As the temperatures cool down, so does the housing market. Winter is the time for staying warm, celebrating the holidays and settling in until the weather outside isn’t so frightful, meaning that thoughts of attending open houses are far from the minds of most would-be buyers.
This presents an opportunity for savvy home shoppers. While lacing up your snow boots and putting on your warmest mittens to brave the cold and trudge from house to house might not sound like your cup of hot cocoa, house hunting in the winter months can actually come with a lot of benefits.
One of the biggest benefits to shopping for a home in the winter is that you’ll deal with less competition. Less competition means the odds are greater that you’ll be able to get into the house you want, and that you’re less likely to have to participate in a bidding war to do so.
This can be especially helpful if you live in an area with a particularly hot real estate market. Homes that you ordinarily wouldn’t even be able to get a look at before they get snatched up by eager buyers may sit idle for days, weeks or even months before an interested seller puts in a bid.
You’re less likely to have to worry about competing with multiple offers, as well. Getting caught in a bidding war can push buyers into making a higher offer than they’re comfortable with, and just makes the process more stressful overall. Less competition means you’re more likely to be able to keep the price within a range that is comfortable for you.
However, the flip side of there being fewer buyers in the market is that there will likely be fewer houses on the market, since sellers are more likely to wait until the spring to list their homes, when there are more potential buyers. But by staying up to date on what’s on the market and having a good real estate agent working by your side, you still should be able to find a home that fits your needs.
More Breathing Room
Not only can you potentially get a better deal when you don’t have multiple offers driving up the price of the house you want, you may even be able to spend more time getting a feel for a house before you have to make a decision on it.
When the market is hot, it’s important to move fast – dragging your feet can cause you to lose out on a house you really like because someone was quicker to make an offer. But with fewer people overall looking for a home, you can at least somewhat relieve yourself of the pressure to make an offer as quickly as possible and take some time to really make sure you’re going to be happy with your purchase.
Just be sure to not move too slow. Just because the market isn’t as crowded doesn’t mean you’re theonlybuyer in your area.
People who have a choice of when to move tend not to do so in the winter. It’s cold, people are busy with holiday gatherings, and for families with kids, halfway through the school year is an inconvenient time to start over in a new place.
As such, homeowners selling in winter are often moving out of need, and are generally fairly motivated to sell, and sell quickly.
Motivated sellers are good for buyers because they’re more likely to agree to certain concessions, allowances or other negotiations (more on that in a minute), especially when they aren’t seeing a lot of interested buyers. For example, if they’re working on a strict timeline (like needing to have the house sold by a certain date), you can use that to your advantage by agreeing to close by a specific date if they agree to things you want.
More Room For Negotiation
When you’re putting an offer on a house that you know already has multiple bids on it, you have to be careful what you ask for. Real estate professionals usually recommend keeping your offer as clean as possible in these cases, meaning you don’t ask for anything extra, like certain seller concessions.
Negotiation is all about who holds the cards. In busy markets where houses receive many offers and sell quick, buyers don’t generally have a ton of leverage to negotiate. But when there isn’t as much competition, there’s more wiggle room for the buyer to ask a seller to sweeten the deal.
This can mean offering slightly below asking price, requesting that certain repairs be made before closing, or asking the seller to cover some of your closing costs.
Be careful of getting overconfident and asking for too much or lowballing the seller. The market may not be as much in your favor as you think, or the seller might decide it’s not worth it.
Smoother, Faster And More Personalized
Another benefit to purchasing outside of peak home buying season is that the process may move better because everyone – from your real estate agent to the appraiser to the moving company – is less busy in the off-months.
When each party involved in your home purchase has fewer clients to worry about, you likely won’t have as lengthy turnaround times as you would in the spring or summer, when lots of people are getting mortgages and buying homes.
It’s also generally easier for you to get more one-on-one time with the professionals you’re working with. Use this to your advantage, especially with your real estate agent, to get as much personalized help as you can.
Keep in mind, though, that while real estate professionals are generally less busy with clients in the winter months, things like holidays, vacations and inclement weather have the potential to delay the process. Keep the lines of communication open with the people you’re working with, so you know about any potential speed bumps ahead of time.
Is It Worth It?
Depending on the type of weather your area tends to see in the colder months, house hunting in the winter might not be the most pleasant task. But if you’re committed to getting into your dream home sooner rather than later and are willing to brave the elements to potentially get a better deal than you would during peak home buying season, heading out into the winter wonderland may not just prove to be worth it now, but for many years down the road as well.
You’ve got your scarf, mittens and trusty winter coat. If what you need next is a mortgage approval, you can get the process started online with Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans® or give one of our Home Loan Experts a call at (800) 785-4788.
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