Boston's winter weather has a reputation for chilling its real estate market. But is it really true that home sales go cold when the days get shorter?
Snow, icy temperatures and shorter days can pose a challenge for sellers, particularly for owners of single-family homes. "During the winter, single-family homes can seem grayer without yard visibility, flowers and the kinds of vibrant life we expect to see with those properties," says Ellen Grubert of the Ellen, Janis and Josh Real Estate Team and Re/Max Destiny.
But you can still make the most of the snowy season and secure an above-asking price offer on your house. According to some of Boston's top real estate agents as identified by OpenHouse Realty -- a real estate technology company (and a U.S. News partner) -- a few simple housekeeping tasks and some planning can make a big difference.
Take advantage of the misconception.
According to Frank Celeste of Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, the notion that it's next to impossible to sell your home in winter is overblown. "The market in Boston is very fluid, even during the winter. The same basic tenets of real estate still apply. If the location, condition and price of a property align, people will come no matter what the weather."
Winter weather often means people have more free time, time they'd typically spend outdoors during the warmer months. This means they have more time to consider and act on a potential home purchase.
"During the winter, people have more time on their hands. This gives people an excuse to actually sit down and think through properties they've seen. Winter homebuyers tend to be very committed to the search, and will move quickly," says Celeste, who notes that roughly 45 percent of his annual property sales happen between November and April.
Take photos early.
"If people are even remotely considering the possibility of selling their homes during the winter, it's always worthwhile to schedule a pre-emptive professional photo shoot of the property while the weather is nice and the foliage is full," Celeste says. Natural lighting during the winter months can be much harsher without the natural shade of trees, so a property can seem cold and barren, he adds.
If you can't take pictures ahead of time, Celeste suggests locating some old photos of your house that most accurately represent its features.
Mind the heat.
When hosting an open house, you want it warm -- but don't go overboard. "People tend to overdo the heat for a showing to combat the colder weather," Celeste says. "But prospective buyers who are coming in with coats and hats and scarves will quickly get too warm and uncomfortable." Celeste suggests keeping the temperature between 68 and 70 degrees.
Turning up the heat also will increase the amount of dust in your home. Having your system professionally cleaned will keep dust to a minimum and reduce the risk of an uncomfortable experience for potential buyers who are more susceptible to airborne dust.
Show your house in the best light possible.
Plan to schedule showings in the middle of the day so that you can take advantage of the natural light. "Since it gets darker so much earlier in the winter, it's important to make sure there is as much natural light as possible throughout the house," Grubert says. The friendly, airy feeling that natural light provides is much more welcoming to buyers.
But when that isn't a possibility, Grubert recommends making sure each light bulb works so no corner seems dim. "Even in late afternoons, take extra care to ensure the house is well-lit."
Don't let snow get the better of you.
Anyone who lives in or around Boston knows that snow and ice are unavoidable. But no buyer wants to risk life and limb just getting to you. According to Celeste and Grubert, ensuring that pathways are clear of snow and ice is one of the best things you can do to make the showing a positive experience for potential buyers.
Snow can also have a negative impact on your home's interior. "It's significantly more challenging to keep a house clean during the winter," Grubert says. "Plan ahead of time whether or not you will permit prospective buyers to keep their shoes on, purchase carpet runners and make it easy for buyers to reach you."
Do your homework.
Even when icicles hang from your rain gutters, the most important rule in home selling still applies: Do your homework to price right. "You can't always price as if your house was on the market during spring because there are fewer comparable properties and fewer buyers," Grubert says.
Grubert notes that with potentially limited buying power in the year ahead due to rising interest rates, it's a good time to be a seller, even during the winter months.
Looking for a real estate agent in Boston? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.
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