Buying & Selling Houses

Top 4 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Dead of Winter (Advice Approved by Agents!)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Personal Development
32 Articles Written
Smiling realtor greeting her customers outside the house for sale in winter with snow on ground

Sure, the housing market cools with temperature, but that doesn't mean you can't get a competitive offer. A lot of your foot traffic, like any house listing during any season, depends on how well you market your house.

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People are thinking a little differently in the wintertime, though. For example, cold weather seasons have shorter days and inclement weather that sticks around. This drives the desire for cozier homes and well lit rooms, among other things.

Over half of buyers find their homes online initially, so it’s extremely important to aim for achieving the maximum reach. This article will tell you how.

In fact, I just went under contract for a home I listed on Zillow and Facebook Marketplace (without a Realtor of my own). I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, but I've bought and sold about 14 houses in the past year and am familiar with the market and how to sell without an agent. That doesn't mean you can't do it too though.

So, what can you do to sell your home in the dead of winter? Here are a few ideas backed up by top real estate agents around the country.

But first…

Are There Any Benefits to Selling During the Winter?

Buyers are motivated! Anyone shopping during an off-season is likely doing so out of necessity—not curiosity. On top of that, there’s less seller competition, and there’s more opportunity for time off of work with the holidays. (But this is a double-edged sword, as the time of year can also delay closing due to vacation, bank holidays, etc.)

However, when there are fewer houses—should you have an agent—you will likely get more attention from them, as they have fewer transactions going on. Buyers may also be hoping for tax breaks associated with buying homes, so those December listings can be beneficial and bring motivated buyers for these purposes, as well.

And now for the tips!

Row of residential houses in winter with snow

Top 4 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter

1. Get the right pictures.

This advice is true for any season, and it gets customers in the door. It can be more difficult to do this during the wintertime, since snow might hang around for a few weeks. But better real estate pictures on average get you an offer 32 percent faster than homes with just average ones!

It’s best to get pictures of your house, patio, and yard before the weather hits (or well after). A well-lit exterior will draw prospects into your listing, as will a well-lit interior.

I dabble in photography, but anyone who has looked at multiple listings has probably noticed the most appealing houses have the best photos. The interior is bright, minimal in nature, and clean. You’re selling your home, right? Don’t be shy about putting some of your clutter in boxes you then put away. This will do wonders when showing the property—but also when photographing it.

You know that late afternoon/early evening timeframe when your home feels so nicely lit? I love that time of day, and so do many others. If you must take your own pictures (which I do), try to take them during the time of day the lighting makes your house look the nicest, without any direct sunlight coming in.

Open the blinds, take out all the magazines and clutter, and find the right angle to reveal the most of a room (wide angle lenses are helpful for most shots). You can take professional-looking photos yourselves if you want. It just takes a little finesse and a lot more than what I’ve covered just now.

Related: 7 Ways to Land Hot Deals in Cold-Weather Markets This Winter

Give the viewer a good idea of the layout of your house. Have you ever looked at a house online and been unable to figure out its layout? How easy was it for you to imagine yourself there? For me, not very easy.

My listing statistics routinely do better than competitors, and I firmly believe it’s because of my pictures.

2. Stage it well.

If your house has the same layout as the one next door that’s also for sale, how can you get a competitive edge?

Consider the impact staging has on a home for sale. If you don’t, you may potentially want to look at prior listings of homes in your area that look like they were staged.

The house we purchased was staged, and I kept the listing photos just in case. Professional staging companies know how to make prospects imagine themselves in a property, and proper staging can increase your offer up to 5 percent!

Feng shui is known to have a positive impact on home sales, and so does that coziness factor. So…

3. Make it cozy.

This doesn’t just mean stringing lights around and throwing blankets over furniture. Cozy means keep your home free from clutter, perhaps have some warm/more neutral color decorations, and even some candles with a welcoming smell.

Make your home feel like home upon entry when showing it. This is Staging 101 and is a proven strategy to get yourself a higher offer.

The neutral colors not only will photograph better but also will show better. It’s extremely important to capture the coziness factor—particularly when winter season colors are softer and less vibrant.

closeup of woman's lap with pastries on a plate and hot chocolate on the ground next to her wearing holiday slippers and searching on a tablet

It’s difficult to have good curb appeal during the wintertime. You may want to consider buying a small spruce or two and placing them in pots or posting a wreath on your door to give the area some greenery. Lighting is always nice but not applicable for most showings, as many Realtors prefer to show during the day. Adding a bird feeder nearby may also make the home appear more natural, as well, as buyers will notice the local wildlife.

Related: 16 Tips to Ensure Your Property Is Ready for Cold Weather

These things may seem small, but they can give the house an “at home” and more well-loved feeling. This in turn can make buyers more confident in making an offer.

4. Winterize.

Nothing is worse than pulling up to a house that isn’t shoveled or cleared. If the owner doesn’t make an effort to shovel, what else don’t they make the effort to do?

Am I going to find pipes frozen because the home wasn’t winterized? Is the furnace properly cared for? What other major expenses are coming my way due to neglect?

All of these are valid questions after noticing something as small as not clearing the driveway. Get that furnace tuned up, check your chimney, drain your sprinklers. Take care of all those things winter can damage to set buyers up for success in the spring.

How do you think you’d treat a potential client at work who had $300,000 to $500,000 to invest? You’re asking buyers to make a significant investment. Make sure you treat them like it.

Recognize Winter Sales Aren’t Bad

Yes, inventory is historically lower in the wintertime. Business perhaps slows down, as there are fewer buyers in the market. But less inventory means less competition for you.

Inventory is only down an estimated 25 percent in the cold-weather season, so it’s not exactly a dead market. If you provide a listing appealing to those searching in the wintertime, the buyers in the market will turn their attention to your home.

