Buying & Selling

Navigating the Winter Real Estate Market: Pros, Cons, and Tips for Success

Selling a home is a major life decision, and choosing the right time to put your property on the market can significantly impact the outcome of your sale. While many homeowners prefer the spring and summer months for selling, there are unique advantages and challenges to selling a home in winter. 

According to the  National Association of REALTORS®, the slowest period for home sales each year is from November through February, measuring only about 68% of what is seen during the real estate’s peak busy season (May through August). However, sales activity picks up significantly in February and March – by about 34% – right after folks recover from all the holiday chaos. That can make the early part of 2024 a good time to think about listing your home.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of selling a home during the colder months and look at some tips that can help you navigate the winter real estate market successfully.

The Pros of Selling a Home in Winter

There are actually some clear benefits to putting your home up for sale before the warm weather returns. Consider these:

  • Less Competition: Winter brings a reduced inventory of available homes. When there are fewer options available, it is easier for your property to stand out and grab the attention of serious buyers.
  • Motivated Buyers: Speaking of motivated buyers, winter tends to weed out the “looky-loos” that sometimes make it a habit of going to showings without any intention to buy. Whether it’s due to relocation needs, year-end tax considerations or a desire to settle into a new home promptly, winter buyers are known for their decisiveness and willingness to negotiate deals.
  • Quicker Closings: Smart buyers typically get mortgage pre-approvals before they start making offers on homes, but there can still be delays getting to closing when the banks are buried in applications. Since there are fewer buyers in winter, that can make it easier to get a fast closing date.

The Cons of Selling a Home in Winter

Every season does have its challenges. Realistically, the issues you face when you’re selling a home in the winter include:

  • Harsh Weather Conditions: Snow, ice and cold temperatures can make showcasing your property a logistical challenge. The weather may deter some folks from venturing out, limiting your pool of potential buyers.
  • Aesthetic Challenges: The winter landscape is often less visually appealing. Your home’s curb appeal may suffer a little with dormant gardens, bare trees and all the slush and snow that goes with the season.
  • Limited Daylight Hours: With shorter days, you’ve got a lot less natural light. Not only does that make it harder to showcase your home the way you might want, but it can also limit the times that prospective buyers are willing to come to showings.

6 Tips for Successfully Selling a Home in Winter

So, what can you do to capitalize on the good parts of a winter home sale and mitigate the problems? We’ve got some suggestions:

  1. Use Strategic Pricing: Appropriate pricing from the start is crucial to attracting serious buyers. The NAR also says that home prices tend to rise by about 3% in February and March, so you want to work closely with your realtor to make sure that you maximize your potential profits without overpricing.
  2. Pay Attention to Winter Maintenance: A well-maintained property instills confidence in potential buyers, and the little details count for a lot. Keep your driveway and sidewalks free of ice and snow and use salt or another de-icing agent for safety. The last thing you want is for a potential buyer to slip and fall when they visit.
  3. Be Flexible With Showings: Most buyers want to see a property in the daylight, so go out of your way to accommodate them by being flexible with your showing times. That may be a little harder to work into your schedule, but the payoff can be worth it.
  4. Create an Inviting Atmosphere: When it’s cold and damp outside, that’s the perfect opportunity to show potential buyers just how warm and cozy your home can be. Turn up the thermostat, light some candles and get the fireplace going (when possible). There’s nothing wrong with baking a fresh batch of cookies or bread before a showing, either.
  5. Highlight the Energy Efficiency: Emphasize the energy-efficient features of your home, such as insulated windows and a well-maintained heating system. This can help address a buyer’s concerns about both the heating and cooling costs and their future comfort.
  6. Don’t Ignore Curb Appeal: You can’t ignore the power of your home’s curb appeal on a potential buyer, even in the winter. Make sure that the gutters are clear of leaves and icicles. Consider adding a few potted evergreens for interest by your door in place of flowers. Make sure that you’ve cleaned up the landscape of any dead leaves or debris from the street. 

You may also want to adjust your marketing strategy a bit, in conjunction with your realtor’s guidance. That may mean using photos of your home from various seasons in your listing or highlighting the aspects of your home that appeal to people who are currently spending a lot of their time indoors. Highlight things like a finished game room in the basement, smart thermostats, hot tubs and other things that portray your home as a true winter retreat.

What’s the Final Verdict on a Winter Home Sale?

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with selling a house in the winter – it just requires a slightly different approach than you might take in the summer. Once you understand the pros and cons of the situation, you can leverage that knowledge to make buyers see your home as their perfect future haven from the cold.