Forget the Myth of the Off-Season: Why Winter is a Great Time to Sell and Buy A House

Conventional real estate wisdom long held that winter is a bad time for the housing market. That assumption has been proven incorrect in recent years, however. Real estate analysts have collected data and crunched numbers to find that winter is actually an excellent time to sell and buy a home.

While spring stands supreme in almost every market, winter is not far behind it. Taking all factors into account, Redfin ranks it as the most ideal season for buying and selling a house.  Trulia came to the same conclusion in its study.  So did experts at Realtor.com.

All markets have their own unique characteristics, but the bottom line is that buyers and sellers should not be afraid of listing or looking for a home during the winter months. The market may be different from December to March, but that can work in your favor.

Sellers

There are a number of reasons why winter is a good season to sell your home, such as:

  • Less inventory = less competition
  • Winter buyers are more serious
  • Possible tax breaks (if you close before year-end)

There are special considerations when listing and showing a house during the colder months of the year, however. Along with the standard practice of creating a blank slate of your house to allow others to envision it as their home, you should also prepare your house to withstand scrutiny regarding seasonal concerns.

Winterizing

Install or improve weather stripping and storm windows, insulate exposed pipes, and have your HVAC system serviced. You may want to improve insulation overall. Don’t assume that buyers won’t poke around in your attic or won’t notice drafts. And don’t take any chances of having your boiler go out on the day of a showing or open house.

Make sure that everything is in tip-top shape before you list. Those efforts will not only help to assure buyers that they will not be inheriting an inefficient home, they will also reduce your utilities costs. And be prepared to produce copies of recent utility bills.

Lighten up!

While optimizing lighting is always a good idea when selling a home, it is even more important during winter months. A warm and well-lit house provides an inviting contrast to a cold winter’s day. If the house is vacant, install timers to make sure that buyers don’t greet a house that is not only empty, but also cold and dark.

Go Easy on Holiday Decorations

Avoid stringing brightly colored holiday lights on and in your home. Buyers are diverse and a heavy hand with decorations might put some potential buyers off. Stick with evergreen and holly wreaths, centerpieces and garlands. Play up the season, not the holidays.

Seasonal Photos

Make sure to have photos of your house taken in the other seasons so that buyers can get a sense of what it looks like year-around.  And keep holiday decorations out of online photos, just in case your house doesn’t sell before spring.

Buyers

There are several good reasons for making winter your home-buying season, including:

  • Fewer buyers = less competition
  • Sellers are more motivated
  • Realtors have more time for you
  • Seeing a house’s energy efficiency

While you will have fewer houses to choose from when buying during the winter, you stand to get a better deal than if you wait until the spring to shop. You’ll have less competition from other buyers, and both sellers and realtors tend to be more motived during the colder months. There are certain things to keep in mind, however.

Houses Might Not Look Their Best

Chances are that you won’t be seeing houses looking their best when home buying in the winter. Depending upon the climate in your market area, you may not even be able to see much of the outdoor spaces at all. Yet don’t let that discourage you. Ask sellers about landscaping and exterior features and request photos taken during the warm months.

The Test of a Home’s Mettle

One of the biggest benefits of looking at houses during the cold season is that you’ll be able to see how efficient a home is. When buying in the spring, it could be months before you learn that you’ve inherited a temperamental boiler, a drafty master bedroom or a leaky roof. Home shopping in the winter will make inefficiencies glaringly obvious.

Pay attention to insulation around doors and windows and be attentive of drafts. Don’t be afraid to ask for recent HVAC service receipts and current utility bills so that you can know what you’re getting into in terms of energy costs.

Flexibility Is A Must

Inclement weather and holiday schedules may create delays in viewings, inspections and appraisals. Be prepared to be patient and flexible, and keep in mind that a few minor inconveniences are a small price to pay for landing a good deal on your new home.