Back to my listing that just went under contract: I had three offers in 48 hours of my listing last week. Yes, it’s in a competitive market, but when that same market was even more competitive and I was learning to do listings myself, I wasn’t getting that sort of attention.

A competitive listing gets you competitive offers, simple as that.

Do you have any other tips to offer sellers who are trying to unload property in the winter?

Share in a comment below!

A longtime writer and consumer of all things related to the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement, Chris Prit went from working 50+ hours a week to less than 20 thanks to her real est...
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    Bryan Scott Real Estate Broker from Castle Rock, CO
    Replied 8 months ago
    Thanks for the article. Items 1, 2 and 3 are vitally important at any time of year for sure. Item one, in particular, cannot be understated or underappreciated. I can't tell you how many listings I see that have one or two pictures, or that have many, but were all taken with a point-and-shoot, are dimly lit, show all the clutter, are not wide-angle, have light-blown-out windows, do not show the flow of the floor plan well, etc. Most of the time, these listings are FSBO, not offered by licensed agents, but I have seen a number of listings that are offered by agents, just not very good ones. It's very frustrating for buyers, who all begin their search online and may not give you (as seller) the time of day, unless you give them a reason to look twice. Lots of great, well-lit, wide-angle, staged, pictures are a must. So is a floor plan with dimensions, as well as a 360 or 3D tour. Absent the latter, a well-done, walk-through video is key in really showing your property online. Your best buyer may be in another state. Item 4 definitely applies to a winter-time listing, unless the property is located in the sunbelt. Even if the seller is represented by an agent, I have seen listings where the pictures show a total blanket of snow on sidewalks, driveways, porches and decks. And, when you show up to view the property, nothing has been shoveled! Who does that?! Your ideal buyer may be the one you just turned away, because they can't get into the house! I know you did not list an item 5, but here it is: If it needs to be fixed, fix it. If it needs to be painted, paint it. If it needs to be cleaned, clean it! All before you list your property for sale. Buyers will walk through your home and notice the bigger things on the first walk-through. If/when they walk through it a 2nd time (with family members, or with a "helpful friend"), they will catch most things related to deferred maintenance, or other items that should have been checked off the "honey-do list" before you listed, or began advertising your home for sale. Your point about fewer sellers during the winter is a good one. The other problem is that the buyer's pool is equally small - sunbelt location or not - because families don't usually like to move when school is in session. So, what you are left, as you pointed out, is buyers who (for whatever reason). Long story, longer - you can sell your own home without an agent if you do all the things a good agent would do pre- and post-listing. Selling a home is like a good cookie recipe - follow the recipe and it works pretty well. Leave ingredients out and it doesn't.
    Jamie DeRossett Investor, Contractor, Appraiser for Real Estate Appraiser from Lexington, Kentucky
    Replied 8 months ago
    My wife and are successful real esate professionals she is a broker and I am a appraiser and have bought and sold alot of homes. She is a listing specialist and her listings are typical on market for less than a week and sale for top dollar because of her process and it works winter, summer, or any season. 1. The first thing you should always do before you stage the house is prepare the house for staging. This usually means decluttering and we suggest getting a pod delivered to the driveway and anything that is absolutely not essential take to the pod and decluter the entire home. At this time any obvious defects in the property would not to be addressed to have the greatest sucess. 2. Stage it well I like that. My wife is the best she has a great eye for design and you can see her work at Kim DeRossett on facebook. Just go look at the page and you will see not all staging is equal. She has been doing it for 10 years and has high quality furnishings for up to 10 houses at a time. This is a art and if you want to succeed go to my wifes page and copy what see it doing. 3. Price it well. My wife has almost 20 years real estate sales experience and I have almost 25 years appraising experience and we have been investing together for 15 years and we agree there are really only 2 things that matter when selling a property the way it looks and the price it is barring there are no major deffered maintanence houses will always sell based on how it looks overall and the price it is. We have found that properties priced at market value have multipul offers in our market and many times sell for more than market value, but overpriced properties become stale and hard to sale. 4. Use a experienced real estate professional. This is most always the biggest financial desicion of people lives and unless you are a real estate guru of somekind the help of a local expert is always a plus and you should always use a real estate professional to buy it does not cost you anything. 5. Little things you can do: 1. make sure the house is clean for all showings I usually wipe them down frequently. 2. use an air freshner that is not overwhelming but refreshing. 3. make sure the exterior is well maintained for whatever season it is (curb appeal is a big deal). 4. Make sure the home is properly heated or cooled for the season. 6. Be motivated and do not be a obstacle to showing the home. If you want to sell you have to show it and if you hire a professional they take care of all that and if not you have to make sure any time anyone wants to see it you show it and it is the same if you have an agent do not be a obstacle to showing the house.
    Sam Naderi
    Replied 8 months ago
    I really appreciate the knowledge from you guys. I’m a fairly new agent and am so hungry for knowledge from people like yourselves. Thanks Sam N Long Island NY
    Derrick Anderson from Katy, Texas
    Replied 8 months ago
    Do these things every time you sell a house, no matter the season.
    Chris P. Rental Property Investor from East Coast
    Replied 8 months ago
    Definitely do most of these things at any point, but I would argue that winterizing isn't necessary in the summertime, and getting proper photos is particularly difficult in the winter due to limited daylight. Due to weather conditions, curb appeal and the like are more difficult to accomplish in the winter, hence the tips in the article.
    John Murray from Portland, Oregon
    Replied 8 months ago
    When you present a superior product, the time of year does not matter. I just went pending a week ago on a $450K home and will make about $110K. It went pending the first day of listing. Low inventory, priced right and immaculate condition those homes will sell quickly. Get greedy, and that home will sit there and sit there.