The spring real estate market is starting earlier and earlier every year. That means winter is quickly becoming a much more favourable time to list your home.
It might be tempting to wait until the calendar turns to March or April, but there are a lot of advantages to listing now.
1. Buyers Are Motivated
Anyone looking at houses during the winter is most likely pre-approved for a mortgage (so they know what houses they can afford) and extremely motivated to buy.
This could be due to any number of reasons, including job location, time off, or changing life circumstances.
But chances are if they come to see your home, they’re not “just looking”, like some people do during the spring and summer open houses.
You’ll also have the advantage of attracting buyers who aren’t necessarily restricted by school districts or neighbourhood. That’s because buyers with school-age kids will do their house hunting and moving in the spring and summer.
2. Lower Inventory = Less Competition
Fewer houses and a high volume of buyers means that your house may be a hot commodity, particularly if it’s in a great location near desirable amenities.
Since many people opt to wait for the snow to melt, your house will have even less competition: depending on how many people become interested in your home, you may even have multiple offers!
3. You Are More Likely to Get a Better Offer
Any of the experienced real estate agents at Paul Rushforth will tell you that your home won’t sell if it’s not priced correctly.
Even when it is priced correctly, chances are there will still be some back-and-forth negotiations.
As I mentioned, buyers have fewer options in the winter. If they fall in love with your house, they’ll be more likely to make higher offers in order to make sure they get it.
Remember: I can’t guarantee your home will sell for the same price your neighbour’s house sold for – the right price might be higher or lower, depending on its size and condition. We have a free tool that will give you an idea of what your home is worth >
I mentioned above that if your house is in a certain area or had certain success factors, it would most likely sell faster.
The more of these ‘pros’ you have, the more buyers will think seriously about – and make offers on – your house.
1. Central Location
2. An Open-Concept Main Floor
Unsurprisingly, an amazing ground floor with an open layout is still a desirable feature.
Properties like this are much more likely to get snapped up any time of the year. The key thing is you also need good floors and a kitchen in decent shape. Throw in cathedral ceilings and you’ve got something that will sell quickly even during the bleakest days of January.
Tip: If your floors and kitchen aren’t in the best shape, it’s going to be a harder sell. Any of our experienced agents can give you advice and recommendations for possible repairs or upgrades (after we’ve seen the house). We’ll let you know if the ROI will be worth it.
3. Smaller Single-Family Homes
While I love that the condo market has been taking off after a multi-year slump, many buyers – especially ones with growing families – are after the single-family home.
Trends lately have been towards smaller single-family homes that require less upkeep and offer updated features and convenience. If this sounds like your home, I highly recommend that you list now.
4. High-Quality Interior and Exterior Photos
This is basically Paul’s mantra: you need great photos to sell your house.
I agree 100%. Our job is to market your house: that’s why we have a professional real estate photographer for all of our listings.
We do detailed interior and exterior shots so potential buyers are blown away when they see your listing online – after all, that’s where most buyers start their hunt.
Buyers want to see the condition of the roof, walkways, the driveway, and landscaping. That’s hard to visualize when everything is covered in snow. If you can, contact us or try and get a pro photographer to take those pictures in August or September with a serious camera – not a smartphone.
Tip: To avoid making it look like your house has been on the market forever, have most of the photos set in winter, and add your summer photos at the end of the collection.
5. You Can List After the Holidays
Naturally, there tends to be a lull in interested buyers around Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years’ because everyone is so busy.
By mid-January, people start to get serious cabin fever, motivating them to find their dream home.
Getting Your Home Ready to Sell
Before your home actually goes on the market, there are a few things you should to do make sure it’s ready for buyers.
1. Make Sure Your Home is Sealed Up
No one wants to buy a home that costs a fortune to heat and cool.
Look around doors and windows for gaps and drafts, and check your weatherstripping. If needed, make repair arrangements.
The end result is a home that is solid, draft-free, and keeps its warm, cozy feeling.
2. Landscape – Even in Winter
You hear the word landscape, and you think about mowing the lawn and planting flowers. But landscaping is important during the winter too.
