up in southern New Hampshire, he is able to bring his firsthand experience with snowy weather to markets where many sellers aren’t accustomed to the challenges of winter.