Post Blizzard Open Houses & Showings

Heavy snow covers homes and streets in a resid...
Heavy snow covers homes and streets in a residential neighborhood in . This photo was taken the day after the 2007 mid-February blizzard and looks east along Newton Court from Sullivan Street in the University Farm neighborhood, two miles north of the campus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well here in Greater Boston we've had a Nor'easter winter blizzard which dumped around 2 feet of snow everywhere. Many open houses and showings have been canceled or deferred due to the storm. Here in Medford there are 5 open houses still scheduled for Sunday. One even has a notice that it may be canceled due to the snow. With low inventory many sellers are in a strong position to pass up the opportunity that an open house may provide but others may find that by canceling they're missing out on a unique opportunity to get lots of attention for their property. The Boston Globe wrote a great article this past week on The challenges of having a home inspected in the winter. I write this to assist those selling in the wintertime.

Factors to deal with in listing a home during the winter here in Greater Boston
Snowstorms are a historically common occurrence here in Greater Boston. Last winter we all lucked out and had little snow concerns when showing houses or hosting open houses. A few years past it seemed we had weekly snowstorms to contend with, almost every week we had a late week snowstorm that ended up having to be dealt with. Depending upon the timing of a storm, the amount of snow involved and the makeup of your neighborhood there are several issues to look at when deciding on whether to cancel or postpone showings and/or open houses.

1. Amount of snow involved
While a dusting of snow can lend a certain charm to an otherwise bland/bleak winter curb appeal, heavy snow and it's eventual grey/black evolution can detract from the appearance of your property. Careful attention must be paid to walkways, stairs, handrails, driveways heat/hot water venting, ice-dams, icicles and neighborhood parking. With a storm of today's snow levels is historic you have to consider the safety of those visiting your property, their ability to park conveniently to your property and how a bad first impression  can affect a buyers opinion of your property and your neighborhood. Just as well, you're own safety must be in mind as to where you will go during the showing/open house. Can you safely find someplace to go for several hours, especially if pets are involved. If it's a multi-family property how safe and accommodating will your tenants be? These are all items to consider in advance. 

2. Parking
In many congested neighborhoods there is a custom of holding parking spots with winter furniture, some people get quite aggressive and upset when those coming to view your property take spots that were carefully and with some great effort cleared out. The last thing you want as a seller is to have a prospective buyer confronted by neighbors for taking "their spot". It sets an uncomfortable and alienating feeling for home buyers and buyers agents alike. This is why making sure driveways if you have one are cleared as much as possible to allow for a wide assortment of visiting vehicles to have designated parking that's easy to access and enter/exit. Let your neighbors know that you're having an open house/showing to allay any fears or situations that someone has taken their spot as most open house visitors/showings only come for a short period. Make sure to remove as many of your own personal vehicles  from the property to make for extra space. Sometimes buyers bring friends/family as well as the buyers agent to view a property. 

3. Walkways, stairs & handrails
Clearing a wide path for your visitors to easily access your property imparts a psychological response for buyers that the seller cares about the property and the selling of the property. Safety is also a concern. Reducing tripping or slipping hazards by treating walkways, driveways and stairs to be ice free will also make your home-owners insurance carrier happy. You don't want to have to deal with someone getting hurt while visiting your property. Contracting with a snow plow or snow removal company can have huge benefits when selling a property in the wintertime. Typically they have the machinery to clear better and also assist you with not having to stockpile sand/ice melt/salt in larger quantities along with snow-blowers. Clearing a path all around the property is a sound practice not only for your own access to get to any wintertime issues but also allow a prospective buyer to view your property in better detail. 

4. Entryway/foyers
If you'd like visitors to remove their winter footwear make an area convenient for them to remove their footwear. Provide a small seat for those to sit comfortably while removing their footwear. This will be greatly appreciated, especially if it's important to you that visitors remove footwear. Post a simple sign thanking them for respecting your wishes. Be prepared to offer disposable one time use sock/foot coverings. Especially if you have an unfinished basement, most people will not want to view an unfinished basement in their stocking feet. Make sure to remove all your own footwear/outwear from the area so not to over crowd the area and also to cut down on smells associated with wet footwear. Trust me, no one wants to smell wet feet when they first enter your property. Giving visitors an area to remove their outerwear will also make them more comfortable exploring your property and make them stay longer. It actually works. Provide a carpet scrap or other matting for the visitors footwear to rest upon so not to form pools of wetness on your flooring. 

5. Pet waste & Snow
All that pristine white snow will quickly not be so pristine if you have pets that do their business outside. The starkness of the snow will only highlight & spotlight this effect so be prepared to make extra effort to promptly clean up and clear this from your visitors view.

6. Real Estate Professionals Opinion
If you're working with a real estate professional you should go over the pro's and con's of hosting an open house or showing. Sometimes when snowstorms pop up unexpectedly it's best not to cancel/defer showings or an open house while other times it's advantageous to do so. There are expenses involved in preparing for an open house and even showings. Remaining flexible and having a plan on how to deal with mother natures wintertime plans will greatly assist you in the selling of your property. Some buyers may avoid looking at property in less than ideal weather while others may have to look at all properties due to their own constraints. Keep this in mind when scheduling or canceling your open house/showings.
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