Here are nine ways to prepare and stage your home for success, and create a warm and welcoming vision for buyers, even when the weather outside is frightful.
- Have a cozy, crackling fire (or not). If you have a gas fireplace or new clean-burning woodstove, go ahead and light a fire to welcome visitors. But if your home’s wood-burning fireplace is older and leaves a smoky smell in the room, hold off. Those with allergies or smoke sensitivities can be turned off — or literally turned away when they have to go outside. No fire? Consider offering warm apple cider instead.
- Keep entryways scrupulously clean. As with any time of year, a clean and clutter-free house will sell more easily (and maybe at a higher price) than one with more visible clutter. During winter it is especially important to remove mucky boots outside and keep family gear hidden in a closet or trunk, where potential buyers won’t trip over them. A Swiffer-style mop kept in the coat closet can be used to quickly freshen entry floors before each showing.
- Give each room a warm touch. A folded throw draped over the back of an armchair, a plump quilt at the foot of the bed or an area rug in warm hues are a few small additions that will make a big difference in the way a room feels to prospective buyers. Also, be sure that every light is on — even for daytime showings. Winter days can be quite dim, and your house will look its best when it’s as warmly lit as possible.
- Show how outdoor rooms can be used even in the coldest months. If you have a covered porch or outdoor fireplace, be sure to keep the area fully furnished. Turn on outdoor lights, build a fire in the fireplace and drape a few thick throws over your outdoor furniture.
- Emphasize spaces that will appeal in winter. Basement playrooms, indoor exercise areas, heated toolsheds and the like will be especially welcome in a place with a cold winter. Remove all unrelated stuff to make the purpose of the room clear, and be sure to have your Realtor bring it up when showing the house to potential buyers.
- Showcase the entertaining possibilities of your home. Winter is prime time for festive parties and holiday open houses, so whet prospective buyers’ appetites with an enticing display. Set out stacks of plates and fresh flowers on a dining room buffet or display holiday cookies on cake stands in the kitchen.
- Use structural elements in the garden for winter interest. In the middle of winter, it can be hard to visualize a blooming garden. Large urns and planters, benches, rock walls and other garden structures will help buyers see the potential even in the snow.
- Clear all exterior pathways of snow and ice. Nothing will turn away potential buyers faster than a treacherously icy path. Open-house guests should be able to easily walk all the way around the house and access outbuildings. Provide as much off-street (snow-cleared) parking as you can to make things easy for visitors.
- Do decorate for the holidays. Buyers want to be able to envision living in your home, so it pays to make that vision as inviting as possible. Festive twinkling lights, green wreaths or topiary, and a decorated tree near Christmas will strike the right note. That doesn’t mean you have to go overboard — in fact, a house overly cluttered with holiday decor can be a real turnoff.