Buying and Selling a Home in Winter
Monica ThomasSeptember 13, 2018
Home buying and selling tends to hit its peak in the spring and summer months. Warm weather is more inviting for open houses, home inspections and moving. However, you can reap some significant benefits by putting your home on the market in the winter months.
Selling in Winter
- Less competition – With fewer homes on the market during the colder months, yours is likely to get more attention before the market becomes saturated in the spring.
- Serious buyers – Many companies relocate employees in the first quarter of the year, creating a group of buyers looking to settle in quickly and with some cash. Unlike in the warmer seasons, you’re less likely to have an open house full of window shoppers.
- Less time spent landscaping – Selling in spring and summer means lots of outside upkeep. You can avoid this headache and spend more time staging the inside of your home by selling in the winter.
Things to Consider:
- Maintenance and heating – Winter buyers are particularly observant of things like efficiency and heating costs. Make sure your furnace filter is replaced, your windows don’t let in a draft, your home is well-insulated and any necessary repairs are completed. Consider installing energy efficient windows to help slash heating costs.
- De-personalize – Be sure to keep all those personal holiday decorations put away. Buyers want to see themselves living in the home. Replace family photos with pictures of your home in warmer months, so buyers can get a year-round feel of the space.
- Don’t list too high – If you list too high in a low-inventory market and your home doesn’t sell, you run the risk of having to drop below market value to get a buyer before spring listings make your property look stale.
Buying in Winter
- Less competition – Less competition benefits both home sellers and home buyers. With fewer buyers to compete with, you’re less likely to enter a bidding war and more likely to have your offer accepted.
- Motivated sellers – As previously mentioned, companies tend to relocate employees in the first quarter. This surge leads to both motivated buyers and sellers, allowing you to close more quickly. This is a great time to negotiate things like closing costs and what household appliances will be included in the sale.
Things to Consider:
- Ask for maintenance receipts – Cold weather can make it difficult or even impossible to complete certain outside inspections. For example, if the ground is frozen, a septic tank inspection can’t be completed. Be sure to ask for proof of any work completed.
- Closing may be delayed – Inclement weather can delay inspections and appraisals, which may elongate the closing process. However, with the undivided attention of your real estate agent, you may get lucky and close quickly.
- Don’t lowball your offer – The assumption that sellers in cold months are desperate is often incorrect, and lowballing your offer may offend the seller to the point of being closed to a counter-offer.
- Mortgage rates – Rates change over time, but not necessarily seasonally. Analysis of almost 20 years of FHA rate data shows that in most years the mortgage rate changed by less than 1 percent. The month with the lowest average mortgage rate is April.
So, if you’re unsure about buying or selling a home during the winter months, just keep in mind the pros and cons, and don’t be swayed by misconceptions about the real estate “off season.”