Selling a House During Winter Holidays: Tips, Pros & Cons
How to sell a home in the winter
Winter is not the peak real estate season, but winter home sales are becoming more common, as home sales increase across all seasons. According to Zillow research, 23 percent fewer homes are sold in winter than in spring, and homes listed for sale in the winter stay on the market about five days longer compared to the yearly average time on the market, from listing to closing.
While it can be a challenge to sell during the holiday season, with some helpful strategies, expert tips, and creative marketing, you can find a great buyer for your home any time of year — even in the winter.
The truth about selling a house during the holidays
When we talk about winter, we’re talking about roughly December 1 to February 28, which includes all the major winter holidays, plus Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. This period of time is marked by not-so-great weather (in most of the country), holiday travel, and time spent with family.
What it’s like to sell in the winter
Over the past few years, winter home sales have increased and days on the market have decreased, but not necessarily because more people are buying in the winter. The more plausible explanation is that the housing market has been increasing in general, so there are more buyers for every season of the year.
And, when compared to the year as a whole, homes sold during the winter months do stay on the market a bit longer — a median of 92 days nationwide in the winter of 2018-2019, compared to a median of 76 days when looking across the full year.
Benefits of selling a house in the winter
- Motivated buyers: While more buyers are looking in the spring and summer months, the buyers actively shopping for a new home in the winter are likely very motivated — often moving because of a job relocation, change in financial situation, or change in family needs.
- Less seller competition: With fewer homes on the market in winter, there’s less competition from other sellers, and a limited inventory for buyers.
- More time off work: People tend to take time off work during the winter, and three-day weekends like MLK Day and Presidents Day can be popular home shopping days. As a seller, it also means more options for showings and open houses!
- More attention from agents: When agents have fewer listings, sellers receive more of their undivided attention. The same goes for buyers’ agents — they have more time to arrange showings and negotiate deals.
- Tax benefits: Buyers looking to purchase homes before the end of the year for tax purposes find December listings ideal.
Challenges of selling a house in winter
- Lowball offers: Buyers may think winter home sellers are desperate to offload homes, so be prepared to field lower offers than you might during other times of the year.
- Curb appeal is limited: In the dark, dreary winter months, it’s a challenge to show off a home’s exterior, especially landscaping.
- Financing can be delayed: Due to vacation schedules and bank holidays, it can take longer for buyers to get financing finalized during this season.
- Less likely to get multiple offers: In the busy spring and summer season, sellers often find themselves in multiple-offer situations, where they’re able to pit multiple buyers against each other to increase the final selling price. This is less likely to happen in a slower selling season.
- Some home flaws are more apparent: If a home is drafty, dark, or leaky, these flaws tend to show themselves more dramatically during the cold winter months.
Holiday selling tips
Spruce up the online listing
When the weather’s bad, more house hunting happens online. Make sure the home is being shown in its best light by adding a 3D home tour and making sure the listing description is engaging and complete.
Invest in professional photography
Quality real estate photos are everything, and making a home’s interior seem light and bright during the winter takes a professional. And, when selecting a photo of a home’s exterior, consider one of the tried-and-true tricks to selling a house: Use a picture from the previous spring or summer.
Hire the right agent
When interviewing agents, make sure to ask about their experience with selling in the winter or in slow markets. Find out how they plan to market the home when there is a limited pool of buyers.
Price to sell
A well-priced home can sell quickly no matter the season. Using recently sold comparables from the neighborhood, have your agent help you price the home to attract the biggest pool of potential buyers.
Staging tips for selling a home during the holidays
Keep decorations simple
There’s something about the holiday season that makes a house feel like home. But when selling, less is more, so avoid excessive Christmas decorations. Aim for tasteful holiday decorations like a small tree in one corner, a few wrapped gifts underneath (consider wrapping empty boxes in case of package thieves!), a nice wreath on the front door, or an understated pine cone centerpiece.
Baking cookies before an open house is a classic real estate technique, but it works especially well when selling at Christmas. Invite potential buyers in with the scent, and keep them exploring the home with a tasty treat.
Make it cozy
Winter is the perfect time to emphasize cozy features. Turn the fireplace on, decorate with warm colors, and add a few throw blankets around the home.
Add some (winter) curb appeal
When selling property in winter, curb appeal takes on a different look. Shovel snow, offer umbrellas, illuminate pathways, and make sure there’s a doormat for visitors to wipe their wet feet.
Turn the lights on
Daylight hours are limited during winter months, so maximize light whenever possible. Install higher wattage light bulbs and turn on additional lights, both to make a home’s interior look its best, and to create a warm glow from the street.
Turn the heat on
Drafts are less noticeable with the heat on, so make sure that potential buyers are welcomed inside with warmth. If it’s been a while since examining the HVAC system, now is the time. Affordable fixes like adding insulation, replacing weather stripping, and servicing the furnace can go a long way.
Clean the gutters
Overflowing or broken gutters can be one of the first (negative) things buyers notice. Once fall ends, be sure to clear out all those leftover leaves.