As a probate attorney for the past decade, I’ve been involved in somewhere between one and three home sales every year. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to list a home during snow and ice season! Here in Montgomery County, winter runs from Thanksgiving through the first full week in March.
Few prospective buyers bother shopping during this season. And those who do are looking for deals, so purchase offers are lower and seller concessions are higher. Indeed, offers during these months tend to come with many more restrictions and demands, requiring sellers to agree to more changes than they would have to accept during seasons when demand is greater. Such changes significantly reduce the seller’s profit.
Homes don’t show well in the winter. Snow and ice magnify minor flaws in a property that sellers have no obligation to disclose and buyers might otherwise overlook. For instance, trees and shrubs will likely look bare if not dead, though in a matter of weeks they will turn green and lush. Slow draining sidewalks around a home will be slick with ice and slush, though the homeowner will have no ability to repair the county-owned pavement. Since the homeowner has no legal obligation to alert a buyer to such details, it makes no sense to highlight them unintentionally.
In the worst possible scenario, winter weather will cause a substantial defect that must be disclosed, imperiling a possible sale. Hail, sleet and ice dams damage roofs and cause leaks. When water starts seeping into a house during escrow, sellers must make costly repairs and concessions, or risk the buyer walking away from the sale.
Finally, homes that enter the market in winter tend to attract little interest simply because few people are looking to move. As a result, houses sit and listings become stale. Unfortunately, the few potential buyers suspect that any house that sits on the market must have a flaw: they naturally assume that if nobody else wants a house there must be something wrong with it. Stale listings result in price drops, and while the home will eventually sell, it will command a lower price than it would have if the seller waited to put it on the market in warmer weather.