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January 08, 2024

Selling Houses When it’s Dark and Cold

News flash: It’s cold! Admittedly, I am a cold weather wimp, which is why I live in Florida. But in Northeast Florida, it has been cold all week. Not only do I struggle with the colder temperatures, but I hate that it is dark when I leave the office.

But my discontent with the cold and dark pales compared to what my daughter is dealing with in New York where the sun will set at 4:42pm and the lows will be below freezing! In Boston, where my friend Nancy lives, the sun sets at 4:25pm with lows in the teens. Count me out!

If you’re in the business of selling houses, you have probably adjusted your business plan to accept seasonality. In colder regions, sales typically drop as much as 40% during the colder months. Of course, this is often offset by more robust sales in warmer months starting with Spring and all through the Summer.

But what if you could do more than just cope with the drop in sales and traffic? Can you capitalize on the colder weather to increase sales and margins? Can you lure buyers out of the older homes with lower interest rates to check out your amazing new homes? Maybe. Here are some strategies.

Braving the Cold

First and foremost, new homes have better insulation, less air infiltration, higher efficiency HVAC equipment, appliances, and lighting than older homes. Sure, it may cost more to add these features, but now is the time to capitalize upon that investment. New homes cost less to operate than older ones. This means lower utility bills. One of my northern friends got a text from their utility company this weekend warning of increased demand and encouraging they lower their thermostat. Energy-efficient homes offer more than just energy savings – they are dramatically more comfortable.

Selling Warmth and Comfort

Imagine someone living in a house with drafty, single pane windows. I recall when I lived up north, the windows in my apartment would frost up on the inside. During a blizzard, there was snow on my windowsill. Can you market the increased thermal comfort with your superior windows? How about the overall comfort of the home because of the insulation and improvements to the HVAC equipment? One Jacksonville builder famously markets their thermal comfort in the summer by showing a chocolate bunny in their attic that doesn’t melt, even on the hottest days.

How might the same comfort be showcased in the winter? How about placing an orchid on the windowsill with a snow-covered landscape beyond?

Selling Cozy Upgrades

Fireplaces are the first cozy upgrade that comes to mind. It’s a no-brainer to turn on the fireplace in the model home if it has one.

But far less obvious would be marketing a heated floor in the bathroom(s). Even in Florida, the tile in my house has been unbearable this week. It might be awkward but powerful to invite prospects to remove their shoes in the bathroom and warm their feet. Next, hand them a fresh towel from the towel warmer. Couple these upgrades with an endless water heater, and the bathroom might become their favorite room in the house.

Outdoor Living

It may seem like a waste of time to try to “sell” the amazing outdoor living in houses during the winter months. But before you give up, consider the many products available today that add heat to your outdoor living space. Sure, you can add a portable propane heater like you see in restaurants, but what about something built in and more seamless? We recently visited a golf clubhouse in upstate South Carolina that had radiant heaters mounted in the ceilings. We thought they were small TVs at first – then we saw the gas line. The same facility had surrounded their large outdoor dining area with roll down, plastic windows.

Perfect for keeping the wind out. I know several places where I would like to use these.

When it’s Dark

The shorter days affect our behavior. One client told me they’ve found visitors to their model center come earlier in the day – while it is still light out. That certainly shortens the opportunity to sell houses. But what if you could use the darkness to your advantage? One simple trick is to add string lights to the backyard. Another client kept the lights on in their models all night long.

While certainly not energy efficient, the houses looked inviting – especially since there were no window coverings. Might be an opportunity for window shopping. Let’s also not forget adding landscape lighting – creating both interest and drama around the home.

What’s your experience in winter sales?

One client told me getting folks to the model is the tricky part. They have events designed to attract buyers to their community. In the winter, that could be hot chocolate and s’mores for the kids while mom and dad shop. Perhaps a fireside chat with a local leader or celebrity. What about an impromptu snowman building contest where the builder supplies the embellishments for the snow creatures? Heck – how about a drawing for warm outwear like a fleece, hat, or gloves – complete with the builder’s logo of course.

Send me your ideas and success stories. Let’s make this winter a boom for new home sales.

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters