We get it. With the exception of a few sun belt states, shopping for a house in the winter just seems off. The traditional time to go from listing to listing is spring and summer. But while things slow down this time of year, there are some hidden advantages to choosing it as your buying season. In fact, experts agree it might even be the BEST time to buy a home—if you can swing it.
The first reason is obvious. The competition is minimal. People are busy with pre- and post-holiday plans, some are bundling up, not even venturing out as often to grocery shop. Nationally speaking, the months of May, June, July, and August make up a whopping 40% of existing home sales, while January and February account for a paltry 6%. Many sellers know this, and just don’t bother listing. But what about those houses out there for sale all prepped and ready for you to tour?
Although bidding wars are not as common as they were a year ago, winter can still knock the wind out of the competition, permitting you to be a bit more selective with your home purchase. While a bigger seasonal inventory means a larger pool of home to choose from, your chances of successfully buying any home are higher when it's at least a tad chilly if not frosty. Fewer buyers mean fewer all-cash, over-asking offers—making your traditionally-financed offer more appealing.
Besides, sellers who go to the trouble of listing this time of year are serious types. They may have to relocate for business or have compelling reasons to move quickly than their warm weather brethren, giving you, as a buyer, the upper hand. Your Realtor is an expert at studying how long each listing has remained on the market before showing it. The longer they linger, the better chance of a negotiated deal you may not have gotten when the grass started greening. You’ll want to consult with your agent on an appropriate negotiation strategy.
Besides, wintertime reveals all. Your home inspection may turn up items never found during the dry, balmy months, offering you the perfect opportunity to evaluate the property under the worst conditions possible as well as leave you fewer surprises a year from now, once you've been in the home awhile. Drafty windows, suspicious ceiling stains, furnace efficiency, how effective the insulation is — it all allows you to know better what you are buying and may even give you the leeway to negotiate with the seller to deal with it before you move in or offer you a credit in escrow to deal with it.
Another advantage is potentially getting a better quote on moving expenses since you aren’t competing with a hundred other moving households.
Tax savings is one of those little-known advantages. Buying in the winter gives you a few extra months of potential tax deductions, as the holidays are the last best chance to buy that home and use it as a write-off the current year’s taxes. Confirm this by speaking to a professional before getting too excited, though. The new tax law may affect your mortgage interest deduction.
Need a quick move? Spring and summer has mortgage lenders and escrow and title personnel scrambling. But while Santa is loading up his sled, things slow down to a snail’s pace for them comparatively speaking, permitting you to close your loan faster.
And while others are just beginning to tickle their laptop keyboards to see what’s out there, you’re already drinking a hot chocolate in front of your new fireplace.