Inventory might be lower, but so is your competition. Find out why you might want to buy a home during the winter.
The holiday season can seem to go by at warp speed with all the shopping, traveling, baking, and gift wrapping that goes on … in addition to everyday life. So selling or buying a home probably isn’t at the top of your (and most people’s) to-do list. That means low inventory but also mild competition, which presents an opportunity for the savvy buyer in cold-weather markets. Here are eight tips from real estate agents on how to get a great deal on a home during the winter.
1. Negotiate with confidence
When you know you’ve got the upper hand in a deal, you should welcome the negotiation process. And during the winter, buyers typically have the upper hand. Given the luxury of choosing any time of year to sell, most sellers probably wouldn’t pick wintertime. So if someone is listing their home during winter, they probably need to sell it quickly, or their home has been sitting on the market for a while, and the seller is probably more than ready to negotiate. “Sellers who are on the market [in winter] are often motivated to negotiate a sale rather than potentially carry a home through the off-season,” says Janine Hostetter, a Massachusetts agent. “We often see the best values written during this time.”
2. Just show up
Sometimes a house for sale during the off-season can draw about as big a crowd as an annual watching-the-grass-grow event would. In other words, open-house attendance and general interest are bound to be low. “The buyer pool is reduced [in winter], and this often puts those ready to write an offer in a stronger position,” says Hostetter. So just showing interest and making an offer could get you that property.
3. Don’t let a little snow scare you away
Many buyers don’t want to trudge through the snow to find their dream house. Plus, it’s difficult to see a home’s curb appeal with snow hiding everything. “Savvy buyers can look past dirty snow heaps and picture instead spring daffodils,” says Bri Grady, a Massachusetts agent. Plus, Grady says, you can bet the sellers are getting pretty tired of “shoveling snow and paying high heating bills for a house they no longer want.”
4. Know how to offer less than asking price
You might be calling the shots as a buyer of winter realty, but that doesn’t mean all sellers are willing to just roll over. “Offer a relatively low, but not a lowball, price,” says Marcia Goodman, a Virginia agent. What’s the difference? A low offer might be 90% of the home’s price, but a lowball offer would be downright insulting. “Even a small difference in price can mean significant savings for buyers in the long run,” says Goodman. Another option: “Ask for perks such as furniture or the pool table that you admire.”
5. Put your agent to work
During peak season, any real estate agent worth their salt will be busy. And that makes them less available for you. But during the off-season, even the best agents should have some more time on their hands. “Housing professionals, such as agents and mortgage brokers, are paid on commission, so they will be extra hungry during the lean winter months,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and director of education at SparkRental. “That usually translates to better service and more flexibility to make sure your deal closes.”
6. Offer to move through inspections and appraisals quickly
It’s always good to get the house you want to buy appraised and inspected as quickly as possible. If both processes go well, you can move forward, and if they don’t, you can move on. In winter, you theoretically can get both done quicker because there is less activity, and inspectors and appraisers can probably get to you right away. But that isn’t always the case. “I wouldn’t bank on inspections and appraisals being faster,” says Janine Acquafredda, a Brooklyn, NY, agent. “While business slows down during this time and appraisers and inspectors have less on their plates, vacations and time off increases. Lots of people in the real estate business take advantage of the slow season to spend time catching up on their personal lives.”
7. Be flexible
For a person selling a home in winter, it would probably be a dream to sell the house and not have to move during the holidays. You can be the person to make that dream come true. “Even though someone is selling in the winter, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to move in the winter,” says Acquafredda. “If you can agree to get into contract but allow the sellers to have possession of the home until after the holidays, this could probably translate into a better deal for you if you are looking to bid under the asking price.”
8. Understand the markets
Not all markets experience the same peak and off-seasons. Florida remains hot during the winter, and many buyers flock there, ready to buy. “What is winter for New Yorkers is the hottest buyer’s market for secondary homebuyers in Florida,” says Chloe Cohen, a New York agent. Bottom line: “To get the best real estate deals, the answer would be that it’s case by case. Buy when the market is favorable to buyers.”
Did you get a deal buying a home during real estate’s off-season? Let us know how in the comments!
About the author
Laura Agadoni is a landlord and a journalist whose articles appear in various publications such as The Houston Chronicle, The Motley Fool, San Francisco Gate, Zacks, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, and Arizona Central. Visit her website at www.lauraagadoni.com.