Selling a House in Winter: Tips, Pros & Cons

How to sell a home in the winter

Today’s housing market remains the hottest on record so it’s no surprise that homes are selling quickly even when it’s cold out.

The winter months have traditionally been the slowest season for home sales, especially in colder climates. But the dynamics driving the market — namely a shortage of for-sale inventory to meet buyer demand — means that homes are still likely to attract buyers during the holidays.

Selling during the holidays can be a challenge, but with some helpful strategies, expert tips, and creative marketing, you can find a buyer for your home any time of year.

Who’s buying in the winter?

All kinds of buyers shop in all seasons. It’s a common misconception that most home buyers have school-aged children, and that they only shop for homes during summer vacation. According to the Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2021, 60% of buyers don’t have kids under 18 at home, so they’re not limited by school schedules.

Benefits of selling a house in the winter

Motivated buyers: While more buyers have tended to shop in the spring and summer months, those shopping in the winter are likely to be 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.

Challenges of selling a home 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: If you live in a part of the country with dark, dreary winter months, showing off a home’s exterior, especially landscaping, can be a challenge.

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.

Tips for a wintertime home sale

Spruce up your online listing

When the weather’s bad, more house hunting happens online. Show your home in its best light by adding a 3D home tour and a floor plan, and write a listing description that is engaging and complete.

Invest in professional photography

Making a home’s interior seem light and bright during the winter takes a professional. 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, ask about their experience with winter sales or in slow markets. Find out how they plan to market the home to reach buyers. Start your agent search here.

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 your home during the holidays

Keep decorations simple

There’s something about the holiday season that makes a house feel like home. But don’t go overboard with holiday decorations. Shoppers want to imagine themselves in your home. Give them the visual space to picture themselves there.

Make it smell good

Holiday scents such as fresh baked cookies, cinnamon or apple cider can make touring a complete sensory experience. 

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 also can eliminate drafts and assure buyers that the systems are working.

Clean the gutters

Overflowing or broken gutters can be one of the first (negative) things buyers notice. Once fall ends, clear out all those leftover leaves.

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