'Tis the season: What to consider if you’re selling this winter

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By Emily Myers  |
December 14, 2020 - 9:30AM

A fireplace adds appeal in winter—like this one in a two-bedroom co-op at 24 Monroe Pl. in Brooklyn Heights. 


The winter months aren't typically the prime time for selling your New York City apartment. In fact, in normal times a broker might suggest you wait to list until the spring when it's brighter, warmer, and you can put your winter coats in storage. The pandemic, however, has upended the traditional real estate calendar. While vaccines are on the horizon, cases are rising—and brokers, buyers, and sellers are all trying to figure out when is the best time to buy or sell in this very strange year.

One thing is certain, fewer people will be traveling over the holidays and that means they'll be able to indulge in looking at listings with a plan to close in the new year. So if you're thinking of selling your place, brokers agree, you shouldn't wait to list it. 

As in any buyer's market, your priority is to get your apartment seen by as many qualified buyers as possible and once they are in, don't turn them off with overdone holiday decorations, and closets full of winter gear. For tips on how to sell your apartment in the winter, we've asked NYC brokers to share the advice they are giving sellers right now. Read on for some practical considerations. 

Minimize decorations and go for a neutral scent

Brian Letendre, a broker with BOND New York, says go easy on holiday decorations and prioritize getting plenty of light and a neutral scent into the place. 

"Go ahead with taking pictures. Marketing turnaround is fairly quick. I often send pictures to virtual staging anyway so pictures can be tidied up but I would minimize holiday decorations so the potential buyer can see themselves in the space," he says. "Bright and tidy is the goal. Pull up all the shades, draw the curtains. Get in as much light as possible and go for a neutral scent—don’t go super cinnamon or pine—light, fresh and clean is what you want. Using diffusers is a good tip."

Ellen Sykes, a broker at Warburg Realty, recommends paperwhite and balsam when you're considering fragrance and Julie Gans, an agent with Compass, says don't get too hung up on whether your decorations will affect a sale.

"Don't worry about decorations and Christmas trees—they add beauty to the listing. Once the holidays are over, you can re-shoot the apartment if you want, once the decorations are gone," she says.

Pick the right paint and plants

Daniel Blatman, a broker with Triplemint, says on dark winter afternoons you are not necessarily focusing on the view, so everything is about bringing the focus inside and making it cozier—something that can be achieved with plants and a coat of paint.

"Warmer colors might work in the summer but oddly they darken the space in the winter—a very light blue, or Decorators White, which has some gray in it, or a very light green works better in winter," he says. "The warmer colors like Linen White look yellow or taupe when the light isn't shining on it and can make the place look tired and in need of renovation. I also recommend, in some cases, putting a reflective paint to a ceiling to help it rain light back into the space. A tall plant—either fake or real—can also bring attention and life and warmth into the apartment when it's dark and cold outside."

Make sure the entryway is clear

Kobi Lahav, senior managing director at Living NY, prioritizes a clean space and has some suggestions for keeping the entry clear of winter coats and kids' toys.

"You have to be extra careful about having your apartment tidy and ready at short notice this winter," he says. "You also need to be ready to show at unexpected times because people’s schedules have changed, they are working from home and sometimes you need to show early morning, late evening, or even Saturday. I recommend putting a coat rack outside the apartment and sometimes the owners put their coats there. Clear that with your neighbors and if you have kids at home put their bikes in the stairway and entertain the dog in the lobby or the laundry room."

Keep it a cozy 72 degrees

Elizabeth Kohen, the owner of Garfield Realty, has tips on how to create coziness and get the temperature right. 

"We recommend keeping homes warm and inviting for buyers in the wintertime, at around 72 degrees. If you are fortunate enough to have a fireplace, it should be lit for showings. Any snow should be shoveled along walkways, and steps cleared and salted. Winter staging decor, like faux fur blankets and fresh, fluffy pillows can go a long way towards creating a cozy, welcoming feeling that buyers desire. If marketing over the holidays, a tasteful Christmas tree is a nice touch," she says.

Pro Tip:

Unsure what your apartment is worth now? Before you list your place publicly, test your price quietly among real-life, qualified buyers via the pre-marketing program at New York City real estate brokerage Triplemint. There's no charge to participate, nor any obligation to enter a traditional listing agreement if your place doesn't sell during the pre-marketing period. Click here for more information.

That virtual tour is more important than ever

Seth Levin, a broker with Keller Williams NYC, emphasizes how important the virtual tour is as buyers want to reduce in-person viewing. If a potential buyer visits the apartment in the late afternoon or evening, they will be relying on the virtual tour to examine how much light the place gets.

"With no open houses, we are showing videos before the viewing, so sellers need to make sure when the virtual tour is done the apartment shows the place at it’s best light," he says. "Now are the shortest days of the year and kids are often home from school during the day, so viewing might happen in the late afternoon or evening. That means the virtual tour and photography needs to be filmed when it is bright outside because buyers are going to be turning to that more so than they have ever before."


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Emily Myers

Senior Writer/Podcast Producer

Emily Myers is a real estate writer and podcast host. As the former host of the Brick Underground podcast, she earned four silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Emily studied journalism at the University of the Arts, London, earned an MA Honors degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and lived for a decade in California.

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