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4 ways to winterize your real estate business

Here it is Thanksgiving and there’s already plenty of snow on the ground, with more on the near horizon.

For agents who live and work in frigid winter climates, it’s time to “winterize” your business. That means exchanging your warm-weather sales tools and tactics in favor of an entirely different approach that will convince home sellers and buyers that “Snowvember” and “Icember” really are a good time to buy or sell — even though the swimming pool looks more like a hockey rink.

Here are four steps you can take to winterize your real estate business:

1. Refresh your market data

What can agents do to convince sellers — who otherwise will wait for spring — to sell during winter instead? Compiling a detailed set of local market statistics that cover the past few years can help show that the seasonal decline in the winter market is overplayed, and that buyers who are looking in the winter actually can be just as serious about signing on the dotted line as their fair-weather counterparts. “You aren’t just toying around with the idea of buying a home if you are trudging through 2 feet of snow” is what I like to tell my sellers.

2. Upgrade your photos

In the summer, you’re competing with far more inventory in your local market, so differentiating your listing is the key to drawing buyers. If you have a great yard, your seller can use that as a feature piece. But that doesn’t work so well with snow on the ground. When it’s minus 10 degrees, you’ll need more than an amazing front yard to convince buyers that a home is worth viewing.

With fewer buyers out there in the winter, throwing up a few iPhone photos on Facebook won’t get the job done. Go back through your contacts and call your professional photographer. Purchase the slightly more expensive package that includes exact measurements, a virtual home tour and a bunch of extra photos for your own website to feature. The more you can show that the interior of the home is worth looking at (even though, technically, it is the only thing worth looking at in the winter), and the more features you can show the buyer, the better chance you have of convincing buyers to bite.

3. Offer staging as a bonus

Hiring a professional stager will also do wonders for your photos. A consultation with a stager can also be something you offer as a “winter selling bonus” for your sellers if you think you might have competition for the listing. You already pay for photos, but going to the listing appointment in December and offering a “winter bonus” of free staging can put you at the top of the pack to get the listing and will present the home as a front-runner among potential buyers.

4. Set a realistic price to melt the ice

What if your winter sellers want to price their home $30,000 above your market analysis to see what happens? Bad idea. The key to selling a home at this time of year is getting the price right. Think of it this way: Your sellers already are nervous about listing in the winter, and you don’t dare to have the listing sit for months without an offer all because you let them overprice it. Unrealistic pricing gives the sellers ammo to relist with someone else in the spring. This is obviously easier said than done, but there is no more important time to make sure your sellers understand that the right price will melt the ice and attract buyers willing to pay it.

Of course, there are other more innovative ways to winterize your business. Sometimes, however, it’s not about being innovative, it’s about being realistic and smart. Perhaps the smartest thing for agents to do in the winter months is to get back to basics.

The other smart thing to do for agents who endure these months? Move to San Diego!

Josh Fellman is a Realtor with Edina Realty. He immediately jumped into real estate after graduating from college and hasn’t looked back since.

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