House hunting in winter: the good, the bad and the ugly

Ginger Dean

January 8, 2013

By: Ginger Dean, Home Finance Specialist


It's cold. The holidays are over and we're moving through the winter -- and frankly no one really wants to house hunt during the colder months. Homeowners and home buyers often put off home sales transactions until the spring.

However, this doesn't mean that house hunting during the off season is a total bust. There are many advantages and disadvantages to house hunting during the colder months to consider. Nevertheless, spring isn't always the ideal time to buy and here's why you should consider getting your house hunt started a few months early.

The good

Lower prices + more time and flexibility for negotiation = WIN. Prices set during the winter months tend to be lower as the prevailing thought tends to be that if the home doesn't sell now then the price will be increased during the spring hunt. The payoff for the homeowner is that they get the process over with before the spring with little hassle from the home buyer since the price is right. Furthermore, since there's less competition, this also means there's more time for negotiation which puts the home buyer in the driver's seat. As you can see, there's a benefit in this timing for both sides. Lower prices from the homeowner means more time and flexibility to negotiate for the buyer.

Realtors are more attentive. The spring hunt means Realtors (the good ones) are bombarded with client appointments straight through the week to see new homes. This often means less individualized time which can be disconcerting for the buyer that needs the extra time and attention during the buying process.

The bad

Limited selection. Many homeowners wait until the spring hunt to put their properties on the market. Consequentially, you'll find limited inventory during the colder months. However, the pros listed above may help ease some of the concerns in this area. You may find a home where you're able to negotiate a good price because the homeowner is under pressure to sell rather than wait you out.

The ugly

Weather delays. Winter storms can delay closing times and inspection appointments. If you're locked into a specific timeline for the purchase, then plan accordingly. To avoid this, make sure that everyone involved in the process knows and plans to adhere to your timeline. Discuss a contingency plan. This is especially important when your application hits the underwriting process which can be unpredictable. Ask the underwriters to give you a list of everything they are looking for and discuss any potential red flags that could snag your sale from moving forward.


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