Real Estate and Mortgage

How To Successfully Host A Winter Open House For Sale

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how to successfully host a winter open house for sale


You can victoriously buy and sell a home in Canada when there is snow on the ground and that means being prepared for everything including your winter open house.

For 2019 the average price for a house in Ontario according to The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) quarterly forecast is sitting at $588,900 with a selling forecast of 193,000 houses which is down slightly from 2018 at 190,500. The thing is, people are still buying whether interest rates go up.

While economic and demographic fundamentals remain supportive for housing demand in many parts of the country, policy headwinds together with rising interest rates are limiting access to mortgage financing and negatively impacting homebuyer sentiment. At the same time, growth in home prices has slowed sharply in some regions. Indeed, home prices are declining in parts of the country where the supply of homes available for purchase is elevated relative to sales.

I was joking with Mrs. CBB yesterday while driving our son to school and said that if we ever were to sell our house we should do it during the winter months. She knows how much I dread having to buy another house during the winter something I won’t ever do again.

She asked me why and I replied with a smirk on my face. Jokingly, I said, because we wouldn’t have to put so much effort into making the outside of the house looking pristine as opposed to the inside.

We bought our house during the winter and after the thaw we found things that needed to be repaired that we could have bargained for during the sale of the home.

In general, if I’m not in a rush to sell I would personally avoid the winter months but for others who must buy and sell there are things you can do to boost traffic and protect yourself from what lurks under winter blankets of snow.

Best time to buy or sell a house

When is the best time to sell a house?

I’m no real estate agent but I’m going with any time is the best time to sell your house but there are better times than others. Traditionally homes hit the market hardest during the Spring months when everyone comes out from the thaw.

However, there are pros and cons to buying and selling your house throughout the year in Canada and with online access to real estate listing it makes home buying and selling even easier.

You will however find there are more real estate agents ready for the challenge to buy and sell homes during the winter since the inventory tends to dwindle during these months. However winter buyers are motivated buyers who may need to move for work, family or other reasons.

Is winter a better time to buy a house?

Just recently our friend a local dentist bought a practice outside of the city where she lives. Once they put their home on the market in Toronto it sold with-in days which left them on the hook to find a new home and fast.

They went to a few open houses from the start of January but in the end they had to just pick one or risked having nowhere to live due to a low inventory in the area they wanted to live.

Although they are not in their dream home they did find a lovely home until they get everything settled with the business. It’s also hard to view open houses outside of your city, kids in tow and having to work.

The good part about winter house buying is that you won’t have to wait long for transactions to go through. Whether it’s the bank, mortgage company, real estate or your home inspector everything seems to get done quickly.

During the height of summer when home buying and selling is high you will find transactions to take a bit longer with more to process.

During the Spring and Summer months when real estate ramps up you will most certainly feel the competition on the market where more buyers and sellers come out to play.

There’s lots of work on the outside of a house during the summer months to make it attractive to potential buyers that is limited to those who sell their house during the winter.

  • Landscaping
  • Driveway
  • Walkway
  • Clean siding
  • Garden
  • Lighting
  • Roof
  • Gutters
  • Fence
  • Deck
  • Swimming pool
  • Windows

There really isn’t a time during the year where a real estate agent would tell you that it’s best to buy or sell a house because buyers are always lurking whether they are ready to sell their own house or are newly jumping into the real estate game.

What I love about house hunting during the summer months is the ability to see what a home has to offer on the inside and the outside. Plus, you get to take a nice leisure walk around the neighbourhood to scope it out.

Buying a house with a pool in the winter for instance means you don’t really know what you are getting yourself into. You basically go by what the homeowner says and perhaps they have some documentation as to how old the pool is and any issues that were corrected.

You’d think that the homeowner would disclose any problems and they should be liable for them if something were to go wrong. Get it all in writing.

Buying and Selling A House In Winter

Do houses sell in the winter?

Of course they do but depending on where you live they may sell quickly or sit for longer but the right buyer will eventually come along. The good part is there will be lower inventory, less traffic and motivated sellers because no one really wants to sell or buy a home in the winter.

  • Winter buyer beware. During the winter when a buyer comes to view an open house all they get to see is snow on the ground in most cases. This means they don’t often get to see the clear picture of the elements above until the weather clears up. A good rule of thumb if possible is to go on a nice sunny day in the winter to view a house you are interested in buying.

I’m sure just about every home buyer who gets approved for a mortgage whether for the first time or for another round gets excited to start house hunting no matter what the season.

Are home cheaper in the winter?

Inventories in the housing market might drop during the winter but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many serious buyers out there. In fact, with fewer houses up for sale in your area as a seller that makes your house a diamond in the rough for potential buyers.

What this means is that if you are one of few or the only house for sale in your area and there are buyers who want into your neighbourhood chances are you’ll sell your house faster.

