Beyond Less Competition: 3 More Big Reasons to Buy a House in the Winter
The traditional “When should I buy?” real estate advice goes something like this: home buyers looking during the cold months often find hidden gems because their competitors are shopping holiday sales and vacationing on tropical beaches. This sentiment does still hold true, but assumes there is plenty of real estate to be bought.
Today’s housing inventories are the tightest in recent history, meaning although you won’t fight hordes of competitive buyers out in the cold, your local market probably has less property to sift through as compared to winters past.
Does this mean you should wait until the spring to seriously start home shopping? Certainly not. Take a look at the numbers Realtor.com details about the selling seasons.
“The months of May, June, July, and August make up 40% of existing-home sales, while January and February account for less than 6%.”
Although owners who prefer to sell during the spring and summer will wait, the crush of spring shoppers will gobble up any gains in inventory. Serious buyers should definitely take advantage of a winter home sale market.
There are plenty of good reasons to search for a new home during the winter, other than the lack of shopping competitors. Here are three more reasons why the colder months are the perfect time to buy a home.
Beyond Less Competition: 3 More Big Reasons to Buy a House in the Winter
#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 very motivated to be separated from their property. Maybe it’s a military move or other sudden career change. Family, medical, and school are other reasons homeowners have to put their home on the market during less than ideal timeframes.
Sellers whose property has been lingering start to feel the pinch and have even more reason to reduce their asking price. With time on their side, buyers can investigate homes that have been sitting for a while and consider if the reason is something worth remedying, such as cosmetic updates. Necessity drives home sales in winter, and owners are ready to negotiate and make a deal.
Attractive prices help buyers get over the harassment that moving during the winter entails. This is why negotiations and concessions are welcomed. 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, which means waiting for a more affordable housing market probably isn’t coming anytime soon. And if you’re considering buying, chances are, you’ve been paying higher than normal rent prices. Depending on your circumstances (location, length of time owning, to name a few), it could be beneficial to go ahead and buy a house.
But, as usual, military members have to be certain, or at least aware, of the downside of homeownership 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.
On the same money saving note, interest rates are forecasted to inch up as the year progresses. Bargain shopping for the best mortgage rates and fees is a must do in any circumstance, but beating the next interest rate hike is something to think about. Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, predicts mortgage rates will pass 5.25% in 2019.
If you happen to be shopping during the last few months of the year, the opportunity for savings on your taxes exists. Potential deductions could be found in mortgage interest, taxes, and points. Local and federal laws do apply and the write-offs are not applicable for everyone. You’ll have to stay up to date with the current legislation, because governing bodies continually amend the law’s language.
Sellers also benefit from tax incentives, which could potentially offer buyers 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
Across the board, real estate professionals from your agent to your inspector generally have a slower schedule and more time to spend with you. More attention to details, 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 the constant ping and ring of cell phones.
With the absence of multiple competitors for a single house, the back and forth of negotiating sale price and contingency clauses tends to move more quickly. Remember, sellers are eager to sell. And, you’re ready to get the buying process finished, so time efficiency is an strong motivator.
Although today’s closing procedures are shorter than ever before, as is discussed in What to Expect When You Close on a Home, a winter closing schedule should move even more quickly. With schedules that are all around more flexible, lawyers and agents could possibly execute the transaction from buying to closing in a couple of weeks.
Working With Contractors
Your home inspection and your personal walk-through probably showed room for improvement. Fortunately, contractors are also working through their slow season. They’ll be eager to return phone calls and write up efficient estimates to get the work started. It’s true, there will be some projects that are not possible because of the temperatures or other weather related details, but most all interior projects have high probability of competition, maybe even before move in day.
#3 You’ll Avoid Unnecessary Obstacles
Avoiding all types of challenges during the buying process and move-in is the ultimate goal, although probably unlikely, but there are a couple of strategies to bypass some of the typical obstacles.
During Home Inspections
A thorough inspection is a necessary step during the home 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 a good thing. Typical problems that occur in the colder weather like rodent infestation or ice dams in the gutterwork are easier to point out.
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
In a seller’s market during the summer months, it's not unusual to be out bid, out maneuvered, or even overlooked. Sometimes, those challenges are due to the buyer’s preference to use a VA loan. This type of loan comes with negative connotations both perceived and accurate.
During the winter, however, market pressure is released and cash offers are not the norm. Buyers with access to their VA loan benefit have more wiggle room because the competition isn’t as strong. The positive attributes of a VA loan become front and center to a seller and they’re happy to work with a process that is guaranteed by the federal government.
The VA loan is advantageous to service members for several reasons, but the fact that a down payment is not required is probably the most important. 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 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.
According to Allied Van Lines, a national moving company, nearly 40 million Americans relocate each year, and more than half do so between May and September. With this amount of people moving during the same months over the summer, there’s bound to be supply and demand issues.
Off-season months prove to be easier to secure a moving company. Not only are there more available companies to offer their services, they have more options to schedule pack and load days. The chance for hearing an out of the blue, “Sorry, we’re too busy and have to reschedule” or worse decreases.
How Military Members Can Prepare To Buy a Home
Some military members also have a slight advantage during off-season moves. It's not unusual for service members to participate in long term school programs that require a PCS during winter months. Because of this predictability, more for sale options 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 has a constant collection 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 attractive candidates for sale.