Conventional wisdom says that people more frequently move during spring and summer months. This is just after school ends and when there is less chance of inclement weather. However, some folks are bucking conventional wisdom and buying houses during winter months, shortly after the holiday season ends. Several factors account for this contrary trend:
Housing inventory, particularly for starter homes, peaks in the fall. House shoppers have greater selection and more inventory to choose from when looking for houses during colder months.
Fewer buyers look for houses in the winter. Those buyers who are in the market during winter months will have less competition.
Fewer buyers means demand is lower. Lower demand translates into lower house prices.
With less demand, sellers will be more motivated to give buyers a better deal. Some sellers are more willing to include appliances and personal items as part of the transaction.
With fewer buyers in the market, real estate agents will have more time to help active buyers.
Winter buyers see houses that are under stress from the elements. This allows a prospective buyer a greater opportunity to observe potential problems. This includes leaking foundations, ice dams on eaves, and poor insulation.
How to Prepare for a Winter House Purchase
Finance specialists have a common set of recommendations for all home buyers, regardless of the time of year for your house purchase:
- Review credit scores and take any necessary actions to eliminate credit problems.
- Determine the highest price you can afford to pay for a home.
- Know how much of a down payment you can afford, either through your own savings or with gifts from parents or other relatives.
- Consult with several lenders to compare mortgage rates and to get a pre-approval for a loan.
- Understand how housing costs for items such as utility payments and maintenance costs will affect your budget.
- Speak with real estate brokers, insurance agents, accountants, and attorneys. This will help buyers understand how closing costs, mortgages, and real estate payments will affect your income tax filings. When you review homeowners’ insurance quotes, compare policies to verify you are getting the full coverage that you need.
Monthly housing costs may well be higher during winter months due to heating and snow removal costs. If you buy a house during winter, you will be immediately challenged with the need to manage those costs. With proper planning, you can perform any necessary repairs or improvement early in the spring. Note that contractors may charge less during the spring than in summer when demand is higher.
Protecting Your Investment
Make sure that your homeowners insurance policy protects your investment fully. Ask your insurance agent about liability protection for injuries that people might suffer on your property; such as falling on ice. Similarly, confirm that plumbing systems are covered in the event of breakage or leaks due to water freezing in pipes.
Buying a home in the winter can give you the best deal possible. Protecting the benefit of that deal is just another aspect of the total buying process.