I was recently offered an amazing job on the West Coast, so I’ll have to sell my house as soon as possible. Everybody says that December and January are terrible months for selling. Are there any special considerations I need to think about?

First of all, congratulations on the new job!

One consideration you definitely need to think about in December and January 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.

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 as many candidates as you can to determine your best listing agent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about experience, services, references, fees and commissions, availability during the holidays, and anything about how they plan to market your house.

For example, you could ask about holiday decorations: will they help you sell your place, and how much is too much? A string of Christmas lights and a wreath on the door might be nice touches, but what about a giant inflatable Santa Claus 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.

Real estate salespeople are trained and knowledgeable professionals who can guide you through the sales process. Listen to their advice, but always keep in mind that you’re in the driver’s seat. It’s your house up for sale, and only you can accept or reject an offer.

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. But keep in mind that some real estate salespeople have completed the additional necessary course work themselves, and are qualified to perform appraisals. That’s an issue you may wish to discuss when you interview potential candidates.

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.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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