Winter isn't the ideal time to put your home on the market unless you live in a perpetually sunny clime. Bad weather discourages buyers from venturing out, and it can make a property look dreary.
You can still take some steps to make the home-showing pleasant, however. Let in the light, create a warm ambiance—both literally and figuratively—and consider serving refreshments. Some other tips can help entice buyers to come in out of the cold as well.
Clear a Path
Shovel a path through any snow, even if flakes are still falling. Keep at it periodically if they are still coming down. Snowdrifts can hide visual cues that one must step down to the next walkway, inviting disaster.
Footprints on freshly fallen snow will turn to ice if the temperature is low enough, so sprinkle a layer of sand or salt over them. Remember to open a path from the street to the sidewalk so visitors aren't forced to push through drifts.
Place a rubber mat by the front door or a container to hold wet umbrellas and shoes.
Let in the Light
Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, and push back the drapes on every window unless the view or outdoor scenery is particularly undesirable. Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. You can further brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spotlights on the floor behind furniture.
Make Everything Sparkle
Washing the windows enhances the precious daylight hours. Other must-do chores include:
- Clean out cobwebs.
- Dust the furniture, ceiling fan blades, and light fixtures.
- Bleach dingy grout and, if necessary, re-caulk tubs, showers, and sinks.
- Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
- Clean out the refrigerator.
- Wash or polish floors, and vacuum daily. Vacuum in one direction if you have plush carpeting.
- Empty trash and recycling bins every day.
Above all, you want to eliminate personal clutter. This holds true in any season. Buyers can't always see past it to imagine themselves living happily and cozily in your home.
Consider "Staging" Your Home
This can go a little further than tidying up or even a good, professional cleaning. A home stager can create a flow path that interested buyers are likely to follow, and can downplay or avoid areas you'd rather not shine a spotlight on, such as that back deck that might not be safe to walk on if it's frozen or if it commonly catches cold blasts of wind from across the lake.
Turn Up the Heat
Nudge up the thermostat. You want the temperature inside to be comfortable and to give a buyer more incentive to linger, especially on a cold day, but you don't want to overdo it. About 65 degrees should do it, and maintaining at least this temperature can help protect your pipes in extreme cold weather as well, particularly if you're no longer in residence.
It's better to heat the house a degree or two warmer than usual just before the showing, then set the temperature at normal. This prevents the heat from kicking on when the buyer is present, which can be a good thing because some HVAC systems are loud.
Light it up if you have a fireplace, but be sure to open the damper. Place a screen in front of it, and don't leave it unattended for very long.
Create a Mood
You want your rooms to appear especially warm, cozy, and inviting. A few subtle tricks can go a long way:
- Make your living room romantic by placing two champagne glasses near a champagne bucket on the coffee table.
- Toss afghans or throws across the arms of your sofa.
- Dress your dining room table for a dinner for two.
- Set a breakfast tray on the bed with a coffee cup and saucer, napkin, and reading material.
- Turn your bathroom into a spa by hanging plush robes on the door, placing washcloths and towels in baskets, and arranging a grouping of soaps, lotions, and shampoo.
Evoke a sense of summer. Place vases filled with flowers around the house. Display photographs showcasing flower gardens and lush green lawns—anything but rain or snow.
Turn On the Sound
Don't neglect the aural ambiance. Mute the ringers on telephones and answering machines. Play soft music throughout the house. Light jazz or classical music is always soothing. Nonreligious holiday music is a nice touch if it's the festive season.
Don't turn on a commercial radio station. Stream your tunes from a computer or tablet instead, using iTunes or a service like Spotify, so your music will be continuous.
Ease Up on the Scents
Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don't spray the air or plug-in air fresheners. Don't burn candles, either, or spray perfume in the bedroom.
Put out munchies so prospective buyers aren't disappointed if you're going to be baking cookies or simmering spices in water on the stove as they tour your house. More than one visitor has been lured into a room by a mouthwatering aroma, only to say sadly, "Oh, darn, I thought there were cookies in here!"
You'll also want to avoid strong cooking orders that might not appeal to everyone.
Serve Winter Foods
Hot apple cider and cocoa make great beverage choices. Creamy soups and stews are delicious on a cold day. Serve them in shooter glasses or paper cups to avoid dealing with utensils. Otherwise, stick to finger foods.
Provide Specific Information
Attach printed cards to items and in rooms to provide further information that the buyer might miss or might not know.
Put a card on an antique chandelier that's staying with the house, disclosing its age and other important details. Attach a card to the wall describing the laundry room if you've removed the washer and dryer so visitors know where they are. Attach a card to the railing that cautions buyers to watch their step or their heads if your basement stairs are steep.
Technology Is Your Friend
Finally, plug indoor lamps into a timer to automatically turn on at times when you're showing the house. Consider using motion sensors that light up in the evening when a buyer approaches your doorstep. Program your crock-pot to warm up soup at a designated time, or your oven to bake or reheat bread or cookies.
Don't let those potential buyers go without finding out what they liked and didn't like about their experience if you can do so without it feeling awkward. It can help guide you for next time, even if winter stretches into spring.