Spring and summer are, by far, the most popular seasons for house-hunting. But that shouldn’t stop you from looking for your dream home in the middle of winter. Though icy driveways and snowed-out open houses can be less than thrilling, there are surprising benefits to purchasing a home during the coldest time of year.
Let’s explore the various aspects of buying a home in the winter.
House-hunting during the winter months has lots of obvious disadvantages, and some less obvious ones as well.
First, it’s difficult to check out a property that is covered in snow or ice.
- A lush yard of trees, bushes, and blossoming flowers can look stark and bare during cold winter months.
- Some structural elements, like the septic tank, roof and AC system, that can be difficult or impossible to inspect during the season.
- With fewer hours of daylight, it’s harder to get a good look at the home, especially if your schedule isn’t flexible.
Home-shopping during the winter means fewer options on the market. Sellers know that spring is peak season for house-hunting, so most sellers wait until the weather warms up to list their homes for sale.
Finally, if you decide to go through with a sale during the winter, you can expect delays throughout the home-buying process. Inclement weather can push off the scheduling of important events, like the inspection, appraisal, and even the final walk-through or closing.
You might work with slimmer pickings in winter, but you’re dealing with more motivated sellers. Homeowners who choose to list their properties for sale during the winter are usually eager to sell. You’ll also find some homes that have been on the market since the previous spring with an equally motivated seller. Plus, the smaller pool of buyers during the winter puts you at an immediate advantage. These factors make negotiating a lower price easier. In fact, according to research by Zillow, homes that are listed for sale in December sometimes sell for $3,100 less than average.
You can also use your favorable position to ask the seller to throw in extras, like window treatments, light fixtures, appliances, and furniture.
Buying a home in the winter means enjoying better service from all the professionals you work with during the process. Your real estate agent, inspector, lender, or movers sometimes have fewer clients during the winter and can provide optimal service, as well as be more available to answer your questions promptly.
Finally, inspecting a home during harsh weather enables you to see how the house handles the cold, snow, and ice. You’ll also be able to check out the heating system so there are no surprises after moving in.
Tips & Tricks
If you’ve gone house-hunting during the winter, keep these tips in mind:
- Ask to see photos of the home during warmer seasons. To get a picture of the property in its prime, ask the seller to provide pictures showcasing the yard, pool, patio, flowerbeds, and more during the spring or summer months.
- Take full advantage of the buyer’s market and offer a starting bid that is well below the listed price.
- Ask for documentation for home features that are difficult or impossible to check out because of weather. Have the seller provide proof of the last roof inspection or replacement, the most recent day of service for the septic tank and the age of the A/C units. If something needs fixing, ask for a credit toward its repair or renegotiate the home’s selling price.
Don’t rush your decision. A narrow selection of houses doesn’t mean you need to compromise on the home of your dreams. If you can’t find a house that checks off all or most of the features on your list, wait it out a bit. Next season’s sellers usually list their homes right after the Super Bowl, so be patient and hang tight until you find what you’re seeking.
The real estate market may cool down during winter, but if you know how to overcome the challenges and optimize the advantages, you can walk away with a hot deal on a home during the coldest time of year.