Spring has been a traditional house-hunting season. That’s when parents of school-age kids look for a place to call home — one they can settle into before classes begin in September.
And summer certainly has its merits for looking at houses, from the comfort of walk-throughs in warm weather to seeing gardens in full bloom.
But buying a house in winter can be a wise move. The so-called “off season” bestows some very real benefits for those who are looking for a new place. These may include everything from less competition (and bidding wars) to faster closing schedules.
At press time in the fall of 2022, housing prices were heading downward in key markets, as interest rates climbed and real-estate inventory became somewhat more plentiful. That pointed to the winter ahead being a good time to bundle up and rev up a home search.
Read on to learn seven smart benefits of shopping for a house in winter. You just might snag a great deal on your dream house.
Why You Should Buy a Home in Winter
Wondering why you should consider buying a house in winter, when the days may be short, the trees bare, and the weather nasty? Here are some very good reasons.
1. Having Less Competition for Homes
Not everyone wants to or is able to shop for houses during the winter months. Freezing temperatures and inclement weather can keep would-be homebuyers away.
During the winter season, many parents are spending more time wrangling kids in school, and many people are also busy traveling and hosting guests over the holidays.
But there’s an upside: 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 may well be 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 (or even below) then.
2. Profiting from a Buyer’s Market in Winter
With some buyers distracted by children or the jam-packed holidays, it can be trickier to sell a home in the wintertime. Some sellers only put their homes on the market in the winter 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 completed faster than their summertime counterparts.
Motivated winter sellers might be willing to negotiate on things like price, closing costs, and the closing date. Perhaps they need to relocate for work or another time-sensitive reason and are eager to get the deal done.
Also, some houses that are on the market in the winter have likely been there since the summer selling season. Homes like these are at times called “stale listings.” The seller may be ready to take what would previously be deemed a too-low offer, just to move ahead with a deal.
3. Closing on Your Purchase Faster in Winter
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.
In warmer months, banks, inspectors, and appraisers are usually 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.
But if you are buying a house In the winter, when fewer interested buyers are typically calling, things can slow down for lenders. Cold-weather buyers might, therefore, close on their homes faster and get settled in more quickly.
4. Understanding a Home’s Condition More Clearly
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? You could be destined for some home maintenance costs. 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, prospective homebuyers might want to keep in mind the flipside: 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 wintertime. And snow could cover up foundation issues.
5. Hiring Movers Can Be Easier in Winter
Let’s say you do find a new home and move forward with buying a house in winter. Moving costs 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.)
Still, if you move when snow is falling, that will obviously slow down your move and make it pricier. Try to reschedule if inclement weather is in the forecast.
6. Getting More Time and Attention from Realtors
Movers aren’t the only people who are less busy in the winter months. Fewer people shopping for houses could mean there’s less work for real estate agents.
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.
7. Taking Advantage of Last-Minute Tax Savings
Buying a house by late 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 mortgage interest from their taxes on up to $750,000 of their loan debt on a first or second home. (This translates to $375,000 per person for those who are married and filing separately.) And buyers who itemize their deductions can deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 each for those who are married and filing separately) of state and local property taxes from their federal taxes.
Financing Your Home Purchase
No matter what season you may be house-hunting, it’s important to figure out how to finance a potential purchase before you find the home that’s “The One.” Working with a Mortgage Loan Officer at SoFi can help you understand our competitive mortgage rates, how qualifying first-time homebuyers may only need to put 3% down, and how quickly funding can be approved.
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