May and June are prime time for sellers. Long, warm days are ideal for buyers scheduling showings around a busy work schedule, and the great weather makes it easy for sellers to show off their home's best side. However, that doesn't mean selling in fall or winter is a bad idea. In fact, there are some major perks to listing your home in the off-season.
Pros and Cons of Selling in the Off-Season
A lot of homebuyers hit the market in spring, but so do a lot of homes. That means buyers can afford to be picky — if your home doesn't stand up to the competition, it won't attract the higher offers that make on-season sales so attractive.
Exceptional homes can trigger bidding wars in the on-season, but spring and summer sellers shouldn't count on big gains. Homes listed in May only net $2,500 more on average, Zillow reports. If you have to make home improvements in order to attract buyers, those gains could easily disappear.
With less competition in winter, that new coat of paint is less of a priority. That’s not to say your house needn't be in good repair — move-in ready homes are still a top priority for buyers. However, buyers are less concerned with minor details when inventory is tight and the holidays are rapidly approaching. Less competition for houses also means there's less competition for realtors, contractors, and lenders, so you get through the sales process more quickly. For many sellers, the low-stress nature of winter sales is well worth a marginally lower sales price.
Preparing Your Home for Winter Sales
It's harder to achieve great curb appeal and staging during the off-season. Dark skies, dormant landscaping, and snowy weather make homes look drab in fall and winter, but sellers can overcome the winter blahs with a few smart tips.
Patchy lawns become obvious in fall, and letting leaves sit on the lawn only makes it worse. Hire a lawn care company to reseed bare patches and keep leaves raked throughout the fall. Before hiring anyone, do some research on a consumer awareness site like Consumers Advocate to find a company you can count on — this isn't the time to be chasing down your lawn guy. You should also prune trees, shrubs, and other perennial plants now that branches are bare.
In winter, outdoor safety is a top priority. Keep walkways clear of snow and ice, and install exterior lighting so visitors aren't stumbling in the dark. Exterior lighting also improves your winter curb appeal.
If your home needs an extra pop of color to draw in buyers, paint the front door, hang a seasonal wreath, and buy potted evergreens for the front porch. Inlanta Mortgage recommends juniper, blue holly, barberry, or boxwood.
Holiday décor is the biggest staging question winter sellers must contend with. You don't need to forgo holiday cheer while your home is on the market, but you should go easy on decorations. A tastefully-decorated tree and a festive mantle invokes the spirit of the season without overwhelming buyers.
As far as cleanliness and organization, a clean and clutter-free home is no less important in the off-season. Pay special attention to your home's windows, as smudges and dirt are easy to spot after dark.
Winter open houses mean lots of muddy shoes heading into your home, so have booties available to protect the floors. Turn up the thermostat so your home feels like a cozy refuge from the outdoors, light the fireplace if you have one, and serve cocoa or cider for a special seasonal touch.
Whether you’re selling out of necessity or to take advantage of the slower pace of the winter real estate market, listing your home in fall or winter can be a great choice. However, it’s not without its challenges. If you have more questions about selling your home in the off-season, ask your local real estate agent for their best tips.
Image via Burst
Article by Suzie Wilson