Spring into winter home shopping

Posted by on January 20th, 2015


So you’re waiting until spring to look for a new home?

Is it because you crave manic competition with all the other buyers thinking the same thing?

One of the best kept secrets in the real estate market is that there is no “best time of year” to do home shopping.

It’s not like a car lot, when car dealers are looking to clear excess inventory in spring to bring in the newest models.

Doesn’t really work that way with houses. Houses don’t move around, so there is no lot to fill up or empty out.

Don’t try to time the market – it’s impossible. The right time to buy is when you find the best available house in your price range.

Real estate is so cyclical – especially in today’s economy. Up and down, down and up. Try to wait for the perfect time, and you might miss out.

Winter chill

It’s true, when it is cold out, sellers turn a little frosty. They figure the same thing most buyers do. People are too busy with the holidays.

Real estate and mortgage professionals, who likely work like crazy during the traditional summer vacation season, also need time off. They’ll normally set their vacations for November and December, too.

But not all. There are some who work during these months, because they know other people have holiday vacation time they can devote to house-hunting. Some get a lot of business done because the people out buying and the people selling are dead serious. Brokers and agents typically have more time to focus on individuals, rather than juggling multiple clients.

You might want to hedge your house shopping in colder climates with lots of snow, which can hide some glaring defects that could be discovered in spring.

Then again, cold weather also reveals the performance of a home’s heating, plumbing and roofing systems, not to mention the effectiveness of insulation, whether superior or sub-par.

Do your bidding

Less competition from other buyers during the holiday season might mean you’ll be able to negotiate a better price.

There’s an art to bidding on a home. Ferret out a better deal by intuiting a seller’s true price.

If someone is desperate enough to put their home on the market during the slowest time of the year, maybe they are motivated enough to strike a bargain.

Somewhere below the asking price is the absolute lowest number the seller will take. Do your research.

For example, the county clerk’s office has information on property taxes, which many sellers owe a lot of. If you can get that number and can work it into the total you are offering on a house, you have an automatic advantage over others who didn’t do their homework.

Search for an emotional trigger before you make a bid on a home. A seller is subconsciously looking for a reason to sell to you. Instead of a nice round number, find some emotionally significant number that will stand out in the seller’s head, making him or her believe you’ve given the matter careful thought.

Lowered expectations

Still, with fewer homes from which to choose, you might have to lower expectations.

But fewer brand-new properties come on the market in winter, so you won’t have to worry as much about investors looking to gobble up all the best bargains.

Don’t set your sights too low. Before you buy, drop by the neighborhood morning and night. So many, many homeowners find out a few weeks or months into their residency that they hate their surroundings.

For example: You don’t feel safe walking because of broken sidewalks and skeevy neighbors. You’re always late because of the rush-hour traffic jams. It’s five miles to the nearest store.

Do yourself a favor. Get up early and drive to the prospective house and do a couple practice runs to work from there. A bad commute can ruin a perfectly good home.

And even if you don’t have kids, research the schools because it affects the value of your home. Quality of school districts can affect resale value by 10 percent, according to Zillow.

Here’s to your holiday

Sacrificing a little of your holiday time off to do some in-depth investigative shopping could lead to a great future for you and your family.

Don’t worry about missing time relaxing in front of the fire. You’ll get plenty of toes-up time after you close on that incredible winter bargain.