Winter may not be the most intuitive time to sell a home, but there are some surprising benefits to staging a winter show house. Aside from the fact that you’ll likely have less competition (many homeowners wait for warmer months to put their homes on the market) a winter show house offers some great opportunities to show off the cosier, more intimate side of your home.
David Jacobs, Regional Manager for the Rawson Property Group, shares his top tips on embracing the winter season to create an enchanting and irresistible show house atmosphere.
Let there be light
Winter afternoons and evenings can get dark pretty early, which means potential buyers often arrive at a show house when it’s a little gloomy outdoors. Far from being a problem, Jacobs says this actually creates a great opportunity for sellers to show off the warm and welcoming nature of their property.
“Walking out of a gloomy day into a warmly-lit home instantly creates a feeling of happiness, comfort and safety,” he says. “That’s a great subconscious impression to leave on a potential buyer – they’ll associate those feelings with your home, even if they don’t immediately know why.”
Jacobs recommends leaving curtains and blinds open to allow indoor lights to become an inviting beacon to buyers, and choose warm-white lightbulbs rather than cool or daylight colours to create a cosier glow.
Warm it up a notch
Warmth is just as important in temperature as it is in atmosphere, and Jacobs highly recommends lighting a fire or putting a discreet heater on in your show house to take the edge of the winter chill. The good news for winter sellers is that you don’t actually need to heat a home all that much for it feel toasty to a visitor stepping in from the cold. Just a couple of degrees warmer than the outdoors makes a world of difference.
“It can be tempting to close all your windows and doors and pump the heater or build a roaring fire,” says Jacobs, “but that’s more likely to create a stuffy and stifling atmosphere than the cosy comfort you should be aiming for. It’s important to balance heat with ventilation so the air stays fresh and clean – particularly if you have an open fireplace or a very small home.”
Do a sniff test
Ventilation is helpful for more than just temperature control – Jacobs says it’s also vital to clear out any unwanted scents that might linger in a winter home.
“In the colder months, we often cook heavier, spicier meals, have steamier baths and showers, and keep our pets indoors more often,” he says. “All of these things can leave lasting odours that are strangely difficult to notice when you live in a space every day. I always recommend sellers ask a trusted friend – or their estate agent – to do an unbiased sniff test before they show their home.”
If you do have problem areas, Jacobs says crisp, winter air is a very effective natural deodorant, but suggests more intensive action (like steam-cleaning carpets and upholstery) for tougher odours like pets and cigarette smoke.
“It’s also a good idea to wipe down your kitchen and bathroom walls, cupboards and ceilings with an antibacterial or antifungal cleaner, and avoid cooking any particularly pungent meals for a day or two before a show house,” he says. “Just try to do any cleaning in advance so that your home doesn’t smell like bleach or detergent on show day – neither of those are very enjoyable winter smells.”
Add a subtle fragrance
Speaking of smells, winter may seem like the ideal time to fill your home with scents like baking bread or cinnamon cookies, but Jacobs says less is definitely more in this regard.
“Natural scents are actually much better than food-related aromas in winter, unless you want your buyers to be too distracted by their stomachs to pay attention to your home,” he says. “Clean fragrances like cedar, citrus or vanilla create a warm yet fresh atmosphere, but they need to be subtle to be effective – you don’t want to imply that you’re covering up a less pleasant odour. A scented candle in one or two rooms is generally plenty – and as a bonus, the flickering flame will add to the comforting ambiance!”
Don’t forget the outdoors
Winter can be hard on gardens, but that doesn’t mean buyers ignore them when house-hunting in the cold season. Jacobs says attractive outdoor areas are an essential part of a successful show house all year round.
“Trimming trees and shrubs to maximise sunlight is a good idea, as is clearing any fallen leaves from paths, lawns and pools,” he says. “Adding a few winter-blooming flowers can also go a long way towards helping you stand out from your competition, and brightening the first impression buyers have of your home.”