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We’re officially in the throes of winter, and in the real estate world, those chilly temps and gray skies may bring seasonal sales slumps. People are often less inclined to pack up and go when there’s a thick layer of snow between the house and the moving truck. Add in the stress and commotion of the holidays, and it’s not surprising that people are staying put.

Those who do choose to sell their homes in winter often do so with urgency, spurred on by a new job, family situation or other life change. That need to sell — and sell quickly — translates into bargains for buyers who might otherwise be frustrated by low inventory.

Are there seasonal challenges to selling and buying homes? Absolutely. But there are a few pro tips that can help ease the pain and bring on the business.

 

Tips for Sellers

Embrace the Chill

You can’t very well change the weather, but you can set a much warmer scene inside. A roaring fire, cookies fresh from the oven, mulled cider with cinnamon sticks simmering away on the stove, vases filled with tropical flowers — each subtle touch plays on buyers’ emotions. Whatever you do, don’t cut back on the actual heat; no buyers want to spend time getting to know a home if they have to keep on their parkas and mittens for the tour.

 

Highlight the Year-Round Curb Appeal

Not all buyers will be able to envision what their potential new property looks like when it’s in full bloom. Displaying some pictures of the lush green lawn, a pool filled with splashing kids and an overflowing garden will help.

 

Make Sure Maintenance Is Up-to-Date

 

People house-hunting in cold weather are more likely to notice an inefficient heating system, and they’ll probably ask about average utility costs and when the roof was last repaired. Having answers to these questions — preferably something positive — could seal the deal.

 

Tips for Buyers

Be Prepared to Move Quickly

Those urgent sellers we mentioned above? They’re more likely to be swayed by a buyer who can promise a short inspection period and quick close, perhaps even to the point of choosing expediency over higher profits. Being preapproved is essential too. Having the go-ahead from your lender shows that you’re serious about buying and not afraid to make a commitment.

 

Have a Plan B

Lower inventory might lead to multiple bids on a property. Adjusting your contingencies (see above) may tip the scales in your favor, but if the seller is all about the bottom line, you might have to negotiate or settle for your second choice.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Wheel and Deal

If you think you have the upper hand during negotiations, you can try to score a deal. Sellers who need to relocate ASAP might consider below-offer pricing they wouldn’t otherwise entertain, or they may be willing to offer other kinds of value by leaving behind key pieces of furniture or completing repairs on their own dime.

 

Ask for a Home Warranty

Home inspections can be hindered by harsh conditions, leading to incomplete evaluations of snow-covered roofs or dormant AC units. By asking the seller to include a home warranty or, alternatively, sign a statement confirming certain features are in tip-top shape, buyers can sign on the dotted line knowing any nasty surprises that crop up won’t be their responsibility.