Conventional real estate wisdom suggests that the time to sell is during the spring or early summer. Apparently, this assumes buyers are just like Goldilocks: too hot or too cold, and they won't even bother. In reality, homes are bought and sold in every month throughout the year. Due to sudden relocation or other unforeseen situations, some don't have the option of waiting to buy or sell their home. If you're faced with the need to sell, or just think you might get a better deal, here are some tips to make the most out of the off-season market.
Know the market
Not all cities are created equal when it comes to the housing market. Areas with a more stable, warm climate like Florida and California will experience much less of a slump during the winter months, according to Realtor.com. If you're listing during the winter, there are some common attributes of home buyers searching at this time. They tend to be under pressure, possibly from having recently sold their own home late, as The Morning Call notes. Since it's not the ideal time to search, winter buyers are more likely to be under pressure to find a home quickly, possibly as a result of a major life event such as relocation, a layoff or family emergency. Spring buyers tend to be more picky, and will wait until they find the perfect home and perform a home inspection before closing, since the high volume of options allows them to be choosy.
Winter buyers are also often bargain hunters. Relying on lower demand pushing prices down, many buyers try getting a great deal and search when it's cold outside. Realty.com notes that property investors often do their shopping in the fall and winter as well. As a seller, you should know that the winter will bring less competition, but also most likely fewer potential customers. All but the most desperate of buyers will not want to spend time house hunting during the holidays, and budgets are already strained during this time of year.
Keeping up curb appeal
If you're in a region that gets plenty of snow, the fluffy white stuff won't always do you a favor while you try to sell your house. When the weather starts getting frightful, travel is difficult, walking around a property becomes a chore and your home simply won't look as good. Luckily, you can one-up nature when she starts making things difficult.
Realtors who spoke to The Morning Call about selling a home in the winter said that, when done right, some properties can really sparkle with a touch of frost. To distract from brown lawns and bare trees, consider seasonal decorations like pumpkins or Christmas wreaths to add a touch of color and personality. One agent even recommended lighting the fireplace and baking a pie to add to the cozy ambiance. While some ornaments can add the right amount of holiday cheer, don't go overboard and add unnecessary clutter, either inside or outside. Christmas lights can make a house shine (literally), but elaborate arrangements may turn buyers away. To cover all the bases, it might be a good idea to have exterior shots of the home and lawn during the spring, just so buyers can get a feel for all seasons.
It's also important to keep driveways and sidewalks clear of snow as much as possible while the house is on the market. A.J. Smith at AOL Real Estate emphasizes the importance of removing ice as well - you wouldn't want a buyer hurting themselves during a tour. Be sure to leave the lights on later in the afternoon and early evening. Since the sun sets earlier in the winter, you'll want to make sure the front of your house is well-lit for any prospective buyers that might be driving by.
The reduced competition in the market means winter sales have a better chance of standing out through presentation or marketing. Smith suggests adding a video to an online listing to attract and engage interested parties more easily. A custom website can also be a great asset for reeling in buyers.
At the end of the day, the more effort you put into your listing, the more interest and higher price you will get. Selling in the winter may be more challenging in some ways, but most of the most common real estate mantras still apply.