Conventional real estate wisdom says winter is the worst season for agents. In theory, fewer people are selling their homes or looking to buy, even in regions where Jack Frost isn’t nipping at anybody’s nose.
But then there are statistics that defy that wisdom: According to a Bank of America report, 24 percent of homebuyers say that winter is the best time to purchase a house, outpacing both summer and fall (spring, not surprisingly, was first at 41 percent).
Wherever you are located, winter doesn’t have to be a dead period. Instead, it can be a season of opportunities for real estate agents, both experienced and new, to close deals and advance their businesses. Here are some ways agents can thrive when the days are short and the air is chilly:
Pricing Is Key
People selling their homes in winter, rather than waiting for warmer weather, are usually doing so for a reason—maybe because they are relocating or trying to gain a tax benefit. However, because fewer buyers are on the market, pricing becomes more important than in other times of the year. That doesn’t mean lowballing your listing, but it does mean being more accurate within current market conditions because for a buyer to jump now instead of waiting for spring, everything about the property needs to be attractive.
Some good news for sellers: Winter buyers are often motivated because of relocation, leases running out, or recognizing the opportunity the season offers. These months don’t get many uncommitted buyers or people browsing open houses just because they can. Serious buyers are out there amid lower inventory; your job is to ensure they find the homes you’re listing.
Stage for the Season
With less margin for error, staging and open houses take on added importance in winter. Adding holiday touches in December, such as some outdoor Christmas lights, an understated tree (not a Charlie Brown tree, but not the Griswolds’ tree from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—a midsized, pre-decorated artificial tree might be your best bet), and other homey decorations, helps prospects envision what their holidays will be like in the home. However, don’t leave the lights up too long; in February, those decorations will make the house look like it isn’t upkept.
After Christmas, you can still stage the home in ways specific to winter. Run the gas fireplace and be sure the thermostat is set high enough so visitors aren’t shivering. Turn on lights and open shades. Make sure entry areas are clean of mud, but also show they can handle winter activity. And absolutely keep sidewalks and driveways shoveled and free of ice.
Appeal to the Snowbirds
In warmer climates, winter presents an opportunity to sell to snowbirds—people from northern states looking for second properties to escape the bad weather between November and March. These buyers may already be renting in the area and looking for something more permanent. Snowbirds generally keep to certain neighborhoods and parts of town popular with other snowbirds, which provides you a blueprint for where and how you can focus your marketing.
Clients and Community
Your past clients may not need your services in the winter, but you can still show your appreciation by holding events for them. Happy hours, family-friendly holiday gatherings with Santa, pie parties, and office open houses allow you to reconnect with customers. Beyond your clients, connect with the community by sponsoring toy or clothing drives or by hosting free seminars. Making an impression now can pay dividends throughout the year when a contact who needs an agent remembers you.
Plan for the Future
Despite the opportunities winter holds, the season can still be slow, no matter how hot the market is or how hard you work. Take advantage of this time to plan ahead. The fourth quarter is perfect for assessing the previous year and charting strategy and setting goals for the upcoming year. After January 1, put in the work to prepare for spring. Your schedule and workload will inevitably increase as the weather gets warmer; why scramble then when you can get everything ready now?
Business as Usual
When business slows down, real estate agents may be inclined to back off everything they do to be successful. Everyone’s schedule is busy between Halloween and New Year’s Day, and during the blah days of January and February, you understandably may be less motivated to want to work. Don’t give in to the holiday rush or the winter blues; approach the season with the same enthusiasm and effort you would show any other time of the year. Continue to market yourself and be active on social media. Take advantage of educational opportunities your brokerage offers. Listen to real estate podcasts as you drive in your car. Don’t just chill during the winter—fire up for the upcoming year!