You may or may not get more money than you bargained for as a seller. Depending on how fast you want to sell your house you will either find the buyer will jump on the listed price or you’ll have to lower it because of limited winter buyers.

It’s a catch 22 and until you are in the middle of it all you won’t really know how it will go down. A good place to start is at recent sales in your area during the winter.

Believe it or not in our area there have been more homes for sale in winter months than there are during summer months. I don’t know why that is but I do watch the Real Estate market closely where we live and that’s the way it has always went.

Hiring a home inspector/Trades person

Keep in mind that if you hire a home inspector or tradespeople which I personally recommend they will look around the house during the winter months but not for anything esthetic.

Some home inspectors won’t bring out their ladder in the winter either so it’s definitely something to discuss with him/her before hiring. In fact, not all inspectors will be looking at what you believe they should be looking at so question what you get before you agree to have them inspect your new home.

The other thing to remember is that even if a home inspector does look around your house that he/she is limited as to what they can see under snow and ice so you just hope and pray there is nothing hiding when the melt happens.

Basically, if you fall in love with a house during the winter months you know that you’ve found your gem because there’s no frills to winter house hunting.

Winter Open House

For those of you selling a house during the winter here are a few tips I recommend as a previous buyer of a winter home. An open house for sale must be pristine even though the weather is less than desired by most buyers and sellers.

Related: Open Houses and Nosey Neighbours

What is an open house?

An open house event is where the real estate agents opens your home to potential buyers and other real estate agents for viewing purposes.

Related: How to protect your home from Open House Theft

Shovel the path to your home.

  • First off, always make sure your front porch, back porch, driveway and walk-ways are shovelled and clear for all visitors to your home. This not only shows respect for your home but for those who are looking to purchase it.

Keep organized and clean entry way.

  • An open house during the winter months can turn into a disaster especially if you have people who don’t take their boots off. This is where the real estate agent or seller must be on their toes when it comes to keeping things organized. If you don’t then instead of showcasing your entry way to potential buyers all they will see is a dumping ground for winter wear.
  • The last thing you want is people walking through your home with muddy, salty winter boots on. This means depending on the amount of traffic in your home there will be lots of coats, hats, gloves, scarves and footwear in the walkway or closet area.
  • Always have extra heavy-duty hangers in your closet and de-clutter it for the purpose of selling and holding more coats when buyers arrive. You won’t get this major hassle other months of the year apart from footwear which should always be removed.
  • Protect your floor with extra large mats especially if you have hard-wood flooring or flooring you had just installed because you want to keep it pristine looking throughout the winter open house process.

House temperature

  • Another thing to consider is the temperature of your home when hosing an open house or for a viewing.If the door is opening and closing throughout the day consider a temperature that will not be too hot or too frigid.
  • A comfortable open house allows buyers to focus on what they came for rather than sweating or shivering their way around a tour of your house.

Service Appliances

  • It’s always a good idea to make sure that your furnace, air conditioner and any other appliances that are being sold with the home have been serviced. This way the buyers can see they are in working order and won’t have to hesitate when it comes to wondering whether they will have to spend money on repairs soon after they buy your house.

Clean home and Staging

  • Cleaning your house from top to bottom is essential when selling your house because it brings in better offers and buyers know that you care about your home when it’s tidy. Everything should have a place so proper staging is a must not a nice-to-have done.

Seasonal Photographs of your house

  • If you are a seller and worried about what your buyers might think about the outside of your home since it is winter I have the perfect solution. On your kitchen table set out recent photos from around your home that you took during the Spring, Fall and Summer months that they can view. This not only will add a bit of sunshine to a blah winter landscape but give them a better idea of what they are walking into.

House plants and flowers

  • Another smart way to add a bit of Spring and Summer into your Winter open house is to add house plants. Even if you buy something simple like bamboo, money tree or some form of greenery along with fresh flowers for a centerpiece it will bring your rooms to life. A simple and affordable way to add pizazz to your winter open house.

Seasonal Decor

  • When selling a house during the winter months means over the Christmas holidays try your best to eliminate all the holiday accessories around the house. If your goal is to sell your house then go low-key for Christmas decor and keep the space free from distractions so buyers get a sense of the space they are in.

Listing your house for sale after the holidays if possible is ideal.

Freshen the air, Open the blinds, inside and outside lights

  • Lastly, like any open house keep the lights bright inside and out and allow for seasonal aromas to swirl the air but not too overpowering. You could even set out pastries for your guests or bake a pie just before an open house to keep the smell swimming around the house.

You can make buying or selling successful by following a few winter open house rules as I listed above that will get you into or out of any home. Knowing what I know now if I were to buy again in the winter I’d want to know more about the home than I investigated the first time around.

Discussion: What other tips would you add for hosting a winter open house ? Share them below.

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