Cold Weather, Hot Home Sales

Think winter is the worst time to sell your home? Think again.


It’s hard to believe there are any slow periods in today’s breakneck real estate market, in which multiple offers are made on a single property within 24 hours and buyers purchase homes sight unseen. But, contrary to popular belief, experts say that summer — not winter — is the slowest season for real estate sales. And in any season, there are many steps homeowners can take to expedite the sales of their homes, from replacing carpeting and countertops to applying fresh coats of paint to living room walls.

“July and August are the slowest months out of the year to sell a home. January through May is the height of the market,” says Suzanne Powers, CEO of Powers Realty Group, which she founded on Milwaukee’s North Shore nine years ago. 

“A lot of people have this misconception that it’s bad to sell in the fall or winter,” adds Jeremy Rynders, a real estate agent with Keller Williams.

Price It Right

Fewer homes are on the market during slow periods, meaning that the price of the home is even more important than in busier months. Homes that are priced too high tend to sit longer in summer and fall than they would in winter or spring. “It’s even more important to have the property priced correctly from the get-go,” says Rynders. He recommends sellers get two or three opinions from real estate agents, plus a home appraisal, which costs about $350, to set a price.

Professional exterior photos of homes may also help expedite home sales, the experts agree. Great photos “make a better impact and give the buyer a better visual,” Rynders notes.

Keep On the Grass

“In the fall months, it’s really important to keep the yard free of leaves,” Rynders explains. As an added incentive, sellers can also prepay a landscaping service to perform lawn maintenance for homebuyers, which can be completed after the buyers purchase the property. 

Depending on the time of year, however, having a lawn that isn’t perfectly manicured is not necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to selling a home. “Selling in the winter can actually be an advantage to you,” Rynders adds. And since early fall days can be warm, it’s a good idea for homeowners to open windows to let in a cross breeze if the weather permits to show buyers what it’s really like to live there.

Powers says that, even in today’s active real estate market, homes without updates tend to sell more slowly. “In the past two years, real estate has changed pretty dramatically,” she says. Powers believes that making even minor changes, such as investing in new carpet, updated kitchen countertops and bathroom cabinets, and painting walls and trim in light colors (“White walls are totally in,” she says) can pay off handsomely for homeowners. “These are things that will get a nice return. People will pay a premium for [a home in] good condition, and replacing $2,000 carpeting can raise the [home] price by $10,000,” she notes.

Look Down to Price Up

Since more and more homebuyers are converting basements into living spaces, homeowners should take note of that. Walls should be freshly painted, stained carpeting should be replaced, and the basement should be free of mildew. 

“Make sure the basement is neat and tidy,” Powers says, adding that a finished basement adds square footage to an MLS listing, which can increase the home’s value and make it more attractive to buyers. Sellers should also have a professional check to make sure their bathroom exhaust fans and dryer vents are working properly, as improper ventilation can lead to moisture — and, ultimately mold and mildew — to form in attic spaces. 

Powers and Rynders strongly recommends homeowners get a home inspection before listing their homes. This way “sellers may discover things that need to be repaired,” Powers says.

Set the Stage For Success

Home staging is a good option for homeowners who hope to sell quickly, particularly those with vacant properties. Homeowners can receive a home staging consultation for approximately $200, or opt for a full home staging, in which furniture and other accessories are brought in to decorate the home. Full home staging can run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, but Rynders feels that the cost is worth it. Staged homes “definitely sell quicker and for more money,” he says. MKE