Holidays could be the right time to ramp up your home shopping — while the crowds are at the stores.

Black Friday is the holy grail for deal-seeking shoppers during the holiday season. But what about buyers searching for a home — do the same deals exist for real estate?

Giving them an extra nudge to sign on the dotted line is what holiday season incentives are designed to do.
Giving them an extra nudge to sign on the dotted line is what holiday season incentives are designed to do.

While attending open houses and making offers may not be high on the traditional holiday schedule, it could be worth your time to consider ramping up your home shopping efforts. Because the majority of revelers are focused on parties and celebrating, and wouldn’t consider moving or selling during the holidays, it can be the perfect opportunity to score a great deal on a home.

It’s a great time to buy

“Savvy sellers get aggressive with holiday deals to entice the few buyers actually looking at homes to pull the trigger on one,” says James Dainard, a Seattle-area broker with Heaton Dainard Real Estate.

Dainard says that during the season he sees prices typically drop between $3,000 and $12,000. Sellers know that these buyers are serious about actually buying. Giving them an extra nudge to sign on the dotted line is what holiday season incentives are designed to do.

Holiday steals and deals

Dainard says that outside of price reductions, he’s also seen a few more creative items thrown in, including appliances such as energy-efficient washers, dryers, stoves, full sets of living room furniture, and big-screen plasma TVs.

But some incentives go beyond the obvious additions to a home purchase and veer into lifestyle territory. According to Dainard, the best incentive he’s seen came from a seller who sweetened the pot for a three-bedroom condo in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood by throwing in Seahawks season tickets.

“I truly think that the holiday season is one of the best times to purchase a home. Last year between Thanksgiving and the new year, the market was really moving fast with homes priced about 5 percent under market value,” says Tracey Hicks, a broker in Portland, OR, with Dwell Realty. “There were listings with giveaways that rivaled Best Buy: big-screen plasma TV’s, high-end security systems, and even laptops — it was nuts.”

Sellers, proceed with caution

While holiday freebies are great, sellers would be wise to use caution when including items such as TVs, furniture, and other gifts in a home purchase. Mortgage brokers have very specific lending guidelines, and if handled incorrectly these exciting add-ons could be problematic for your financing.

Items should be listed individually on an attached addendum and contract wording approved in the early stages of the transaction. Errors that violate lending guidelines can hold up a closing date or, worse, cause the transaction to fall through altogether.

Guidelines vary widely, so be sure to work closely with both a seasoned real estate broker and a mortgage broker to ensure the contract and additional paperwork are flawless.