If your home will be for sale this winter, it is important to master certain seasonal issues that are less significant or even non-existent at other times of the year. Here are 10 bits of sage advice from RE/MAX agents that can help put a “Sold” sticker on that yard sign.
Let Those Lights Shine: The best way to combat winter’s short and frequently cloudy days is to turn on your house lights. For a showing, every single light in the house must be on, even in the closets and utility/mechanical rooms, according to Marlene Granacki of RE/MAX Exclusive Properties, Chicago.
“Make sure all the bulbs are working, and stock up on all the right bulbs for lamps and fixtures so burned out bulbs can be replaced immediately,” she advises. “Also, it’s a great idea to keep the lights on in the front of the house even if no showings are scheduled. People are always driving past the house, and keeping it lighted makes it look happy and welcoming.”
She also advises opening the drapes and blinds during the day to let in light and let visitors enjoy the view.
Provide Convenient Parking: It’s vital that buyers have a convenient place to park. They won’t want to walk very far in cold weather or be forced to climb over a snow bank to exit their vehicle. Because parking is often more restricted around condominiums, sellers should make sure their agent can pass along parking details to buyers.
Make It Easy to Enter: Winter showings can get off to an awkward start if prospective buyers arrive with snow or salt on their shoes.
“Make it easy for buyers to deal with their shoes when they arrive,” recommends Barbara Hibnick of RE/MAX Showcase, Long Grove, Ill. “Put a festive area rug at the front door for a great first impression and so visitors can wipe their feet. Have slippers or disposable booties available, along with a bench or chair, if there is room for one, where a visitor can sit and easily remove or put on their boots.”
Keep Odors Under Control: Any home tends to be stuffy in winter when windows are opened rarely. That can allow odors to build up, which can be a turn-off to buyers.
“Pet odors can be especially worrisome in winter,” says Mike Mondello of RE/MAX Synergy in Orland Park, Ill. “Use a room fragrance if needed, but nothing too strong, and I recommend that in winter sellers clean more often.” For example, change the cat litter daily, rather than every third or fourth day, or even consider using an air purifier.
If pets are in the house, consider setting the thermostat control so that the furnace fan runs constantly during the day to keep air moving through the house and dissipate odors. Also try to avoid strong cooking odors, especially if a showing is scheduled that day.
Cultivate a Festive Look: Appropriate decorations for Christmas and even St. Valentine’s Day help give a home a cheerful look during the winter months.
“I really believe that holiday decorations can help homes sell, but don’t go to excess,” suggests Starr Zook of RE/MAX On Track in Aledo, Ill. “Keeping small, decorative white lights on trees and bushes pretty much through the winter season is fine, but other decorations should be taken down quickly once the holiday passes.”
Don’t Ignore the Outdoors: Make a good first impression on buyers with a neatly maintained yard. Walks and steps should be kept clear, especially of snow and ice.
Look after Condo Common Areas: If the home you are selling is a condominium, your job as a seller may be relatively easy in winter, with no snow to shovel or yard work to worry about. However, that is only the case if your condominium association does its job well.
If the association isn’t doing it, the homeowner may have to take responsibility for keeping the entrance area and hallways clean. If the association isn’t getting snow shoveled promptly, consider buying some de-icing salt and sprinkling it judiciously around the building entry.
Don’t Roast Buyers: We all tend to prefer a specific temperature for our homes during the winter, but don’t blast buyers with hot air. Keep the temperature at a comfortable 65 degrees for all showings. Remember, buyers are likely to be wearing their coats even as they walk through the house.
Keep Seasonal Clothing under Control: “One major challenge of selling a home during the winter months is the overabundance of cold weather gear that must be stored,” says Mike Mondello. “A buyer doesn’t want to find the mudroom filled with boots or the hall closet overflowing with heavy coats. Shift some winter coats to another closet and put anything not needed in the closet into storage.”
To keep gloves and scarves from piling up in the front hall or mudroom, put a special container for them, such as a decorative chest, where the family typically enters the home.
Encourage Day Time Showings: A home shows to its best advantage during daylight hours, which are relatively scarce in winter.
“Encourage your agent to show your home before 3 p.m. and have it ready to show by 9 a.m. if you want the best results,” Granacki recommends.
Despite the special challenges of marketing a home during winter, there also are benefits, notes Laura Ortoleva, a spokesperson for the RE/MAX Northern Illinois real estate network.
“Buyers out looking at homes in December or January are, as a group, quite serious about buying. Therefore, sellers tend to benefit because each showing is more productive, and fewer showings are needed to sell the property,” she said.
For more information, visit www.illinoisproperty.com  and www.remax.com .
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