Some homes buy better in winter than others

Having been licensed in real estate in the State of Alaska since 1994, I’ve learned a lot about a lot of different aspects of real estate. Most of it is intuitive and rather predictable but some of it is not at all what you’d expect. Just do a cursory Google search and you’ll see that – as these attached links show – the real estate market in the winter is not what you might have believed.

First of all, it is a common myth that selling in winter is a bad idea. That is just not true. However, I think most real estate professionals would agree that selling during the heavy holiday season is an uphill battle. But once we round the corner and head into January, it is actually a great time to have your house on the market to sell or to go looking for a home to buy. Not all homes, at all price ranges, or in all locations – and that’s what this article is really about – but mostly.

Fifteen or twenty days into November is often when having your house on the market takes on a whole new “drudge” factor. It’s a chore. Because it’s darker, it’s colder, everyone is still working and going to school, traffic is more congested and slower, and Thanksgiving is coming at us full blast. Just getting the house shown requires double the effort because everything takes longer. Coordinating kids and pets and husbands and wives and jobs and school and after school sports and activities and socials, etc. It’s an affliction! And that’s even if the house is in wonderful condition, in a great location and is priced just right. December is worse and is followed by all the end of the year stuff. It’s all still doable and is fine if you know what you’re getting into, but if you don’t have to be on or in the market at that time, then don’t. Wait until after the first of the year.

Now, if something is just not right, out of whack, a little off, then your house could sit on the market through to spring and beyond and fetch a lower than market value because people may think something is wrong with it. So, yes, in fact, winter can be the best time to sell for many houses, but not if it’s overpriced, or in disrepair, or in a difficult location. And that feeds the myth. And this is what needs to be addressed. Is your home one that will show and sell better than most during the middle and end of winter months? How can you tell?

I find that it is often a good idea to give people a lot more information than they really need before nudging them to take an action. So you might consider reading some or all of these links first. They’re articles online from every angle and from over the last several years. At least one is very recent. I have also found that by adding my own experiences to the mix allows sellers and buyers to know that I can bring – as can many real estate professionals – a great deal of valuable expertise to the table in case they want to or need to sell in the winter.

As always, selling real estate is like selling anything else. You must get it ready to sell. It must hit the market and be presented in the best light possible. The impression buyers get is all important. And so the usual recommendations always apply – it must be well lit and inviting, the driveways should be plowed and walkways shoveled of snow, the inside should be significantly uncluttered so people can see themselves living there rather than making mental notes about your stuff, it must be meticulously clean and smell and feel like it is.

Allow me to add that this year seems to have brought a LOT of winter with it. More snow in more places across the country not only highlight the traditional winter requirements, but this year snow on the roof has sprung into people’s awareness. You might review YouTube videos about removing that snow from your roof or consult with a local expert. Not all roof snow is created equal. Some is dry and some is wet. The wetter and deeper the snow, the heavier it is and the greater the chance for ice damming or roof failure. It is just a precaution, but it is a real possibility this winter that may need to be addressed.

Significant attention to details is important. For example, windows should be clean and clear, smudges on kitchen appliances, cabinets, and light switches need to be removed, dust needs to be removed from heat registers and off of light fixtures, everything must shine. You might want to provide very inexpensive one size fits all slippers that people can shuffle around your house in. There must be enough room or an obvious system set up for people to removed their boots and not track snow around, the home must be warm and comfortable rather than a common energy saving 60 degrees while you’re at work.

Your marketing should include plenty of information – especially of items that cannot be known when snow and ice and windblown leaves cover the yard. Inspection reports and repairs completed are always a good idea. In fact, detailed records of maintenance over the years is always a good thing – it conveys care and respect and value. Well and septic information, a comprehensive property disclosure, a separate bill of sale showing which appliances stay and which do not – all excellent information to make available to those who see the inside of the house.

Open houses are not always the way to go. In fact, these days, for safety reasons, open houses are slowly being dropped from marketing and advertising strategies. “Agent Opens” on the other hand, are a great idea if done right, with plenty of advanced notice and enticements. Sellers need to heed the advice and recommendations of their real estate professional because they will be up to date on the more promising strategies that will keep you, your house and your things safe while they sift through the potentials and identify the right buyer.

What you don’t always get told is if your house should not be on the market during the winter months. Why would that be? Because without the cover of tree leaves and lush landscaping the drive into your neighborhood might appear less appealing. Because you don’t have a garage or a carport or a storage shed to keep things out of the weather and are in full view. Because you don’t have enough room to remove boots for a family to walk through your home. Because of peeling paint or heaving decking from frozen ground, or any number of things. Again, anything that is of material importance must be revealed on a property disclosure form, but that doesn’t mean you must show it in the worst light possible.

The main reasons everyone who believes selling your house in the winter is a good idea is that the inventory of homes to choose from in the winter is a lot lower. So a good home in a decent location and in decent condition will have less competition from other homes a potential buyer can choose from. The number of buyers will drop too, but those that are looking in the winter are usually much more serious and less wasters of everyone’s time. In the springtime, more buyers will be in the market but so will the number of homes available so people will feel the need to see as many homes as possible before actually making an offer on one of them. Plus, if the overall inventory is lower even after accounting for the season, then a good home will be claimed much quicker. With the lower volume of sales in the winter, more attention can and will be paid to getting your sale or purchase completed by all involved in that transaction – because they will be less busy too during the winter.

Overall, features that enhance a house’s appeal in the winter might be:

1) A garage to drive into and unload groceries, kids, pets, etc.
2) A storage shed with mowers, edgers, rakes, etc. kept inside.
3) A generous entryway, possibly an arctic entry with enough room to remove boots without everyone having to step around melted snow and boots.
4) Plenty of square footage in the house to “get away” from each other.
5) A generous, clean, fenced yard to let pets and/or kids out.
6) No icicles hanging from the roof – this indicates heat loss and possible ice damming.
7) A nice neighborhood without too many vehicles on the street, or parked on yards.
8) A creative, imaginative and inviting floor plan.
9) And of course, an overall energy, a resonance, a Feng Shui if you will.

These are all just ideas to consider but I believe you’ll find a few takeaways in this article. I’ve had them “work” in my client’s favor over the years and I believe they can and will work for you.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I am also open to any additional input and ideas you might want to share with me for a follow up article.