Selling a home in the off-season can be challenging. But, where most agents throw up their hands and surrender, you’ve come searching for how to make it work, and we here at The Close are ready to deliver.

We spoke with top producers from across the country—from 11 different states and provinces—to get their best advice on how to sell a home in the off-season, and this is what they said:

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1. Treat Every Buyer as a Serious Buyer

Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan, President, Stribling and Associates, New York City

Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan

Even though there are fewer buyers in the market during the off-season, these buyers tend to be more serious and ready to pull the trigger when the right property comes along. Keeping that in mind, you know you can’t assume the same number of lookie-loos coming through. Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan, President of Manhattan luxury brokerage Stribling and Associates, told us:

“These potential buyers are there for a reason. They are either local and ready to move, or have come to town ready to consider a purchase, so move them down in your mental funnel. Some of the biggest deals my firm has brokered have been in August when many consider New York City to be ‘empty’.”

2. Highlight Year-round Amenities

Cody Vichinsky, Founding Partner, Bespoke Real Estate, The Hamptons

Cody Vichinsky

Just because it’s the busy season in your town doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to talk about. Sure, the snow might be making the biking trails tough to navigate, but that just makes more room for cross country skiing. Cody Vichinsky of ultra high-end Hampton Brokerage, Bespoke Real Estate, reminded us:

“Sophisticated buyers can look past the negative weather conditions if you point them in the right direction. A beautiful view or excellent building amenity are there year round no matter what the temperature is outside.”

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3. Tailor Your Marketing to Out-of-Town Buyers

Gill Chowdury, Associate Broker, Warburg Realty, New York City

Gill Chowdury

Oftentimes, places with real off-seasons have residents who spend their time in two different locations. Not everyone who owns a home in a place with a snowy climate wants to stay when it snows. So, find out where your snowbirds are migrating to and make sure to give some marketing attention to that area too. Gill Chowdury of the luxury Manhattan brokerage, Warburg Realty, told us:

“Put yourself in their shoes. Where are they traveling to? What is their lifestyle like? If you understand that your buyers are in The Hamptons or Aspen or Miami, you can begin to serenade them in the idea of a new home while they enjoy their time away. Craft your message in a way that will blend seamlessly with their time away so that they can truly envision themselves coming home to a new home.”

4. Don’t Let Your Listing Descriptions Get Emotional

Brett Miller, Realtor, Nourmand & Associates, Beverly Hills CA

Brett Miller

Even though a showing can be used to draw positive emotions to the surface, your listing details should not, especially this time of the year. Remember, your buyers are more serious at this point in the selling cycle, many of them are making their initial decisions on what properties to view based on cold hard facts. Brett Miller of the iconic Beverly Hills brokerage, Nourmand & Associates, gave us a little more insight about this:

“Gather your most brutally honest friends and family and allow them to give it to you straight. The key here is to get people in the door with an objectively attractive presentation. The honest feedback you receive can help you sell your property faster.”

5. Use the Snow to Your (Photographer’s) Advantage

Chase Michels, Broker, Baird & Warner, Chicago IL

Chase Michels

Snow provides some headaches for Realtors, but can actually be a helper for photographers who are shooting the interior of your listings. Chase Michels of Baird & Warner, famous for their high end work in the Chicago area, knows a few things about snow. He explained it this way:

“Interior photography needs to feel open and bright, which can sometimes be a challenge in certain properties. When there is snow on the ground, open curtains and shades allow the light to reflect off the snow and give your properties a boost of extra lighting, use that to your advantage.”

6. Don’t Go Live Until You’re Ready

Brian Beatty, Team Leader of the Brian Beatty Team, Keller Williams, Charleston SC

Brian Beatty

You only get one chance to make a first impression, especially when real estate inventory is low. When your property hits the market, it is going to be scoped out by serious buyers immediately, so make sure you have all the details nailed perfectly. Brian Beatty told us:

“Focus on your presentation, both online and for showings. Don’t let a silly mistake be the one thing that a buyer remembers about your listing. Wait until you’ve got everything just right before going live, it will pay off in the end.”

7. Get Aggressive on Price

Michael Chadwick, Licensed Salesperson & Leader of the Chadwick Team, CitiHabitats, New York City

Michael Chadwick

Being realistic about price is of utmost importance during this time of the year. When buyers are hesitant to come out and brave the weather, they are certainly going to be less likely to schedule a showing if they think a property isn’t priced correctly. Michael Chadwick of CitiHabitats told us:

“You’ve got to be aggressive with your price. Do your homework and price the property right at market value, or even 5% below, then stick to your guns at the negotiating table. You’ve got to get people in the door before you can get an offer.”

8. Consider a Pre-Listing Inspection

Andrea Morgan, Realtor, Atlanta Intown Real Estate Services, Atlanta GA

Andrea Morgan

This is good advice for any time of the year, but especially when buyers are few and far between. Sellers should consider a pre-listing inspection report as a means of heading off any concerns a buyer could potentially have after seeing your listing. Andrea Morgan of Atlanta Intown Real Estate Services had this to say:

“Getting an itemized list of things that can be addressed prior to sale is a powerful step. You won’t get blindsided by repairs later on if the buyer wants an inspection, and you get a chance to correct issues a buyer may spot when viewing the home.”

