Tips for buying a home in the winter


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Sunny days can mean that more people are primed to go out and look at houses. There’s the common adage that spring or summer is one of the best times to buy a home. After all, in warmer months, parents may have more time to house hunt and sellers might be more likely to accept an offer before the chilly weather or school year starts.

But even when flowers are blooming in the yard, ample reasons abound why certain homeowners prefer buying a house in the winter. If an individual gets a job in November and needs to relocate in the new year, for example, they might like to buy a home in December. And that off-season choice may not always be a bad thing for the buyer.

Housing prices during the winter months, often, are lower than in warmer months. In 2019, January saw the lowest average sales price of a new home at $361,100, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Compare that to $392,700 in August when buyers might be antsy to close quickly before school’s back in session.

Here are some tips for buying a house in winter, including some pros and cons for buyers.

Related: How much does it cost to remodel a house?

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1. Less competition

Not everyone wants to (or is able to) shop for houses during the winter months. Freezing temperatures, inclement weather and pre-scheduled vacations can keep would-be homebuyers away. During the winter season, many parents are spending more time wrangling kids in school and numerous individuals also travel during the holidays.

Fewer people shopping for homes could mean less competition for those in the market for a house. And diminished competition might mean winter homebuyers can be more discerning in their choices. There’s less pressure to snap up a house for fear another buyer will get to it first.

In the winter, there’s also less likelihood of being caught up in a bidding war with a slew of other interested buyers, which can drive up costs. While there are often fewer houses for sale during the winter, buyers may be more likely to land their desired home closer to the asking price then.

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2. It’s a buyer’s market

With some buyers distracted by children or the jam-packed holidays, it can be trickier to sell a home in the wintertime. Some sellers putting their homes on the market in the winter only do so because they really have to.

The seller’s snag, though, can be a boon for buyers, as winter homesellers may be more motivated to get the sale done with faster than their summertime counterparts. Motivated winter sellers might be willing to negotiate on things like price, closing costs and the closing date.

Nevertheless, some houses are on the market in the winter because the listing has lingered there since the summer selling season. Homes like these are at times called “stale listings.” Sellers with homes listed for many months may feel burnt out or even just testing out the market. Counterintuitively, a longer listing time can make some sellers more likely to reject low offers.

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3. Homes can close faster

Closing is when the title of a property legally changes hands from the seller to the buyer. When buyers and sellers are negotiating the sale of a home, they work together to set a closing date when the house title will officially transfer between the parties.

Real estate agents often work with mortgage brokers to find a suitable day that will allow enough time for the deal to be executed properly. But in warmer months, banks, inspectors and appraisers are handling a lot of new buyers. In practice, this glut of interested buyers could mean mortgage brokers are backed up for weeks or even months.

In the winter months, with fewer interested buyers calling, things slow down for lenders. Winter buyers might, therefore, close on their homes faster and get settled in more quickly.

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4. Winter is a chance to see a house at its worst

Visiting a property in person can tell a buyer a lot about a home. But in the summertime, some of a house’s less attractive qualities can be masked by warm weather, blossoming gardens and the brilliant summer sun.

Seeing a house in the winter can give buyers a chance to understand how it holds up under tougher conditions. Is the house too gloomy in low light? Does cold air creep in from the windows? Does ice jam up the gutters causing the roof to leak? Does a long driveway that needs to be shoveled seem less appealing in the winter than in June? Getting a chance to suss out potential problems like these can provide a fuller picture of what actually living in a property might be like year round.

That said, homebuyers might want to keep in mind that some aspects of a home can be harder to grasp in the winter months. For example, it’s tough to test out an air conditioning unit in the winter time.

It’s also more difficult to get a strong sense of what the entire outside of a home looks like when the weather is frosty. Are snow banks covering up trouble spots in the siding or foundation? Which parts of the landscaping are dormant? Are any parts of the yard dead or in need of replacement?

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5. Hire movers more easily

When moving from an old place to a new home, winter can pose some additional challenges. Boxes and furniture may need to be wrapped in plastic to waterproof them against inclimate weather. Winter can also make driving conditions a bit dicey for movers.

Still, moving in the winter can be cheaper than in the summer. Fewer people buying homes means less demand for movers, which in turn could mean more competitive pricing.

What’s more, with lighter schedules, moving companies may be more flexible and able to accommodate desired moving dates. (It can be helpful to stay flexible with move dates in the winter since a big snowstorm might mean sudden delays.)

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6. Realtors are less swamped

Movers aren’t the only people who are less busy in the winter months. Fewer people shopping for houses means there’s less work for realtors.

Agents may have more time in the winter to spend helping individual buyers find the house that meets their exact needs. Also, when it comes time to negotiate, agents may have more hours to go to bat for their clients to secure a better deal.

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7. Take advantage of last minute tax savings

Buying a house in December (rather than waiting until the following spring) can allow buyers to take advantage of last-minute savings on that year’s taxes. Homebuyers can deduct interest paid on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt on a first or second home. And buyers who itemize their deductions can deduct up to $10,000 of state and local property taxes from their federal taxes.

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8. Consider the home’s location

Location, location, location is the eternal real estate mantra. Similarly, the “best” time to buy will also vary by locale. Homebuyers in warmer climates (like Florida, Arizona or Southern California) may not notice dramatic differences in seasonal buying. Sellers in sunny areas may be less concerned that cold weather might dampen their chances to sell their homes, so inventory could be higher in the winter than in colder climates. There could also be fewer winter deals in sunnier locales.

In some places, shopping for a house in the winter may even be more comfortable than in the summer. Buyers looking for a house in Phoenix during the winter, for example, may find shopping when average temperatures are in the high 60s much more pleasant than the city’s triple-digit summer highs.

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Financing that home purchase

Once a homebuyer has found a house they’re interested in, it can be helpful beforehand to know how to finance the property. Taking out a home mortgage loan from a private lender might help homebuyers purchase their dream dwelling.

Learn more:

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