Start with the exterior
As with any time of year, make sure that the house looks well maintained and cared for, with eaves clean and minor repairs taken care of. While you can’t paint in winter, washing paintwork and siding with warm soapy water on a mild day can make a big difference. Make sure the windows are freshly washed as well; winter light has a way of highlighting grime.
Tend to foliage
Make sure that shrubs and tree-branches bent down with snow don’t obstruct walkways or entrances; brush the snow off or prune if necessary. (It won’t hurt them.) Ensure that the walkway is shoveled and ice-free before every showing; not only is this a courtesy and crucial to making the home look well maintained, but if a visitor slips and is hurt, you could be liable for damages.
Adorn the entryway
A wreath on the front door, Christmas lights and a garland hung on the doorframe or front porch present a welcoming entry. Plant urns with festive greenery, the fuller the better: along with cedar or pine boughs, tuck in sprigs of holy, dried berries, magnolia leaves, corkscrew hazel or red osier branches, with silver ball ornaments and perhaps gold wire ribbon woven through the arrangement.
Make a good first impression
Once a prospective buyer comes inside, remember that you may have only 10 to 15 minutes to make a lasting impression. (A small but crucial point for unoccupied homes: make sure the heat is turned on several hours before the showing. All the window-dressing and staging in the world won’t entice buyers to linger inside a home that’s freezing.)
Romance visitors’ sense of smell by lighting fragrant candles or placing bowls of potpourri in main rooms. A time-honored but still effective trick, especially on a cold winter’s day, is to have a pot of cider simmering on the stove, or cookies or fresh bread baking.
Protect the floors
To protect your floors, put down rubber mats by the door for snowy boots; buy a few pairs of comfy one-size-fits-all slippers from a department or discount store for visitors to wear while they view your home.
Light a fire
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, light a fire and let it glow during the showing. Put big, colorful poinsettias in each main room, including the kitchen; consider more modest winter flower arrangements or amaryllis blooms in other rooms, such as the bath and master bedroom. Decorate banisters and mantels with pine garlands (natural ones impart a delicious, nostalgic fragrance); a decorated and lit Christmas tree or menorah enhances an image of home and family.
After the holidays, seasonal decorations can be taken down, but urn arrangements and even the front door wreath can stay up for the rest of the winter, if it isn’t too hollidayish in design. Make sure you continue to maintain walkways clear of ice and snow, and think warm thoughts!