Selling a home during the cold winter months can be challenging, but it's not impossible.
"You can absolutely sell your home in the winter, and there is a certain charm in the look of a nice house covered in a fresh blanket of snow," says Lee Cunningham, licensed associate broker in the Huntington office of Daniel Gale Sotheby'sInternational Realty. About 17 percent of her sales take place from January to March, she says.
But since you do have snow and rough weather to contend with, you need to make an effort to make your house as slip-proof, appealing and cozy looking as possible when showing it to potential buyers.
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Here are five tips on how to do this in the most cost-effective way possible during the winter's deep freeze:
1. KEEP SAFETY IN MIND
Make sure the walkways are shoveled so that they are not icy and dangerous, advises Neil Garfinkel, partner in the law firm of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP, which has offices in Jericho and Manhattan.
To avoid having anyone slip in your home and to keep from tracking snow into the house, ask potential buyers to remove their boots, Cunningham says. Invest in some disposable slippers that people can wear so their feet stay warm and dry, suggests Marcia Layton Turner, co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Staging Your Home to Sell" (Alpha Books, $18.95).
You don't want to ruin the look of nice hardwood floors with dingy runners, Cunningham says, but consider placing an attractive rug near the front door that fits in with the rest of the decor.
Put away all shovels and other snow removal items. "Even though everyone knows that you have to shovel, you want to give the impression that the home is easy to maintain," Turner says. "It's more of a psychological thing, not reminding people of the shoveling they need to do when it snows."
2. MAKE THE INSIDE (AND OUTSIDE) HOMEY
Properly staging a home is important in creating that warm feeling you want buyers to associate with the house - especially when snow covers the ground, Turner says.
Light a fire in the fireplace. Bake cookies or brownies to give the house a nice smell. Offer some to buyers as they enter. If you don't want to make this kind of effort, light a delicately scented candle.
"Bake something delicious and set the table so buyers can envision family days in the kitchen," says Susan Tillem, licensed sales associate in the Great Neck office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
Place fresh flowers in the bedrooms and bathrooms. "This adds life to a home when there are no flowers outside," Turner says.
Strategically place quilts, throws and pillows in the living room or family room to give these rooms some added texture and warmth. Play soft jazz or classical music. "This can be very soothing on a cold winter day and may encourage buyers to want to linger in your house," says John Kobets, licensed salesman in the Glen Head office of Daniel Gale.
3. KEEP THE HOME WARM AND DRY
Turn up the heat throughout the house to a comfortable temperature, not too hot or cold, Kobets says. Briefly open some windows to allow fresh air into the home, says Marion Mancuso, licensed sales associate in the Smithtown office of Coldwell Banker.
4. USE LIGHTING
With the driveway shoveled and ice removed, keep the home bright both outside and in, especially in the evening, Kobets adds. Also, if the home has big picture windows, pull back curtains or drapes so buyers can look out. And, make sure the windows are clean, Turner says.
5. PHOTOS IN BLOOM
Since buyers won't be able to admire a lush garden or a beautiful pool during the winter, show them an album of photographs taken during the spring and summer - when everything is in full bloom and the pool looks sparkling, Cunningham says.
Four homes that make the most of winter
Location: 4 Susan Ct.
Asking price: $649,000
Style of home: Split-level
Features: Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, 1 1/2-car garage, partially finished basement, family room, home office, fireplace, on a cul-de-sac
Listing agent: John Kobets, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-674-2000
Location: 35 Grady Lane
Asking price: $284,849
Style of home: Colonial
Features: Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, one-car garage, eat-in kitchen, family room, above-ground pool, formal dining room
Listing agents: Toni Dimola and Valerie Tetrault, RE/MAX Platinum, 631-736-0660
Location: 19 Hampshire Rd.
Asking price: $925,000
Style of home: Expanded ranch
Features: Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, full finished basement, home office, family room, fireplace, two-car garage
Listing agent: Susan Tillem, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 516-482-8400
Location: 9 Harbor Hill Rd.
Asking price: $1.475 million
Style of home: Colonial
Features: Five bedrooms, 31/2 bathrooms, in-ground gunite pool, patio, full finished basement, two fireplaces, alarm system, family room, front porch
Listing agent: Lee Cunningham, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 631-427-6600
TIPS FOR BUYERS
1. If the home has a pool, ask for a copy of the pool service contract. Contact the service provider to find out what kind of shape the pool is in and what kind of maintenance is necessary. Some sellers may even include a free service contract in the deal for you.
2. If the roof is covered in snow, try to come back another time to see what the roof looks like without snow. Bring your inspector or engineer with you.
3. With your inspector, examine the inside walls and ceilings of the home to make sure there are no leaks - which you may see after snow starts to melt.
4. See the home when it is not covered in snow to make sure there are no hidden damages that a blanket of snow may have concealed.