How To Sell Your Home In The Winter

The spring real estate market starts earlier and earlier every year. That means the winter season is quickly becoming a much more favourable time to list your home.

It’s hard to predict the Ottawa real estate market. It might be tempting to wait until the calendar turns to March or April, but there are a lot of advantages to listing and selling your home in the winter.

Advantages Of Selling Your Home In The Winter

1. Buyers Are Motivated

Anyone looking at houses during the winter months 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 the window shoppers we see during the spring and summer open houses.

You’ll also have the advantage of attracting serious buyers who aren’t necessarily restricted by school districts or neighbourhoods in Ottawa. 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

Ottawa’s real estate market had a strong year, but we’ve also had lower inventory than usual. This means that there are fewer properties on the market.

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, winter listings have less competition: depending on how many people become interested in your home, you may even have multiple offers or a bidding war!

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, prospective buyers have fewer options in the winter months. If they fall in love with your house, they’ll be more likely to make higher offers to ensure 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 >

Steps To Selling Your Home In The Winter

I mentioned above that if your house is in a certain area or has certain features a buyer is looking for, it would most likely sell faster.

The more of these ‘pros’ you have, the more winter buyers will think seriously about – and make offers on – your house.

1. Location, Location, Location

Houses in good condition close to downtown – or downtown areas in Kanata, Stittsville and Orléans – are always in demand. But, as prices rise, we’re noticing many potential buyers are house hunting in the outskirts of Ottawa. As a result, homes in the country are becoming very desirable.

2. An Open-Concept Main Floor

Unsurprisingly, an amazing ground floor with an open layout is still a desirable selling 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 a home that’ll 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 home repairs or renovations (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, 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 Holiday Season

Naturally, there tends to be a lull in interested buyers around holidays like 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 it actually goes on the market, I’ve got some advice and tips for selling your home to make sure it’s ready for buyers.

No matter the market or time of year, a good way to get your home ready to sell is to learn whether you should hire a real estate agent to help.

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. Then, if needed, make repair arrangements.

The end result is a home that is solid, draft-free home with a warm, cozy feeling.

2. Landscape – Even in Winter

You hear the word landscape, and think about mowing the lawn, planting flowers or doing other chores reserved for the warmer months. But curb appeal is important during the winter too.

You should:

  • 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.
  • Clear your gardens of dead plants, and cover any shrubs 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 during cold months 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. This way, 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 a warm and inviting atmosphere that’s best 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 to keep your home winter-sale ready.

5. Keep Your Entryway Clear

In Ottawa,  we inevitably 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. For example, 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 trays for winter boots 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 an open house or visits scheduled 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. So lights will become your best friend when it comes to selling your home in the winter.

As the natural light fades, use light sources 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 and program the interior lights to come on automatically right before buyers arrive. That way, without being there, you’ll instantly give your home a 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 you’re 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? Is your home energy efficient? 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 (not selling your home vacant) and good cleaning from professionals 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.

10. Work With An Experienced Real Estate Agent

Selling your home in the winter can be tricky, so don’t risk trying to do it all yourself. Instead, work with an agent that has a deep understanding of the ever-changing Ottawa housing market. My colleagues and I at Paul Rushforth Real Estate can provide personalized tips for selling and bring prospective home buyers to the table for you.

Businesses That Can Help You Get Ready For Winter Selling

The pool: Have you been putting off closing it? Now’s the time because it’s no fun plunging your hands into icy-cold water to finish off this task. Don’t want to do it yourself? Then try Laughlin Pool Service, 613-832-3893.

The garden: Yes, you can leave your garden beds as they are for winter, and the birds may appreciate it, but some plants benefit from being properly tucked in. Our winters are harsh, particularly with the freeze-thaw cycles, and providing extra care to susceptible perennials, or pruning back dead and diseased branches can go a long way toward success with next year’s growth. If you want to leave some seed-loaded stems for winter foragers, that’s fine, but it’s a good idea to take care of the rest. Need some help? Try Julia Fleming at Gaia’s Gardens, 613-725-4275.

The house: There are some fall maintenance chores that it might be getting late to do, but a few you should still tackle include putting on storm windows, laying berber down on your steps for extra grip, making sure pathways and driveways are clear for easy snow removal, and checking for spots where water and moisture can get in your home – then repairing them. If some of these tasks are beyond your ability, Wally McMillan at Done Right Handyman Services can help. (613-406-9997;

The vacation: Planning to escape the snow at all this winter? If so, it’s important to make sure your home is looked after in your absence, both for peace of mind and to fulfill your insurance obligations. House Sitting Ottawa (613-422 3462) can do the job for you.

The snow: Looking for a service to clear your laneway for you when it snows? Try Kodiak Snow Blowing, which has been around for many years. They’ll give you a free estimate on what their service will cost for the season. But be sure to have your shovels handy for clearing steps and pathways.

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.

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