House-hunting during the winter months has lots of obvious disadvantages, and some less obvious ones as well. First, it can be 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. There will also be 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 can also be harder to get a good look at the home, especially if your schedule isn’t flexible.
Home-shopping during the winter also means working with fewer options on the market. Sellers know that spring is peak season for house-hunting, so most will wait until the weather warms up to list their house 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 be working with slimmer pickings in winter, but you’ll also be dealing with more motivated sellers. Homeowners who choose to list their properties for sale during the winter are likely quite 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 will make it easier for you to negotiate for a lower price. In fact, according to research by Zillow, homes that are listed for sale in December generally 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 can also mean enjoying better service from all the professionals you work with during the process. Your Realtor, inspector, lender and mover will have fewer clients during the winter and will be able to provide you with optimal service, as well as be more available to promptly answer your questions.
Finally, inspecting a home during harsh weather will enable 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.
If you’ve decided to go house-hunting during the winter, keep these tips in mind:
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.