Many people believe it’s harder to sell your home in winter than summer. But there are a number of real advantages to selling during the cooler months, says Kathy Monahan, an agent with Forest Hill Real Estate Inc. in Toronto.
For one thing, removed from the sometimes frenzied action of the spring market, sellers can take a little more time to consider offers, and with fewer homes on the market, there’s less competition. And don’t worry, says Kathy: the things that lead people to make new home purchases -- a new job, a growing family, up- or downsizing -- happen all year round, and there are still plenty of buyers out there. In fact, winter is a great time for playing up your home’s cosy, family-friendly charm.
Start with the exterior
As with any time of year, make sure that the house looks well maintained and cared for, with eavestroughs 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 shovelled 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-honoured 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, colourful 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 Christmasy in design. Make sure you continue to maintain walkways clear of ice and snow, and think warm thoughts!
Tis the season for fabulous festive parties! Join #ChatWithStyle as we share our best tips and tricks for surviving all the season's celebrations.
Join us on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 from 12pm to 1pm EST as we chat holiday entertaining! We're sharing our best tips and tricks to help make this year's holiday soiree your best yet! Plus, engage in the conversation and you could win over $200 in entertaining essentials from our Style at Home Collection!
Here's how to enter:
1 Follow @styleathome on Twitter
2 Use the hashtag #ChatWithStyle in your tweets
3 Engage in the conversation on December 7, 2016 between 12pm to 1pm EST!
Read the full contest rules here.
A renovated kitchen gets bigger and brighter.
Designer Jennifer Ferreira helps a Toronto couple reach a design verdict that's both practical and polished.
Contemporary artwork and kids' colouring books; a travertine dining table and a teepee fort - these anomalous pairings are the norm at Courtney Toomath-West and Ken West's Toronto house. "This is a family home," says Courtney. "Our daughters can play, and my husband and I can retreat to formal rooms, all in one fairly small space."
Courtney and Ken, both lawyers, bought the 1,800-square-foot rowhouse in 2008 before their girls - Honor, now 6, and Caroline, 4 - were born. "Ken and I had been living in a condo, but when we began to think about having kids, we yearned for the character of an older home," says Courtney. This Victorian, in the city's Little Italy neighbourhood, fit the bill. "I fell for its original plaster mouldings as well as its high arches and ceilings," she says. "It hadn't been updated in decades, but it was well loved, and I wanted to preserve its charm."
"The entryway feels grand for a 16-foot-wide house," says designer Jennifer Ferreira. The oversized mirror creates the illusion of space, and the large pendant light complements the black trim on the sisal runner.
"When I first saw Courtney and Ken's house, it simply needed finessing," says designer Jennifer Ferreira. "I wanted to complement its architectural details, inject a tailored look and create a comfortable family space." Jennifer incorporated a few new and custom-made pieces into the decor, but says the transformation really started with the window coverings. "Drapes make a house feel like a home," she says. "I added them to all the principal rooms, hanging them above the window frames to create a sense of grandeur." The black drapery rods fitted with brass finials and drapes with a band of grey ribbon lend a sense of elegance and formality to the living room.
When they couple moved in, they replaced the existing light oak floors, which were in bad shape, with darker oak and, keeping their art collection in mind, painted the walls gallery-like neutral shades. Jennifer also updated the living room's outdated armchairs with sophisticated zebra-print fabric.
The kitchen was expanded by removing a wall between it and the den, and fitted with new cabinetry and appliances.
The grey lower cabinets add contrast to the mostly white kitchen, which is outfitted with Caesarstone countertops and stainless steel appliances.
The homeowners love to entertain and often host dinner parties, so Jennifer designed chairs for lounging in the dining room. A sculptural light fixture illuminates the travertine table, a family heirloom.
"The master bedroom doesn't get a lot of light, so I wanted to brighten it up," says Jennifer. An airy wall colour, natural linen headboard and ikat-print bench do the trick.
"I painted the bathroom walls white and replaced a dark wooden vanity with a white one for a more tailored look."
In daughters Honor and Caroline's bedroom, the drapes match the pink linen headboards. "The fabrics can easily be changed if they ever tire of them," says Jennifer. Courtney added the princess sign for a little sparkle.
Soft pink hydrangeas add a sweet, fresh touch to the girls' pink bedroom.
"The Wests honeymooned in Morocco, so I chanelled that look on their patio," says Jennifer. "The pendant light, side table and toss cushions resemble items found in a souk."
Nothing brings the indoors out better than carrying your colour palette out onto the patio. The patterned toss cushions keep the family comfortable and cozy while adding a fun dose of the bright pink seen throughout the rest of the home.
Add these tasty thumbprint cookies to your holiday baking list! Credits: Maya Visnyei
Try this decadently delicious spin on the traditional thumbprint cookie.
Offering a twist on a classic is something that comes up a lot in the Style at Home offices, but it’s never been as yummy as this. Our take on these traditional holiday cookies replaces the usual jam with three of our favourite sweet spreads – pure genius, if we do say so ourselves.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 In a large bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger and salt; stir into the butter mixture just until the ingredients are combined and come together to form a dough.
4 Shape the dough into thirty-six 1" balls.*
5 Arrange 1" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball, leaving an indentation; pinch together any cracks around the edges.
6 Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
7 When the cookies are cool, spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the well of each one.
*To roll the cookies in nuts, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoon water until frothy; place finely chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts) in a bowl. Using a fork, dip each dough ball into the egg mixture, then into the nuts to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed. To dust with cocoa or cinnamon, roll the dough balls into either cinnamon or cocoa powder, shaking off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed.
Makes: 3 dozen cookies