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What are the challenges of showing property in the winter off-season?

During the busy spring and summer months, buyers tend to be more motivated and willing to spend more money to find the perfect home. In the off-season, cold weather alone can discourage people from getting out and checking out local open house listings. And fewer potential buyers means fewer bids and lower sales volume overall. 

It’s not just the cold weather that deters buyers. With daylight hours in shorter supply, people have less time during the day to look at properties. Holiday travel and expenses can also make it more difficult for potential buyers to afford the expense of buying and moving. On top of everything else, the threat of snow, ice, rain, and wind looms over the whole process, resulting in cancellations and less motivated buyers.

Winter weather can also lower a home’s perceived curb appeal. It is easier to market a property in the spring and summer when trees are green, the grass is fresh, and flowers are blooming. When the landscaping is dormant, property owners are left resorting to other strategies – such as adding tasteful, exterior lighting or displaying some cold-weather plants – to improve the curb appeal to attract bids.

What upgrades make a home more appealing?

To attract the attention of buyers in the off-season, it is essential to set the home up for a successful sale. Since there are likely to be fewer buyers in most markets during this time of the year, consider making some upgrades before listing the property to encourage potential buyers to attend open houses and make bids. Many of these actions can also help offset the lower market values common when selling homes in the winter. Consider the following upgrades:

  • Ensure all areas of the home, especially the entryway, bathrooms, and kitchen, are clean and fresh smelling as buyers are more likely to notice small issues in the winter.
  • Apply a fresh coat of neutral color paint to every room. Freshly painted rooms draw more attention and encourage buyers to view the property as one that is well cared for, and the cost of painting is one of the best returns on investment available. 
  • Upgrade flooring by replacing dingy or worn carpet, installing new laminate flooring or tile, and polishing natural wood floors to ensure the property appears fresh and clean.
  • Check that the heat is working properly ahead of colder weather so that the home is toasty warm during viewings.
  • Enlist an HVAC company to check units and ducts to make sure the systems are operating correctly and efficiently; check and replace air filters as needed.
  • Replace light bulbs and make sure that each room is brightly lit to enhance appearance and show off that fresh coat of paint when natural daylight is not as prevalent.
  • Trim trees, remove dead and unwanted plants, and clean out flower boxes. Simple steps like edging the grass from walkways and pruning back shrubs give a home a well-kept appearance and help potential buyers visualize the potential beauty of the landscaping when spring arrives. 
  • Check and replace weatherstripping and door seals to help a home feel more move-in ready.

What home maintenance is most important in the winter months?

Making a checklist of maintenance steps to take in the winter is a great way to keep your property in good shape, which is even more important if you are planning to rent or sell it during the off-season. It is easier and less expensive to winterize a home when the maintenance is done regularly. 

Regions that experience ice and snow in the winter present unique challenges to sellers. Keeping walkways free of snow and ice not only makes the property more attractive but also prevents accidents and injuries from happening. 

Be sure to properly heat the home ahead of showing it to potential buyers so they can see that the heating system works correctly. It is best to perform heater or fireplace maintenance on a regular schedule to prevent high repair bills and to ensure that heat is working in all rooms. In the winter, buyers tend to notice when any rooms are not heated. One step for making sure that heating systems are working efficiently is to reseal leaky windows and doors. The cost to install new seals is low and the difference in cold drafts and noise makes the improvement well worth the cost and effort.

What else can I do to make a home more appealing to potential buyers in the off-season?

Sometimes routine maintenance and common upgrades just aren’t enough. In that case, you may need to double-down on staging the property properly and making sure that it is as move-in ready as possible to draw the most interest from buyers. You can go the extra mile by updating kitchen surfaces, changing water faucets, and making sure that fixtures like sinks and tubs are spotless and clean to make a property especially inviting. 

As undesirable as it may seem on the surface, one effective way to attract more interest and help to motivate on-the-fence buyers to pull the trigger is to price the home below current trends in the area. Many buyers understand that prices are often higher in the spring and summer and look for bargains during the off-season. There are also a number of incentives and options that sellers can use to help drive interest in a property, such as negotiable terms that help set one property above another. If you go this route, it is important to capture unique terms in the Property Sale Agreement.

You can always consult a real estate agent for additional tips and opportunities that may be custom-tailored to the property you are trying to sell in the off-season. It is a good idea to meet with a few agents in your area to discuss what options are available to increase the visibility of your property. Keep track of all the details in a Home Sale Worksheet to minimize the stress of putting your house on the market.

How can I make a rental home more appealing in the offseason?

Many of the same tips that apply to sellers in the off-season are even more important for property managers looking to rent in the winter. Often, the individuals who are looking to rent at this time of the year are looking to get out of long-term leases before having to renew around the first of the year. Therefore, incentives such as short-term leasing, flexible leasing terms, and discounts on things like security and pet deposits can help to push a property to the top of the list for potential renters. Be sure to include all agreed-upon terms in the Lease Agreement.

Some regions can benefit from the increased appeal of short-term vacation rentals to keep money coming in even in the winter. Furnishing a unit and offering it for daily, weekly, or monthly rentals in the winter may help to compensate for the decreased demand for rental properties that tends to occur in the winter.

Never forget that a person’s first impression of a property is a lasting one. This is just as true for rental properties as it is for properties that are for sale. Simple steps like trimming and pruning landscaping in the winter, clearing walkways so they are clean and inviting help warm and brighten a property even when the weather is cold and dreary. 

If the sale or lease of your home involves a move on your part, consider using a Moving Checklist to help you get organized. If you have more questions about selling or renting your property in the off-season, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice. If you need tax help, Rocket Lawyer can now match you with a tax pro for affordable and convenient tax filing services. Don't do your taxes™ – Let us do them for you.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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