| Selling

This is a question we get asked by sellers anxious to get their homes listed. Is it possible to sell a home in Toronto in the winter? The answer is, of course. It just takes a different approach than we use when selling in the spring or fall. 

Here we help you overcome the fears many sellers have of a winter home sale and explore the opportunities of selling when most sellers are content waiting for the first signs of spring.

What’s the Big Deal About Spring and Fall?

There are a few things that make spring and fall the ideal time of year to sell. In the spring, a big driver is families with kids who want to close in the summer so they can move when the kids are finished the school year. They can then settle in and have them start their new school in the fall. Generally speaking, a spring house hunt is more pleasant, as is a summer move. 

The fall market is also pleasant for house hunts as summer heat makes way for crisp fall days and summer vacations find more buyers in town. It’s also a nostalgic time of year that makes the idea of finding a new home by Christmas or at least before the New Year trigger a sense of urgency in a certain type of buyer. This creates a more competitive market that is more favourable for sellers. 

Preparing for the sale is half of the battle. Here are a few resources that will get you off to a great start:

The Two Main Challenges of Selling in Winter

There are two sides to the challenges of selling in winter:

  1. The Buyer

The main challenge of selling in winter is that there is far less activity with buyers when the weather is cold, wet, and depressing. Buyers tend to set their sights on the spring to start shopping, as this is when listings start to pop up in their favourite neighbourhoods. And let’s face it, spring weather also helps, enticing us out of hibernation. In the winter, buyers also have the holidays thrown in the mix, keeping a fair chunk of them preoccupied with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. 

  1. The Market

Once we hit mid-to-late November, the hustle and bustle of the fall real estate market ends. As a result, you’re looking at a trickle of buyers who are facing unusual circumstances and need to buy now for one reason or another. Anyone who started shopping in the late summer is now fatigued and likely to take a break and start a new search in the New Year, so those guys are all focused on other things like the holidays. Homeowners are also focused on things like the holidays, so your competition is out for the count until the New Year rolls around. As a result, the market slows down, there is less inventory, less competition among buyers, and generally less of a chance to sell for top dollar – unless, UNLESS, there’s an ideal buyer out there who has to buy. 

That brings us to winter opportunities…

Are you selling to relocate? If so, here are some related reads you may be interested in:

The Opportunities of Selling in Winter

On the flip side of the equation is the fact that buyers shopping in the winter tend to be more motivated than the average spring buyer. They’re shopping for a reason, such as a lease is up, a move to the city for a new job, maybe a relationship fiasco, etc. While a few buyers might be shopping in the hopes of a deal, the average winter buyer is kind of stuck with winter shopping for a specific reason. This makes them more open to buying less than ideal homes. 

Although you might have to look at a lower listing price, (that can range from 5% to 15% lower depending on the market) you can market to these unique buyers with great success because you’ve kind of have cornered the market by selling in the “slow” season. Since listings are scarce, buyers might be more inclined to overlook that awkward area of your home with five doors and no purpose, or the fact the backyard doesn’t have a deck. Compromises are easier to come by when inventory is limited, which can work in your favour. 

Overcoming the Challenges of Selling in Winter

Now, we don’t want to mislead you. Selling in the winter is more difficult, so it calls for a special approach with a different prep to overcome common challenges:

  • Snow! Snow and ice require daily shovelling and a generous sprinkling of ice-melting products to clear the way for buyers. Make sure your home looks neat and clean and cozy with a blanket of snow, but not foreboding with icicles hanging off eavestroughs that can indicate roof issues. If you have something pretty on your property you want to highlight, make sure you remove the snow from the area. 
  • Pets: If you have a dog, keep them from peeing on the snow on your property as nothing looks ickier than a patch of yellow snow!
  • Mats: Limit the amount of slushy mess tracked into your home. First, invest in a cute welcome mat where people can wipe snow and wet from their boots before they enter your house. Next, lay down a boot tray in the entry where people can place their wet shoes. Consider placing a basket filled with a few pairs of one-size-fits-all slippers for your visitors to keep them comfy while they tour your home. 
  • Floors: You want to highlight nice floors, but also protect them. Using a small, indoor/outdoor fashionable area rug at the entry avoids covering up your floors too much or making the home look too commercial using those typical grey and black striped runners. Ugh! A nice area rug maintains the stylish look of your home, while both protecting and highlighting your floors.  
  • Comfy temperature: Make sure you keep your temperature set at a toasty warm level, so buyers don’t worry your furnace is on the fritz. 
  • Lights: Since it gets dark earlier, set your lights on timers, so you have a light on in every room, or just keep your lights on to create a warm glow and friendly welcome. 
  • Holiday décor: If your home is listed during the holidays, staging your home with tasteful décor can create an emotional trigger for potential buyers. However, Toronto is very diverse which means your buyers might not necessarily celebrate the same holidays as you. To overcome this challenge, avoid specific décor focused too much on characters like Santa, and instead choose neutral décor such as white lights, fresh greenery, pretty ribbons, etc. that create a homey feel that will appeal to more buyers.  

Strategy for Selling in Winter

While the above tips will prep your home for buyers, you also need a strategy for selling in the winter. We take a unique approach:

  • The right price: Choosing the right price is always essential when listing a home, regardless of the time of year. However, in the winter, the good news is, you’re selling to qualified buyers who mean business in a market where there are slim pickings. As a result, you can confidently price your home based on the comparable and most recent sales in your area, with consideration for the unique selling features of your home such as renovations.  
  • Online appeal: Winter buyers don’t want to venture out into the cold if they don’t have to. Although everyone starts their house search online, winter shoppers are far more invested in online home tours than those who have the luxury of warm spring days to visit homes in person. As a result, you need to ensure you have top-notch video and photography of your home, staged to look cozy, warm, and spacious so buyers can picture themselves living there. Including summer images of your home, especially landscaping and details that help show buyers how they can use their backyard, front porch, etc. is also a good idea so they can see beyond the snow and ice and imagine summer evenings entertaining in their new outdoor space. 
  • Leveraging winter: Take advantage of the homey feel winter conjures up such as having a roaring fire in the family room, throwing some cozy blankets over chairs, layering your bedding, etc. Consider little staging tricks like having a toboggan leaning by the front door on your porch, hanging some skates on hooks in the foyer, or placing a snazzy pair of cute red winter boots on your boot tray. The idea is to create a welcoming home where people want to snuggle up and read a good book with a cup of steaming cocoa or latte. Add thick, warm towels with a cozy robe in the bathroom, have a rustic kettle on the stove top, and bake some gingerbread cookies to create an enticing aroma that feels like home. You get it. 
  • Add some curb appeal: Winter is a wonderful time of year to create curb appeal such as planters with fresh evergreen boughs, white lights, a welcoming wreath, and a cozy chair draped with a warm plaid flannel blanket.  Soooo, inviting. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, working with the best Toronto real estate team can sell your home when you need it done – winter, spring, summer or fall! With proper staging, a smart price strategy and considerations that help leverage the emotional aspects of winter, you can sell your home for a top price to a motivated winter buyer. 

Considering selling in winter? Call The Christine Cowern Team at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com with any questions or to set up a call or free home assessment. We’d love to work with you!