Selling in Winter

Although most folks think spring is the best time to sell a house, there are some distinct advantages to selling in winter—the biggest of which is the lack of competition. Fewer homes on the market makes it easier for your house to stand out.

Don’t worry about the fact that spring flowers aren’t blooming. You can create a cozy atmosphere that invites buyers to imagine sipping hot chocolate by the fire while wrapped in a blanket on the couch as soft winter light shines through the window of their new living room. Here are some ways to create that ambience.


The first thing people notice when they enter a house, consciously or subconsciously, is the smell. Thankfully, our noses get used to unpleasant smells, but it’s important to recognize any odors in your house that may turn off prospective buyers. Is there a musty, closed-up-for-winter smell? Does your beloved dog spend time outdoors and then bring in wet-dog smell?

Fresh air is the best antidote, but when it’s 40 degrees outside, you may not want to open the windows for too long. If your house is vacant, I recommend turning off the heat and opening the windows for a few hours, then closing things down and heating the place up before a showing.

If you have something causing a recurring unpleasant smell, you need to do more than mask it. You need to take care of it or disclose it to potential buyers. Pet urine can be covered for a little while, but if it’s in the sheetrock or subfloor, you’ll need to work with potential buyers to decide who is going to address it.

If you’re living in the house while you’re trying to sell it, consider adding subtle smells to make the place feel like home—mulling spices on the stove, recently baked cookies, or very subtle essential oils in a few strategically placed locations. While mustiness isn’t great, an overly perfumed house is worse (especially for those allergic to perfumes), so be careful. To check on how your house smells, ask your Realtor or leave the house for a while and then pay close attention when you walk through the door upon your return. The more you encourage honest feedback from your Realtor (and then take their advice), the faster your house will sell.


The next consideration when selling in winter is light. Winter days are shorter and dark houses can seem smaller than they are. Open all the curtains or blinds and turn on all the lights before prospective buyers arrive.

Clean and Declutter

Another way to make your house seem bigger is to remove a third of its contents. Even if you are an amazing decorator, when a house is full of furniture, it’s hard for people to imagine where their stuff would go. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go online and look at houses for sale on Zillow. The ones full of stuff are a lot less appealing.

Once you’ve removed many of your belongings (especially anything of sentimental or financial value), it’s time to clean as though your mother-in-law or maybe your boss is coming over to visit. If your house is like mine, it may have plants that need to be removed before they become petrified wood. Papers may have been lying around for so long that you’ve forgotten what the top of your desk looks like—put them away or throw them away.

In winter, humans and animals tend to track in mud. Family members should get used to kicking off their shoes before entering the house and a towel should be available by each door to wipe Fido’s paws. This is a great time to invest in good welcome mats where visitors can wipe their shoes.


Remember, before prospective buyers set foot in your house, they’ll start judging it from the outside. In the Ukiah Valley, everything is green in winter, so this makes it more appealing. Clean the yard, haul away any trash, mow the lawn (or in my case, the semi-organized weeds), and wash the windows.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.


Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

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