With the help of OpenHouse Realty, a real estate technology company (and a U.S. News partner), U.S. News connected with some of the top real estate agents in Chicago to learn more about selling a Windy City home during the winter months. They say with some extra attention to detail and the right work ethic, sealing a deal between December and February is possible.
"So many sellers and brokers kind of shut down, but anybody that is focused on selling sells," says Keith Goad, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
Leigh Marcus, a broker with @properties, agrees, saying winter is a time when sellers need to buckle down and make sure they're showing off their property in the right light. "Everything is more important in the winter because there's less buyers," he says.
Here are more tips from the experts for those hoping to sell their homes despite Chicago's freezing winters.
Make your property a home for the holidays.
Staging a home can always make a property seem more appealing, but it can become even more important in the winter months.
Jennifer Liu, a real estate agent with Jameson Sotheby's International Realty, has seen her clients have success when they tie their interior decoration to the season. Showcasing fall colors around Thanksgiving or playing Christmas music in December can be particularly effective. "In the wintertime you want a very warm, homely house," Liu explains.
Sellers who don't consider themselves "do-it-yourself-ers" should think about hiring an interior designer who can bring in the proper decorations and materials, or rearrange facets of a home to project the best image.
The holiday season isn't exactly an ideal time to sell a home, but sellers shouldn't let that put a damper on their festivities. For example, Liu says she wouldn't be concerned about removing or hiding a Christmas tree to avoid offending viewers who aren't Christian, adding that most buyers won't have a problem with it. Additionally, Marcus notes it's OK to be a little less flexible with open houses at this time of year.
"Part of marketing is keeping the home available for the showings, but this time of year, there's a lot of other things going on," Marcus says. "It's OK not to show it during the holidays. Buyers are more understanding about restrictions on showings."
Send spirited mailings.
One quick, easy way to improve your chances of selling in the winter is to get spirited with your marketing strategy. Goad says it has paid off in the past to send holiday-themed mailings around the neighborhood where a property is listed.
"They already live there, but they have family and friends and colleagues that may be interested," Goad says. "And because there's a limited amount of marketing during the holiday times, the direct mail pieces get more attention."
In addition to having a little bit of fun with mailings over the holiday season, Goad also recommends spicing up open house invites and real estate signs with a bit of holiday flair.
Take advantage of local events.
Because the hustle and bustle of the Windy City doesn't drop off when the temperature falls, agents like Goad don't let up with their marketing techniques. "Don't assume that there are not buyers out there in the winter months," he says. "You have to continue to market if you know there's an event going on, and you know that there's foot traffic."
Goad recommends stopping by neighborhood events to pass out fliers or post signs about an upcoming open house. School events open to the public have produced strong results for Goad in the past, he says, as they often bring out people from across a neighborhood who may be interested in a home.
Get your home in peak condition.
In the winter, minor details could be the difference between closing a deal and leaving your property on the market for another few months.
Marcus recommends wintertime sellers give their home a little bit of a face-lift before showing it to potential buyers. "In the spring, you might have been able to get away with not painting or it not being as fresh of a look. Now, in the winter, one of the No. 1 things you can do is paint in the house," he says.
Shades of gray are currently in style, according to Marcus. Refinishing floors to a dark walnut color is another current fad, as is painting cabinets white.
Look for the year-end buyers.
In the early onset of the winter season, some sellers may actually have the upper hand. Many homebuyers who are relocating must do so by the end of the calendar year, making them more likely to settle on a deal instead of haggling over the asking price.
At the end of a year, sellers can benefit from working with an agency that has a relocation department to get your home in front of potential buyers needing to move quickly. "You market to the agents that work heavily with relocation buyers," Marcus says. original story