When you think about buying a home, winter might not come to mind as the ideal time. However, from the perspective of a buyer, winter can indeed be a wonderland if you’re looking for a deal. Sellers may be more willing to work with you.
Winter home buying isn’t without its hassles, sure. Still, if you know what to expect going in, you could really benefit against the backdrop of a snowy landscape. Here are five tips every home buyer should know before bundling up to go home shopping in the winter chill.
1. Cooler temperatures might mean cooler prices
One advantage of buying in the winter is that there’s less competition. Families tend to want to be moved into their home by the time school starts in August or September and not uproot their children in the middle of the year. For this reason, home buying season is traditionally between May and August.
While the housing market warms with the summer sun, there’s a steady chill for sellers by the time winter sets in. The people who would have been competing against you with an offer in August are often in their homes roasting chestnuts by an open fire by the time January rolls around.
Although we’re still in a market where prices are generally rising on an annual basis, they do tend to level off or even dip slightly in the winter months. Buyers who are motivated will often sell at a discounted price.
2. It could be easier to get your offer accepted
Sellers know that peak home buying season is in the summer months. Those who either put their home on the market or keep it there during the winter may be highly motivated to sell. If they could wait, they would. Summer typically means increased buyer traffic. And more demand means more offers and possibly higher offers.
Those who are selling in the winter may be more likely to accept an initial offer that’s fair than they would be in July. The lack of interest in buying in the winter means there are less multiple-offer situations. This has two advantages from a buyer’s perspective.
First, since there’s a higher likelihood you might be the only current offer, some of the pressure is alleviated. The price won’t be driven up as it would be in a competitive situation. The seller is only evaluating your offer on its merits.
Second, if they’re really ready to move on from the house, the seller may exhibit more flexibility in certain areas beyond the price, including paying for parts of the closing costs if you need it. If you can find out just how long the house has been on the market, it may help give you an indication of just how willing the seller would be to do a deal. Just make sure it’s not a lowball offer.
One thing that can help push your offer across the finish line is to exhibit your own flexibility where you can. For example, if someone has their home on the market at this time of year, odds are they probably just want to move out. If that’s the case, you should be ready to move in as soon as possible.
3. You’ll have fewer options to choose from
On the flip side, if sellers can afford to wait for the summer when demand will be higher, they often choose to do so in order to try to fetch a higher sum.
Because of this, it may be less likely that you find a house that has all the features you want. If you plan on working in the winter, you should definitely separate your wish list into must-have and nice-to-have items.
You can still get a bargain, but you may have to do some hunting for it and really know your market.
4. Allow more time for appraisals and inspections
As a practical matter, it can be more difficult to move around in the winter. Particularly in northern regions of the country, you may need to leave more time for the appraisal and inspection process just in case weather conditions prevent them from being completed safely.
While it might take a little longer to get done, a home inspection at this time of year can really be to your advantage. Because the harsh winter conditions test everything from the insulation of the home to the HVAC system to the roof, it’s a unique opportunity to really see how a house performs in less than ideal conditions.
If any major deal-breaking flaws are brought to light, you can either have them fixed now or possibly walk away if you have an inspection contingency.
5. Take into account other seasons
When you buy a home in the winter, there’s always the chance that everything might be covered with a blanket of snow. While this could have the effect of making everything look very pretty, it might also make it hard to visualize what the home looks like at other times of the year. Ask for pictures. This might help you get an idea of how to plan out the landscaping and where to place your patio furniture, for example.
In addition to the visuals, there are practical matters to think about. How will the environment of the home likely change throughout the seasons? I have a bay window in one room that provides fantastic natural light. The downside of having those beautiful windows and the fact that the room is at the end of the HVAC run is that the room happens to be the coldest in the house in the winter and the warmest one in the summer. There’s a trade-off to everything.
Try to look at the house and think about how it might work for you in all seasons. Your real estate agent sees houses every day and may be able to point some of these things out to you.
Continue to care for your finances after you get moved in
Bundle up and shop for that home, and have a great time doing it. Enjoy furnishing and decorating your new digs. Be sure to go over our new homeowner financial checklist so that you continue to keep your finances in their best possible health.
Kevin Graham is a Blog Writer for Quicken Loans Zing Blog, specializing in mortgage content. In his spare time, Kevin is a tech enthusiast who is a big fan of Star Wars and all things Detroit sports.
Haven Life Insurance Agency does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, accounting or real estate advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, accounting advisors or appropriate professionals before engaging in any transaction.