Don’t wait for spring. Winter can be a great time to buy.
With fewer sellers and fewer buyers, winter often means less competition for new homes
and great deals for buyers.
Winter is not the usual season for house hunting— that distinction goes to spring and summer. Prospective buyers typically don’t think about looking at homes in the winter months, but the reasons that buyers overlook winter house-shopping can be the very reasons that make it a great time to find that dream house. Winter can definitely be a buyer’s market.
Fewer sellers AND fewer buyers. It is true that the inventory of homes on the market is greatly reduced in the winter— so you will not have as many homes to choose from— but there are far fewer buyers looking at those homes. That lack of competition gives the prospective buyer quite an edge when he finds a house on which to make an offer. The prices are generally lower in the winter (December is traditionally the month with the lowest house prices), and less competition means more room for negotiations. It also means that you should have more time to make a well-informed decision. Additionally, fewer homes from which to choose can actually make house hunting easier. The smaller selection should certainly save you time, and make your decision that much easier.
Sellers are typically highly motivated in the winter months. The majority of sellers wait until spring to list their homes, since those months herald the most active real estate season, the season of nice weather and lovely yards. Fewer sellers are listing their homes in the winter, but the ones who do list in winter often have a strong motivation for selling, such as financial strain or an impending relocation. These sellers are serious about selling, and may be more willing to do some serious negotiating. Some of the sellers may have had their homes on the market since the previous spring, which could make them ready to accept an offer they might not have accepted earlier.
Winter is a great time to assess a home’s soundness. Winter weather can definitely bring out the worst in a home, and viewing a home during months of cold, rain, snow, and wind really gives you a chance to see if the house can hold up to the weather. How well does the heating system work? Is the insulation sufficient to keep the house warm? Do you feel cold drafts in the house? Is the hot water tank keeping up with the challenge of the cold? Are there any leaks? It’s not difficult for a house to present a pretty picture when the weather is beautiful; the real test of a home is when the weather is terrible.
Realtors, and other real estate professionals, typically have more time in the winter. Another advantage of winter house hunting is the greater availability of real estate professionals. Fewer sellers and fewer buyers mean fewer clients for agents, who will have more time to focus on your home search. In addition, with fewer clients, lenders have more availability for questions and assistance. Less paperwork means that mortgages may be processed much more quickly, and some lenders even waive fees to encourage borrowers to use their services during this off-season. Similarly, moving companies often lower costs for the same reason.
Winter, traditionally the slow period in the housing market, can actually be a great time for the savvy home buyer to take advantage of the “lull,” and find a great deal on that perfect house.
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