- Trim any tree branches away from the house and electrical wire to avoid complications from ice and high winds later in the season.
- Shovel and salt your driveway and walkways regularly to keep them safe and tidy.
- If there’s no snow, make sure any old leaves or yard debris has been raked up and cleared away.
- Your gardens should be cleared of dead plants, and any shrubs should be covered with protective weather tarps.
It may not seem like much, but in my experience, it’s the little things that help make a great first impression.
Tip: In the winter, many of us put up holiday lights and decorations, and some of us leave them up all winter. If you’re selling your house in winter and want some holiday cheer, Paul recommends keeping it simple. We want buyers to have an accurate idea of how the house will look all year round – this can become more difficult if it’s heavily decorated.
3. Check the Roof, Gutters, and Drains
Perhaps nothing is more ominous to a homeowner than seeing a water stain spreading across a wall or ceiling.
That can only mean one thing – something is leaking.
Selling your home in the winter means dealing with winter thaws too. If you even suspect a leak, especially if it’s your roof, get it repaired as soon as possible. Few things can kill a sale faster than roof or plumbing problems.
You should also make sure all gutters and drains are clear of blockages. When the snow melts, your home will be safe for both you and potential buyers.
4. Service Your Furnace
Having your furnace serviced will be a vote of confidence for the buyer – if they’re moving in winter, they don’t want to be worried about an old furnace they’ll have to replace before they unpack their first box.
You’ll be able to provide them with a clean bill of furnace health, and warm, cozy atmosphere suited for a winter sale.
Now that you’ve taken care of your sale prep, there are some things you’ll need to do on a regular basis in order to keep your home winter-sale ready.
5. Keep Your Entryway Clear
In Ottawa, it’s inevitable that we’re going to get a lot of snow over the course of the winter.
You’ll need to have a shovel and road salt on hand to keep a path clear for buyers. You don’t want their first impression of your home to be dampened by a slip or fall.
I’d also recommend some low-maintenance decorations. A couple of containers with pine boughs on either side of your front door will make your home look charming and inviting.
Inside the front door, have clean mats and boot trays ready to go.
6. Keep the Heat On
Speaking of Ottawa winters: you’re going to want to use your programmable thermostat liberally during the selling process.
If you have people scheduled to visit when you aren’t home, program the heat to turn up about 15 – 20 minutes before they arrive. It’ll feel great for them after the cold outside air, and you won’t have to worry about spending too much extra on heat.
7. Use Indoor Lights to Your Advantage
It gets dark pretty early in the winter. Lights will become your best friend when it comes to selling your home in the winter.
Use lights in your home to make the space look bright and welcoming. You don’t want buyers straining their eyes and thinking that your home is naturally a dark place.
If you can, use timers. That way the interior lights will come on automatically right before buyers arrive. You don’t have to be there, but your home has an instantly warm, welcoming atmosphere that lends itself to a positive first impression. Plus the agent won’t have to fumble in the dark for the right light switch!
Tip: At places like Best Buy and Costco, you can get affordable wifi-enabled plugs that allow you to control lamps and set timers directly from your phone whether your in the room or at the office.
8. Have Information About Your Home On Hand
Does your home get a ton of sunlight in the kitchen in the mornings? How recently was the flooring put in? When were the windows installed?
These are types of questions buyers might have, and you’ll want to make sure the real estate agent has the answers.
Try to look at your home through the eyes of a buyer – what questions would you ask? Our agents can help you with this process, and when it comes time for a showing, we’ll be able to answer everything that comes our way.
9. Keep Your Home Clean and Staged
Proper staging and a good cleaning never go out of season. That’s why it’s part of our recommended selling process. We work with some great people who will help us make your home shine inside and out.
Take Advantage of the Winter Real Estate Market
If you’re ready to take advantage of the winter real estate market, get in touch with me about selling your Ottawa home this winter, snow and all.
Mike is a giver. He won the United Way Community Builder Award in 2011, and is the founder of the annual CHEO BBQ. He does such a good job that it has raised over $550,000 for the Children’s Hospital so far and plans to reach the million dollar mark soon!