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Cold feat: selling your home in winter

You might not consider winter the ideal time to sell a home, but maybe you should. Because cold weather makes home touring a bit clumsy with icy roads, muddy shoes, and heavy coats, you'll have fewer visitors. However, the ones you do get will be more serious about buying than the army of summer looky-loos seeking decorating ideas or neighborhood gossip. You'll also have less competition from other sellers.

Showing it off

Prospective buyers' first impressions start at the curb. If you have snow, make sure your mailbox has been cleared and your driveway neatly shoveled. Keep ice-melt on hand for your visitors' safety. Sweep mud and dirt from your porch and threshold. Give visitors a place to hang their coats and drop their gloves. It's thoughtful to provide plastic slip-ons so buyers don't have to yank their shoes off.

Making spirits bright

Get rid of clutter that can make your home feel claustrophobic. How's your lighting? Hire an electrician and add fixtures to banish dark spots in the kitchen and baths. Add lamps for a cozy glow in the living room and bedrooms. Have your windows cleaned. Get rid of odors in carpets, bedding and drapes--they'll be more obvious if you can't open windows, and it's easy for lingering damp to cause mustiness. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure it's lit for visitors, and keep your home's temperature comfortable. Thank buyers for braving the elements by providing hot chocolate or cider. Winter is the one time you can waft these happy smells through your home without seeming too "stagey."

Call in a contractor to fix issues that will come up in an inspection before listing your home -- in winter, you can't afford to put off furnace, foundation, roofing or chimney home repairs.