10 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Sluggish Winter Months

What you need to know to sell your home in the off-season


Slide Show: Home-Selling Tips for the Off-Season

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5. Get preinspected: With the economy staggering under the weight of 10.2 percent unemployment, home buyers aren't walking around with a lot of cash for home repairs. That means homeowners need make all major repairs before putting the property on the market. To determine what repairs are needed, sellers should have a home inspector evaluate the house, says Judy Moore of Re/Max Landmark Realtors in Lexington, Mass. "In today's market . . . you can lose a sale over the silliest things after a home inspection," Moore says. "And it's not necessary if you get it taken care of beforehand."

6. Dress the outside: Would-be buyers won't want to see the inside of your home if the outside isn't appealing. So sellers need to make sure their property projects a warm and inviting feeling to anyone who passes by. "Part of the way that [buyers] make that instant decision [to purchase a home] is the condition of it when they first come up to the house," says Pat Lashinsky, the president and CEO of ZipRealty. So repaint the front door, trim the hedges, and mow the lawn. "You are going to want to fix doorbells," Lashinsky says. "A lot of people just have a sign on their door that the doorbell doesn't work. That's just a small sign that things haven't been fixed at the home."

And as we head into the winter months, sellers should be sure to remove any ice or snow from walkways whenever buyers visit. "What is so important is keeping the sidewalk safe, a lot of rock salt, or whatever it takes," Moore says. "If you have a steep driveway, it's got to be cleared and sanded or whatever you normally do to make sure it is safe, because safety is the utmost concern, especially during the winter season."

7. Let it shine: With the days growing shorter, sellers need to be mindful of keeping their home well-lit even when they aren't present. Sellers often head out to work without making arrangements to have their lights turned back on when it gets dark, Lashinsky says. "If someone was to come by and see their house at 5:30, everything looks dark," Lashinsky says. "If you are going to be selling your house, you want to make it as light as possible so that it is engaging and inviting and it brings people in."

8. Make it bigger inside: Sellers, of course, need to make sure the home's interior is immaculately clean and decluttered whenever it's being shown to potential buyers. Sellers should also remove all family photos from the walls in order to make it easier for buyers to envision themselves living there. At the same time, sellers can make their home appear larger by removing certain furniture items. "If you have oversized furniture that's really comfortable—you have that great La-Z-Boy—you might want to take it out when your home is on sale to make the rooms look bigger," Lashinsky says.

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9. Be flexible: In understanding the current dynamics of the market, sellers should be prepared to entertain all bids—even those they consider too low—and perhaps toss in perks to get the deal done. "It is absolutely a buyer's market; [buyers] don't need you as badly as you might need them," Gumbinger says. "You may have to be more flexible than you might prefer in terms of price. You might have to be flexible in terms of concessions to help pay a buyer's closing costs and things of that nature."

10. Be professional: Although it can be difficult to do, property owners should remember that above all, selling one's home is a business transaction. Some sellers will say, "'I know the market is soft, et cetera, but this is my house and my house is special,'" Phipps says. "Unfortunately, every seller has that feeling." Sellers need to do their best to emotionally detach themselves from the property. "While it is your home, you need to treat this as a business decision," he says.