3 Reasons to Buy a Home in the Winter
The traditional answer to “Should I buy a home in the winter?” is usually yes. Home buyers searching during the cold months often find hidden gems because their competitors are shopping holiday sales and vacationing on tropical beaches. This sentiment still somewhat holds true, but assumes there is plenty of real estate to purchase.
Today’s housing inventories are the tightest in recent history, meaning that although you won’t fight hordes of competitive buyers out in the cold, your local market probably has less property to sift through compared to winters past. Does this mean you should wait until the spring to start home shopping seriously? Certainly not.
Although homeowners who prefer to sell during the spring and summer will wait to list their homes, the crush of spring shoppers will gobble up any gains in inventory. Serious buyers should definitely consider the advantages of a winter home sale market.
If you need more motivation than less competition to consider buying a home over the winter, here are three reasons why the colder months are the perfect time to buy a home.
1) You'll save money.
Let’s start with a no-brainer: saving money is a good thing, and the chances of scoring a bargain sale price are far better when it's cold outside for multiple reasons.
Attractive Home Prices
Wintertime sellers are usually motivated to separate from their property for various reasons. Maybe it’s a military move, sudden career change, or family or medical issues. They’re all reasons homeowners often put their house on the market during less than ideal timeframes.
When a seller's property has been lingering on the market, they often feel anxious and reduce the asking price. On the other hand, with time on their side, buyers can investigate homes and decide if the reason the house isn’t selling is worth remedying, such as cosmetic updates.
Attractive prices help buyers get over the inconvenience that moving during the winter entails. Buyers are okay with packing and unpacking in the snow and during other weather-related inconveniences if the price is right.
Home Appreciation and Interest Rates Continue to Increase
Home appreciation is trucking along, so waiting for more affordable housing isn’t a viable home buying strategy. Depending on your circumstances (location, financial readiness), it could be beneficial to go ahead and buy a house before prices increase. However, as a military member, you must be comfortable with or at least aware of the downside of homeownership, such as becoming an unexpected landlord, while serving on active duty.
It’s a good idea to read 8 Lessons for a First-Time Landlord just to get a taste of what that lifestyle looks like.
If you home shop during the last few months of the year, it's possible to save on your taxes. You could find deductions in mortgage interest, taxes, and points. Local and federal laws apply, and the write-offs do not apply to everyone. Stay current with the legislation, as governing bodies continually amend the law’s language. Don’t forget that home sellers also benefit from tax incentives, which could provide even more savings if the home is priced to move before the new tax year begins.
2) You'll save time.
Anything you can do to shave off time during the home buying process is always a good thing. Luckily, there’s more than one way to catch a break on your timeline.
Scheduling Real Estate Appointments
During the winter season, real estate professionals from your agent to your home inspector generally have a slower schedule and more time to spend with you. More attention to detail, more focus on your must-haves, and more time spent on resolving problems are all far more plausible and less likely to be interrupted by cell phone's constant ping and ring.
Photo from iStock.com/Vadym Pastukh
With the absence of multiple competitors for a single house, the back and forth of negotiating the sale price and contingency clauses tends to move more quickly. Remember, sellers are eager to sell, and you’re ready to buy, so time efficiency is a strong motivator.
Although today’s closing procedures are shorter than ever, a winter closing schedule should move even more quickly. With more flexible schedules, lawyers and agents could execute the transaction from buying to closing in a couple of weeks.
Working With Contractors
Your home inspection and your walk-through probably showed room for improvement. Fortunately, contractors are also working through their slow season. They’re eager to return phone calls and write up efficient estimates to get the work started. There will indeed be some projects that are not possible because of the temperatures or other weather-related details, but most interior projects have a high probability of completion, maybe even before move-in day.
3) You’ll avoid unnecessary obstacles.
Although unlikely, avoiding challenges during the buying process and move-in is the ultimate goal, next to becoming a homeowner. There are a couple of strategies to bypass some of the typical obstacles.
During Home Inspections
A thorough home inspection is necessary during the buying process, but even the best inspectors can only see what they can see that day, regardless of the season. The harsh elements that come with winter affect a property inspection differently than a summer inspection would reveal. For buyers, this is a good thing. Typical problems in colder weather, like rodent infestation or ice dams in the gutterwork, are easier to point out.
Photo from iStock.com/Richard Heath
Monitoring the house’s heat sources, whether from furnace, oil, or wood burning stoves, allows buyers to observe how efficient the home is and whether or not the insulation and/or the condition of the windows is up to par. Don’t forget about snow removal. In the spring, it's easy to imagine snow shoveling won’t take much effort, but seeing snow on sidewalks and driveways in real time paints a more realistic picture.
While Using Your VA Loan
If you prefer to finance with a VA loan, it's common to be outbid, outmaneuvered, or even overlooked in a seller's market during the summer months. This loan type comes with negative connotations, both perceived and accurate.
During the winter, however, there’s less market pressure, and cash offers aren’t the norm—though this has somewhat changed in recent times. Homebuyers with access to their VA loan benefit have more wiggle room because the competition isn’t as intense. The positive attributes of a VA loan become front and center to a seller, and they’re happy to work with a process that the federal government guarantees.
For more information on how to take advantage of the benefit, take a look at Which One Is Right for You? Comparing Conventional and VA Home Loans for Military Homebuyers.
Choosing Moving Companies
Military moves are fraught with inadequacies, and moving companies are at the top of the complaint list. It’s common knowledge that families (not just military, civilians, too) like to move over the summer months to avoid disruption during the school year.
Photo from iStock.com/Richard Heath
Off-season months prove easier to secure a moving company. Not only are companies more available, but they also have more options to schedule pack and load days. The chance of hearing an out of the blue, “Sorry, we’re too busy and have to reschedule,” decreases.
According to Allied Van Lines, a national moving company, nearly 40 million Americans relocate yearly, and more than half do so between May and September. With this many people moving during the same months over the summer, there’s bound to be supply and demand issues.
How Military Members Can Prepare To Buy a Home
Some military members also have a slight advantage during off-season moves. It's common for service members to participate in long-term school programs that require a PCS during winter months. Because of this predictability, more homes for sale will begin to pop up during the months leading up to the beginning of the school cycle.
The lack of housing inventory continues to be one of the chief obstacles for homeownership. Creative solutions not only include expanding the options of suitable homes (consider townhouses and condos, not just single family homes) but investigating the inventory available during a nontraditional moving season.
MilitaryByOwner offers a constant inventory of homes for sale across the country and is an ideal starting point for finding options any month of the year, but especially during the cold months when civilians stop listing their homes for sale on other real estate sites. Because military life includes moving all year round, you can count on finding appealing properties on the market.