Realtors share their top tips for selling your home quickly even during what is traditionally the slowest time of year.

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During typical housing markets, winter can be a slow selling season, a time when it's more challenging for those who put their property on the market to close a deal quickly.

But the current housing market is anything but typical. Redfin recently reported that homebuying demand is the highest it's been since 2017 thanks to mortgage rates being so favorable and the country's strong economic recovery. These two factors have brought many potential homebuyers back to the market, particularly those who had tried to land a home unsuccessfully in the spring.

Still, if you're putting your property on the market during the holiday season, it can't hurt to have a few insider tips for setting your listing apart to help ensure it sells without much delay. Here's what real estate pros say will make your property shine during the winter selling season.

house with snow
Credit: Getty / Yellow Dog Productions

1. Create a cozy home environment.

Many people think you should avoid listing your home during the holidays. It seems to be a common and widespread myth. But winter can actually be a great time to sell, suggests Steve Poulos, owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Northwest Home Team in Tumwater, Washington. 

"It presents a unique opportunity to create a warm and cozy environment that you can't present during the spring and summer months," says Poulos. "Homes show beautifully during the holidays. Not to mention, festive neighborhoods are very inviting to potential buyers who are likely just as interested in the vibe of the surrounding community as they are about your house."

2. Remove holiday decor for listing photos.

While the holidays might be a good time to stage your home with a cozy environment, you don't want to go overboard. Specifically, you'll want to remove the reindeer and Santa decorations while photos are being taken of your home for the listing. Your online listing shouldn't reflect the season at all, suggests realtor Katharine Davis of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Lifestyles Realty in Jacksonville, Florida.

"Most people see their new home for the first time on their phone or computer through pictures. The best real estate photos are well lit with little contrast and not too many bright colors," says Davis. "A string of Christmas lights can upset the room's lighting for even the best photographer. Red, gold, and vivid colors jump off the photo and distract the viewer from the features that make your home's value shine through."

You'll also want to remember to keep the corners of the rooms in your home clear to make them appear as large as possible, adds Davis. In other words, don't cram holiday decorations into every free space. "A straw reindeer in the corner can make a room look crowded without enough space," Davis says. "Also, if your home doesn't sell before the holiday season ends, then your listing will look dated."

Despite these warnings, Davis notes that it is okay to have some holiday decor in your home during a showing but use good judgment. Much like taking down personal photos before listing your home, don't clutter your home with too many personalized holiday decorations. It's also a good idea to place some decorations strategically so that they can easily be put away before showings. 

"Remember, no matter how gorgeous your holiday home decor is, a home buyer is trying to buy space and room," says Davis. 

3. Baby, it's cold outside, so keep it warm inside.

More than a few realtors recommend paying special attention to the temperature of your home come winter, which is a detail many sellers overlook.

"If you're in a location where winter is cold, make sure the temperature in the home is comfortable, which means turning the thermostat up, and if you have a working fireplace that is a nice selling feature and creates a nice ambiance [turn that on too]," says New York City-based agent Parisa Afkhami of Warburg Realty.

Speaking of warm and cozy, lean into the season in other ways with low-cost tricks. "You could set up a hot cocoa station in the kitchen, or set out freshly baked pumpkin muffins that would add to a sense of coziness and warmth," says San Diego, California, agent Jade Lee-Duffy of TXR Homes. "Or place a breakfast-in-bed tray complete with cups, side plates, napkins, and a book."

Broker Svetlana Choi, also of Warburg Realty, suggests even adding some potpourri or special citric scents around the home to take that inviting feeling up yet another notch. "You want to encourage buyers to sit and savor the atmosphere in the home," says Choi.

4. Don't neglect curb appeal.

Curb appeal is a fundamental concept in real estate, one that's even more essential during the winter selling season. "Curb appeal is still the buyer's first impression when looking at a home," says realtor Tim Grant of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in Newnan, Georgia. "Keeping your yard clear of leaves, and the snow cleared from the driveway and walking areas allows the potential buyers to see the home safely and without distraction."

5. Check interior and exterior lighting. 

No, this is not another tip about holiday lights. Instead, Grant suggests making sure your home looks well-lit and inviting during a time of the year when the days are shorter and there tends to be less sunlight.

"Winter days turn dark early, so you'll want to make sure all your exterior and interior lights are working and on," says Grant. "This not only gives a warm inviting feeling to buyers but also allows them to see and fall in love with your home."

6. Step up your cleaning habits.

Ensuring that your home is clean when you're trying to sell it should be an obvious step. But come winter, when many of us spend more time cooped up, this is not a detail you can afford to neglect.

"Cold winter weather means everyone is inside more often and the dust seems to accumulate twice as fast," says Grant. "Keeping your fans dusted, cupboards wiped down and your family's muddy boots picked up keeps the attention on your home's features."

7. Display seasonal photos of your home.

If you have the opportunity to snap a few photos of your home during spring, summer, and fall, use these images to your advantage when it comes time to list your property. 

"With smartphones, anyone can be a semi-professional photographer today," says Grant. "Snap those pictures of your lush flowers, bountiful vegetable gardens, fresh-cut lawn, and trees with their beautiful fall-colored leaves. You can showcase those photos on a digital photo frame on your fireplace mantel or a binder of information your realtor puts out."

8. Price your home strategically.

Setting the right price for your property and the market it's located within is another key element of success. Work with your realtor who can pull comparable real estate listings and sale prices for your area to help determine a price that makes sense. You might also want to list your home slightly lower than what the market in your area commands.

"Price below market to create bidding wars. It's more important in the wintertime because there are few buyers," says Bryan Kerrigan, a principal listing specialist, who is a President's Club agent for Redfin, in Rockville, Maryland. "You'll attract more views, showing traffic, and offers to get top dollar."

9. Upgrade appliances.

This is the season of sales (Black Friday, anyone?), so now's the time to make the most of bargains and upgrade your kitchen to a stainless-steel package, suggests Kerrigan. You'll spend around $2,000 on average and reap the rewards.

"This will make a big difference for buyers walking through your home," says Kerrigan. "Also consider installing nickel or stainless pulls and knobs on your cabinets. These features stand out in photos and will catch the eye of potential buyers."

10. Make sure your home is available for tours.

One last tip as you embark on selling during the winter: make sure your home is actually available to be viewed by prospective buyers, says Gabe Heredia, a Redfin senior agent based in San Francisco, California. 

"Home showing availability is so important during a slower market. Though there are generally less buyers searching for homes during a slow season, those buyers that are looking are serious buyers. Making sure the home can be viewed is very important," says Heredia.

Remember: This holiday season will be unlike any other.

If you're among those who plan to list a home for sale this winter, these tips should really just be the icing on the cake as the odds of doing quite well are certainly in your favor. This is poised to be a holiday season unlike any other, according to Redfin data released earlier this month. Here are some of the most reassuring and notable highlights:

  • The median home-sale price has increased 13% year over year to $357,881. This was up 30% from the same period in 2019 and up 2.1% from a month earlier.
  • Asking prices of newly listed homes were up 13% from the same time a year ago and up 27% from 2019 to a median of $354,725.
  • Pending home sales were up 7% year over year, and up 51% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • 45% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within the first two weeks on the market, above the 40% rate of a year earlier and the 29% rate in 2019.
  • Touring activity through November 14 has outpaced 2019 by at least 5%.

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