With all the snow on the ground, it might not seem like ideal weather to go house hunting, but even in the coldest regions with the tightest inventories, homes are waiting be purchased. Buying a dream home in the winter, though, can be very challenging.
Studies show that people who move into new homes during the summer are often more satisfied with their purchases and they tend to sell for higher prices. This is attributed to a variety of reasons, such as the start of the school year.
Many parents will pay up for a property in their desired school district over the summer if they are desperate to get their child enrolled before school starts in September, according to Silvana Tenreyro, a professor at the London School of Economics who recently published a paper comparing summer and winter purchases in England and the United States.
But all is not lost. According to Karen H. Camp, sales and rental associate for Lila Delman Real Estate International’s office in Newport, RI, many of the challenges to finding the perfect home in the winter also can be opportunities.
So put on your mittens, check out these five ways to win at winter home searching, and get back out there before it snows again!
1. Take advantage of the discounts
It’s true that there are fewer homes available, especially in cold-weather markets, but the low inventory cuts both ways. There also are fewer buyers looking for homes this time of year, and that lack of demand tends to motivate sellers — use that to your advantage when you are negotiating.
2. Consider looking at rental listings
In the Northeast particularly, summer rentals are very popular. Owners make a nice living renting their investment properties to seasonal tenants. These leases can be for the whole season, a single month, or just a weekend.
“Prices are better and sellers more negotiable [during the winter] because the spring is around the corner, bringing more inventory but prime pricing,” Camp says.
To get someone in the property by Memorial Day, landlords aggressively market the properties during the winter. Some of them might be willing to sell depending on how well they’re doing with the investment/rental prospects and how enticing the offer to buy is.
The bottom line is that there are always more homes available than just what’s publicly listed, and you never know what’s really for sale unless you ask. Rental listings are a great place to look because the owners usually do not live there and they don’t have to worry about moving.
3. Do your homework
The weather might be cold, but you can still find the best neighborhood for you and your family by researching maps with school districts, commute times, and local opportunities for entertainment, dining, and recreation. Once you figure that out, you can target your search strategically, and it will be much easier without an abundance of summer inventory to distract you.
4. Beware the winter inspection
Some home amenities, such as central air conditioning, are difficult to test in the winter. Potential buyers should be on the lookout for faulty features that would be noticeable only during the summertime. Irrigation systems, outdoor kitchens, and pools are the types of amenities that could have problems, but those issues might not be discovered until it’s too late.
To protect yourself from a potential warm-weather breakdown, winter buyers can request warranties on some appliances or build a security deposit into the deal that protects them from being stuck with a lemon and no money to fix it.
5. Picture the spring
This one takes some creativity, but you have to picture what the home will look like after the weather turns warm. Play around with Google Maps’ street view for a glimpse of the landscaping during different seasons.
Or better yet, ask sellers for pictures of the yard in spring and/or summer to get an idea of what it will look like — that way, you can plan for any landscaping needs in your offer.