Winter is known for many things, the least of which may be that it's the best season to sell a home. Granted, winter isn't exactly the most convenient time to move, but according to a study from real estate company Redfin, homes listed between December and March sell faster than homes listed in other months, and for more money. (That's been the case recent years, at least -- the market changes often).
Redfin says that anytime between December and May is an ideal time to list your home -- and February is the hands-down the best month. The company's analysis of nationwide listings from 2014 showed that 74 percent of homes listed in February sold within 90 days, and 13 percent of them sold for more than the list price. (Compare that to September, when 61 percent of homes sold within 90 days and October, when just five percent sold above list price).
In short, "shoppers in January and February are motivated," says Christin Camacho, a Redfin spokesperson. "They're looking in winter because they need to move, not because they're just looking for fun." And if people are going to brave the cold to househunt during winter, then they're going to make their effort worthwhile.
But before you pull a huge remodel to get it ready for the market, let's get one thing clear: Interior designers, realtors and home stagers almost unanimously agree that you should NOT stage large-scale remodels of ANY kind before selling your house. The investment, they say, simply isn't worth it.
The key to successfully selling your home lies in mini renovations -- the ones you can do on tight budgets, in a couple of days, and (most of the time) without professional help.
Feel free to breathe a sigh of relief and check out the suggestions for mini-improvements below.
Mini-remodel #1: Front porch paint job
Repainting your front door is the most important revamp to execute, says Zillow interior design expert Kerrie Kelly. A fresh coat of color -- or a whole new door, if you're in need and willing to hire professional help -- will boost your home's "curb appeal," letting visitors know they can expect good things before they even get inside. Complete the front porch look with new address plates, light fixtures, potted plants and a welcome mat.
Mini-remodel #2: New kitchen and bathroom hardware
Kelly recommends picking up bulk packs of drawer knobs and door handles and replacing worn, rusted ones. "If you can streamline the hardware on your cabinetry, it's fantastic," she says. Oh, and organize your shelves while you're at it. "People don't like to see clutter."
Mini-remodel #3: Replace entryway light fixtures
It's hard for designers to pinpoint exactly why perfect lighting puts house hunters in the mood to buy, but they agree that bright, warm lighting is key. First-impression areas like the entryway are especially important.
Mini-remodel #4: Paint with neutrals
Remodeling Magazine editor Craig Webb has crunched the numbers to find out which large-scale remodels make the most returns for homeowners, and he recommends one very simple trick: "If you talk to realtors, one of the first things they'll say is to repaint." Add a coat of "light, bright and neutral" paint to any room (and all rooms, if you can!). Neutral tones allow shoppers to more easily imagine themselves in your space. They also have the least chance of turning them away. For example, "If red is a buyer's least-favorite color, they're going to be turned off by a freshly painted red room," says Kelly. "With neutrals, they're more likely to identify."
Mini-remodel #5: Refinish your countertops
When they see fresh countertops and fixtures, potential buyers rest at ease knowing they won't have to invest in renovations themselves, says Beth Maloney, a realtor who works with Miracle Method. "Surface refinishing really make a difference to the comfort level of a prospective buyer," she says. "They see less worrisome dollar signs and more possibilities." Hire a team to swap yours out entirely (especially in the kitchen and bathroom), or DIY if you're really ambitious.