9. Use Your Professional Network to Prospect

Julie Williams, Realtor, Texas Property Sisters Realty Group of Keller Williams McKinney, McKinney TX

Julie Williams

Real estate is a tricky industry in the sense that your competitors are also your colleagues. Press the colleague angle a little bit and reach out to other Realtors in your area who are working with buyers who might be interested in your listing. Julie Williams of the Texas Property Sisters Realty Group gave us some insight into how this strategy works for her:

“We reach out to agents to make them aware of the home and its features and encourage them to show it. Often the one on one phone call helps answer specific questions that assist the agent in knowing if it is a good fit for their client.”

10. Make Sure Your Images are Compelling

Heather Schuck, Realtor, Keller Williams, Austin TX

Heather Schuck

We all know photos are a buyer’s first impression of your property, but when fewer buyers are getting off the couch to see your listings, you’ve got to get creative. Heather Schuck gave us this idea:

“Showcase the upgrades that have been made in the property with some great before / after photos, especially of areas that buyers can’t see because of the season. If you’ve done some great landscape work, even if a buyer can’t see it NOW, make sure to show it off.”

11. Use Your Buyer’s Sense of Smell As a Tool

Bryne Duren, Realtor, Duval Homes Real Estate, Orange Park FL

Bryne Duran

Memory involves all five senses, the most powerful one usually being smell. During the summer months, it is hard to find a reason to invoke a reaction from your buyers’ sense of smell, but during the holidays, you’ve got more latitude. More on this from Bryne Duren:

“There are so many yummy smells around the holidays. If you are trying to sell a home during this period of time, use those scents as a means to conjure happy memories from your buyers and make your listing feel more like home. Just be careful to not go overboard!”

12. Curb Appeal Is More Important Than Ever

Shawn Breyer, Founder, We Buy Houses Atlanta, Atlanta GA

Shawn Breyer

When the grass is brown and the leaves are off the trees, or maybe there is a foot of snow on the ground, it is easy to forget how important curb appeal is for your listings. Shawn Breyer told us:

“This time of the year, there can be a lot natural debris in your yard. Take the time to clean up the branches, leaves, and other debris in your lawn that can kill your curb appeal. If you live in a colder climate, snow can pile up in inconvenient or unsightly places. Set yourself apart from the competition by making the perfect first impression, your home should be the most attractive of all the houses on the block, whether they are for sale or not.”

13. Stage a Vacant Home

Chris Siamof, Realtor, Keller Williams Fox Cities, Fox Valley WI

When the temps drop, buyers are looking to walk into a home and feel warm and cozy. Yes, literally warm and cozy. It’s cold out there, but they also want to feel warmly greeted by a place where people actually live. During the low-selling season, vacant homes feel less like a place to live and more like a place to store things. Avoid that with thoughtful staging, as explained by Chris Siamof:

“Staged homes sell, on average, for more than 5% higher prices than those that are completely empty. Especially this time of the year, you want a property to feel inviting and for buyers to feel welcomed.”

14. Go Wild Digitally

Elliot Bogod, Managing Director, Broadway Realty, NYC

Elliot Bogod

We all know that over 90% of home buyers start their search process online, but during the slower season, many of those buyers never make it past the online step. Savvy Realtors know this, and capitalize on this growth of digital audience. We heard as much from Elliot Bogod of Broadway Realty:

“My agents and I go a little wild with digital in the slower months. Our prospective buyers are spending a lot more time indoors on their computers rather than out looking at property, so we bulk up our promotion. More social posts, we blog about property, podcast about it, even increase the Email frequency. It takes more to get people off the couch if they have to put boots on.”

15. Offer Realtor Incentives

Denise Supplee, Realtor, Long & Foster, Doylestown PA
Denise Supplee

Don’t be afraid to offer a little incentive to the buyers’ agents of your MLS to help sweeten the pot and ensure that they are prepared to sell your listing. During these leaner months, often times the name of the game is just getting your property in front of buyers. You are more likely to do that with a little extra nudge, as explained by Denise Supplee:

“I like to offer Realtor incentives on a property, just to get conversation going and get people motivated. Things like a bonus if we get a contract that closes before a certain date, or even a higher commission rate are likely to get your listing into the mix to at least be viewed by buyers.”

16. Don’t Be The Next Clark Griswold

Michelle Sanoske, Realtor, Century 21 Redwood Realty, Reston Va

Michelle Sanoske

We get it, decorating around the holidays is fun, but you know what is more fun? Selling your house for lots of money. If you are listing a home for sale around the holidays, keep the holiday decorations to a minimum. Michelle Sanoske from Century 21 Redwood Realty told us:

“Try to avoid holiday decorations in photos. Though they feel festive at the time, they really date your listing, and can be a distraction from where you actually want your buyer’s attention. If you are going to have holiday decor up during showings, make sure it is tasteful and classic, do your best to depersonalize wherever possible.”

17. Use Video To Your Advantage

Kurtis Forster, Sales Representative – Team Forster, Nu-Vista Premiere Realty, London ON

Going above and beyond with video can be the extra step that pushes your listing into the must-see category. Especially during the cold weather months, consider an on-demand showing option with a guided video tour. No fancy editing necessary, grab someone to hold the camera and show people around the property.

“A video tour of your home is a quick and effective way to showcase all the best aspects and features. When the weather is bad and it is harder to get someone to actually come and tour the property in person, setting yourself apart with a multimedia listing is an investment that will pay off. ”

Your Turn

What are your best practices for selling homes in the off-season? Anything you’ve found that works best in your market? Share your tips below!

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