10 tips for selling your home in winter

Selling your home in winter can be a major hassle.

You have to make the house presentable just when it tends to be most cluttered with boots, coats and the like. You need to find somewhere to go while the agent escorts prospective buyers through every room. You wind up considering offers and negotiating a price when all you really want to do is curl up with Netflix and a glass of wine.

Despite the hassles, however, putting your house on the market when there are fewer homes for sale and before the spring rush kicks in can be an advantage, according to Myra McKeen of Milestone Real Estate.

“You may have fewer actual showings, but more serious, qualified and motivated prospects,” she says. Plus, having “fewer homes on the market for buyers to choose from may result in a higher sale price.”

Adds Nancy O’Dea of Exceptional Properties/Royal LePage Performance Realty, “I do believe that a home that is priced well will sell in all markets.” Her one proviso: homes that have the least number of negatives will, of course, sell first.

With that mantra of most desirable-first sold in mind, here are what some Ottawa realtors say about selling your home in winter.

No.1: Nice artificial greenery with some reds in pots on the front porch adds a hint of invitation. Make sure the garage is organized and that people can see that a car can be parked indoors.
Tracy Arnett, Tracy Arnett Realty

No. 2: Have a large (and clean) mat at the front entrance big enough for at least three people. That way, they don’t have to teeter on one foot or mess up your floors while they’re removing boots. A chair at the entrance is a good idea in case someone needs to sit to do that. And make sure the front drive and walk are shoveled immaculately.
Eric Manherz, Royal LePage Performance Realty

Make sure blinds and curtains are open and all the lights on when potential buyers visit.

No. 3: Check that all drapes and blinds are fully open to take advantage of any natural light or sunshine. As well, turn on all your lights regardless of the time to help give your home a nice glow. Add warmth with colourful accessories such as pillows, blankets, area rugs and towels.
Brent Conley, Royal LePage Team Realty

No. 4: Make sure buyers feel cosy in your home. Ensure the heat is being run even if the house is vacant: cold floors make for bad impressions. If you have a gas fireplace, have it lit during viewings to add to the ambience. Like pools in the summer, cold months make these cosy heat sources important.
Lisa Boutilier, Paul Rushforth Real Estate

No. 5: Staging is the rule today: neutral colours and fresh flowers set a spring-like mood. Also, make certain all light fixtures are clean and all bulbs are operating.
Nancy O’Dea, Exceptional Properties/Royal LePage Performance Realty

No. 6: Closets and front halls are often more cluttered with winter paraphernalia at this time of year, so keep those areas tidy. Remember that it’s harder for building inspectors to do a full outdoor inspection of the roof, so make sure the roof is as clear of snow as possible. Despite that, there are always a lot of buyers out looking.
Kent Browne, Royal LePage Team Realty

No. 7: The air may be stale, but don’t overdo it with air fresheners as this could make potential buyers think you are trying to hide something. Instead, open a window for a bit before the viewing or bake cookies an hour or so before (just make sure not to burn them!).
Darlene McGinnis, Royal LePage Team Realty

Selling your house in winter

Summer shots of your property will boost buyers’ interest in your home.

No. 8: Summer shots of your gorgeous backyard, garden, pool, trees and flowers are welcome. Display them on the same table as your feature sheets and any other information about the house, or provide them to the agent if a house binder is being prepared.
Lyse Freeborn, Your Choice Realty Corp.

No. 9: Take pictures of the exterior of your property just after a fluffy snowfall on a bright day for use in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and flyers. Also, ensure snow and ice are cleared for safe and easy access.
Myra McKeen, Milestone Real Estate

No. 10: For rural properties, have your own septic and well inspections done in advance. The fall is a great time to service and pump a septic tank if necessary. A nice, clean bill of health on these items can give a buyer the assurance to follow through with a sale or not. Inspections can be very difficult if not impossible to properly do when the ground is frozen.
Doug Herbert, Royal LePage Team Realty

More tips from our realtors
  • If you have pets, make sure litter boxes are fresh and the backyard is free of doggy landmines.
  • Clear snow off the back deck even if it’s never used in winter. It will show better and reassure potential buyers that you look after the little things.
  • If the basement is finished and cooler, invest in a nice electric fireplace to warm it up and keep it cosy.
  • Avoid plug-in or spray scent dispensers: one realtor had to rush a client to hospital after showing a house full of plug-ins.
  • For your photos, avoid people and pets in the backyard photos – scenery only!

Originally published Feb. 21, 2018

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