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In the summer, agents might throw open the curtains, put out some bottles of water, and let the home show itself, for the most part. However, if you’re listing and showing a home to buyers during the cold winter months — especially if the weather is bleak — you may need to go a little further to make it appealing.
According to a new report released by Zillow, sellers who are looking to buy a home at the same time may be more motivated to list this time of year. These homeowners reason that they can enjoy less competition on both the buy- and sell-side of their transaction by listing during a less active part of the market season.
The report also emphasizes the increased effectiveness of online curb appeal through virtual tours and professional photo and video content. Zillow found that listings on its platform with 3D virtual home tours garnered 45 percent more views and 57 percent more saves than other home listings.
Here are a few strategies to employ for a wintertime listing, especially if it’s bitterly cold or there’s snow on the ground where you are.
Focus on outdoor spaces and accessibility
You’re probably in a hurry to get inside to the warmth of that home, but you need to make sure the outdoor spaces are still safe and ready to show. Scrape all of the walkways so that clients have a secure path to the home’s interior. Check the deck, patio, and other outdoor spaces to make sure they are clean and clear as well.
Remember, in most cases, clients will be trying to visualize these spaces as they’ll look at other times of the year. If available, help them do so with photos, video or additional marketing materials.
Pay extra attention to high-traffic areas
If you’re a listing agent, try to ensure that each entrance has mats, scrapers, towels, booties, and a tray or rack for shoes so that potential buyers aren’t tracking slush and salt onto the hardwood floors or dirtying the carpet.
If you’re a buyer’s agent, bring your own supplies with you, and make sure you honor the owner’s requests regarding shoes or no shoes in the home.
Maximize interior lighting
Early sunsets and cloudy skies may mean that the home looks darker and duller during the winter than it does at other times of the year.
If you’re preparing it for a showing, make sure you open all of the curtains and blinds, turn on overhead lights and table lamps, and add as much light as possible. If the home tends to look dark no matter what you do, you may want to bring over some additional lighting or exchange the bulbs for some with higher wattage to brighten things up.
Fight the musty-dusties
When the house has been closed up for the winter — especially if it’s currently unoccupied — it can start to smell stale and look a little tired. Ensure it’s kept as clean as possible, and bring along a duster to run across surfaces before each showing.
Consider throwing open doors and windows, even if only for a few minutes, before potential buyers arrive. A little fresh air can go a long way in boosting the home’s air quality.
Go easy on seasonal decor
If your sellers have an over-the-top decorating scheme for the holiday season, they may want to wait and put their home on the market after New Year’s. Otherwise, recommend a more restrained, elegant seasonal look — one that will allow potential buyers to see past the glitter and tinsel to the home’s best selling points.
Settle on a comfortable temperature
Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes cozy. Maybe you run the air conditioning all year long to keep it cool enough inside, and perhaps you’re constantly shivering even with the thermostat set at a balmy 76 degrees.
Whatever the case, consider a temperature somewhere around 70 degrees to achieve a happy medium that will make most clients comfortable.
Use cozy textures to warm up the home
Forgo linens and cotton in favor of warmer textures — knit, velvet, suede, shearling and leather. Add heavier draperies (kept open, so the light comes in), rugs, and throw blankets draped across chairs and sofas. These textures will not only warm up the home, but they’ll also add visual interest and a sense of luxury.
Appeal to the 5 senses
Don’t simply rely on the house’s appearance to impress buyers. Think about how to appeal to the other senses as well, including:
- Smell: Bake cookies or put a pan of water with some cinnamon sticks and a splash of vanilla in the oven for a delicious scent wafting throughout the home.
- Touch: Choose textured fabrics, if possible, and provide a comfortable place to sit while potential buyers discuss the home’s best features.
- Taste: Provide warm cocoa or apple cider to drink with a tray of cookies, petit fours or mini-tarts.
- Sound: Have soothing music playing throughout the home. Consider retro big-band holiday standards or relaxing spa music at a low yet discernable volume.
Add something alive to the home
There’s a reason they call it the dead of winter. Counteract the dreariness with living plants, a big bowl of fruit, or other items that call to mind abundance and growth. Natural elements like river rocks or decorative objects made of wood can add additional warmth and make the home feel less stuffy and sterile.
There’s no reason you can’t make your latest listing, or one on your buyer’s wishlist, an appealing option at any time of year. Treat potential buyers like honored guests, and add touches that will make them feel welcome and warm while they tour the home.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.