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13 tips for selling your home in winter

What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter.

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The lawn is brown, the weather is usually bad and, unlike the longer days of summer, you have less time to show it off during daylight hours.

But not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home buying season to plant that "for sale" sign, and while it's true that in most areas you'll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers.

That makes staging -- the concept of showing your house at its best -- even more important.

Be prepared to put a little effort into it. "It's more difficult to make something look really appealing this time of year," says Ron Phipps, broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

If you do it right, you can really make your house stand out.

Staging a home
When the snow is swirling and would-be buyers are scarce, you need to take those extra steps to get your home sold. So put another log on the fire and curl up with these suggestions on how to make your home more attractive for sale in the winter.
13 tips for selling your home in winter
1.Keep snow and ice at bay.
2.Warm it up.
3.Take advantage of natural light.
4.Get the windows washed.
5.Play music softly in the background.
6.Make it feel comfortable and cozy.
7.Emphasize winter positives.
8.Set up timers.
9.Make it festive.
10.Give the home a nice aroma.
11.Protect your investment.
12.Use the season to your advantage.
13.Consider the area.

1. Keep snow and ice at bay. The top tip from Realtors: If the buyer can't get in easily, the house won't sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it's been maintained. If you're away frequently or live in an area that's subject to bad weather, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salts or shovels the driveway and sidewalks.

2. Warm it up. If you're showing during the winter, think "warm, cozy and homey," says Ken Libby, owner of Stowe Realty in Stowe, Vt., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. "Sellers like to turn the temperature down because of heat costs," says David Ledebuhr, president and owner of Musselman Realty in East Lansing, Mich., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. "But buyers who come in and aren't comfortable won't stay long."

If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house "a little ambience," says Libby.

With a wood-burning fireplace, you've got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don't chance it. If you're still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.

Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don't have to worry about safety concerns.

3. Take advantage of natural light. "Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours," says Ledebuhr. At this time of year, "if you show after work, you're totally in the dark."

Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.

4. Get the windows washed. "Buyers act on the first impression," says Ledebuhr. Windows are one thing that many sellers don't even consider. In winter that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn't been well-maintained.

 
 
Next: "Watch the bad smells, too."
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