Ah, Canadian winter.  Love it or hate it, we make lots of decisions based on how we are affected by snow, ice, cold, and the early darkness.

Talk to enough people at this time of year, and someone is going to tell you that listing your home for sale before spring is a “crazy thing to do!”  They will tell you that you will *absolutely* get more money for your home in spring (though, if you press them, they may not know when the spring market actually starts, for real estate purposes – but here’s a surprise:  it starts around February, when there is plenty of winter left to go).

Although there is definitely a case to be made for waiting till the traditionally more active and robust Spring Real Estate Market if you can hold off, life doesn’t always wait, and you may find yourself in a situation where selling in the winter months is necessary.  A job transfer, new family circumstances, personal finances – there are multiple reasons for a house to be listed for sale.  And many of those reasons may present themselves urgently in any season.

Here is the truth:  You don’t need to panic if you have to sell now.  However, there are subtle differences in the way you will prepare and show your home at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.

December and January can be challenging months for home sellers, but remember: if somebody takes the time to look at your house in the dead of winter, they’re probably pretty serious about making a move.

Your first step is to find a real estate salesperson who understands those challenges, and can adjust the marketing strategies accordingly. Even if you have to make a quick sale, it’s still a good idea to shop around and meet a few candidates to determine your best listing agent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about experience, services, references, fees and commissions, and anything about how they plan to market your house.

One consideration you definitely need to think about in January (and February and March- “spring market” notwithstanding)  is safety. Selling your home involves welcoming parades of visitors into your living space, sometimes on short notice, so it’s very important to keep outdoor walkways and stairs free from ice and snow.

You could ask about leftover holiday decorations: will they help you sell your place, and how much is too much? A string of twinkle lights and a wreath on the door might be nice touches, but what about a giant inflatable Santa Claus still sitting on the front lawn? Your sales representative may have experience in the art of staging homes for viewing, and knows what appeals to buyers and what doesn’t, so be sure to have this conversation. They may suggest different strategies when beautiful summer plants aren’t visible in the dead of winter. [When I bought our home in December, that seller had photos that showed it in the summer. I found that very helpful.]

If you aren’t sure how much money you want for your house, your salesperson can provide you with the listing prices, selling prices and other attributes of homes that recently sold in your neighbourhood, as well as a useful analysis of the relevant information. All of which is an excellent starting point for establishing a listing price.

Still, if you need more information than just a ballpark figure derived from local sales numbers, and you’re concerned about the effect the winter-selling season may play in negotiating a final sales price, you can always get a formal appraisal of your home’s value from a designated appraiser. Your representative can help you make that decision.

People buy and sell homes year-round in Canada. Your best strategy for success is to make your home look neat and presentable, remove any ice or snow from outdoor stairs and walkways, and set a listing price that works with your strategy.