1. Keep snow and ice at bay.
The top tip from agents: If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it’s been maintained. If you’re away frequently or live in an area that’s subject to bad weather, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salt or shovel the driveway and sidewalks.
If you’re showing during the winter, think “warm, cozy and homey,” says Ken Libby, owner of Stowe Realty in Stowe, Vt., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.
Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. “Sellers like to turn the temperature down because of heat costs,” says David Ledebuhr, president and owner of Musselman Realty in East Lansing, Mich., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. “But buyers who come in and aren’t comfortable won’t stay long.”
If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house a little ambience, Libby says.
With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.
Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.
3. Take advantage of natural light.
“Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours,” Ledebuhr says. At this time of year, “if you show after work, you’re totally in the dark.”
Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.
4. Get the windows washed.
“Buyers act on the first impression,” Ledebuhr says. Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter, that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.
5. Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background. “It’s soothing,” says Libby, who finds that soft classical music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. “I think people tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.”
6. Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into “the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home,” Phipps says.
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