Selling your house in the bleak midwinter? All is not lost

Winter can be a hard time to sell but simple steps can make a property more desirable

“There is never a bad time to sell, with the exception of the weeks leading up to Christmas.” Photograph: iStock

“There is never a bad time to sell, with the exception of the weeks leading up to Christmas.” Photograph: iStock

 

Whether we realise it or not, when poring over brochures in search of a new property, those with blue skies and lush gardens will have a far greater appeal than those depicting bare trees and dull, grey clouds overhead.

With that in mind, getting people to view your property can be difficult during the winter months, let alone enticing them to sign on the dotted line.

But no matter what time of year it is, houses are always being bought and sold, and Adrian Haythornthwaite of Sherry Fitzgerald in Wexford says planning ahead can make a big difference when it comes to clinching a deal.

“If you know in summer that you will be selling in late autumn, get the professional photography of your home done then,” he says. “I grew up in eastern Ontario, which is deep in snow for five months each year, but selling doesn’t stop in winter – because viewers aren’t fools; they are looking for a home and in my experience they see beyond grey skies and cold wind. If they really want a home today, they want it because of what it will mean in their life. Basically, if someone wants a house, they want it now; otherwise they aren’t the right buyer.”

Rowena Quinn, managing partner of Hunters estate agent, agrees and says there is year-round interest in the property market.

“All of the parties who have sold properties in September and October, with their approval in place, will be anxiously looking to secure a [new] home, regardless of the time of year,” she says. “There is never a bad time, with the exception of the weeks leading up to Christmas. So I would suggest having your photographs prepared while the garden is looking well, even if the intention is not to launch until early 2019. Motivated purchasers are actively looking from mid-January onwards.”

Simple steps

Ciara Slattery of Warren Estates says winter can be a difficult time to sell but vendors should take simple steps to make their property more desirable.

“It’s more difficult to do justice to gardens and outside areas, but while the grey skies and cold winds don’t help, it is a wonderful opportunity for vendors to make houses cosier and more inviting with subtle lighting, coal fires burning and central heating on in or around the viewing time.”

“The aroma of fresh coffee is the oldest trick in the book but it works. Scented candles also work well as they help to create a relaxed atmosphere, and fresh flowers are always a good backdrop. While the winter months are generally quieter, people do buy and sell houses all year round for all sorts of reasons.”

Quinn says first impressions last, so the exterior is crucial, particularly during the current and coming season. “Curb appeal is all important, so ensure gardens are neat, keep leaves swept and some nice red and green in the pots at the front door creates a warm first impression,” she says. “Light fires and ensure bulbs are in all lights and lamps and the house is fully lit before you leave, because the viewer may arrive early. And if the property is vacant, it is a good idea to set the heating to come on for a couple of hours, morning and evening, to keep it warm and cosy. It is all about the three Ps: preparation, presentation and price. There is a buyer for each and every property, if the price is right.”

Slattery believes most people already know what they are looking for and have a particular budget in mind. “For those that don’t, they need to view lots of property to help them realise what is realistically available in their preferred area for their price range.”

Price reduction

Regardless of the time of year, Adrian Haythornthwaite says people should put their house on the market for the price they want to get and try to stick to it.

“Ideally the house should be the right price at the outset of the promotional period, thereby generating buyer engagement and facilitating a conclusion for all parties involved,” he says. “However, we don’t live in a perfect world and people’s circumstances change, as do values over time. So if the price is the problem and if it’s presenting a difficulty and preventing buyer engagement, then of course it has to be addressed, otherwise nothing will happen.”

Quinn agrees that lowering the price is never going to feel like a positive step, but if it has to be done, then once should be enough.

“It is always disappointing to deal with the matter of a price reduction,” she says. “We would suggest being realistic, as opposed to optimistic, with the asking price. It is much more satisfying to bid up, as opposed to reducing down. If a reduction is needed, it is best to only do so once, and ensure comparable evidence and recent sales form the basis and barometer for that reduction.”

And for those on the other side of the counter, buyers should research house prices in their desired location and find out all the facts before entering into an agreement.

“Comparable evidence and recent sales are the yardstick for purchasers,” Quinn says. “So ask questions such as; recent sale prices locally, reason for sale, time frame for sale, if the contract is in order and also what is included in the sale.”

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