Shopping for a home in the summer months can be stressful. Competition is heated and buyers are out in force, scrambling over each other to get the best deal or get any deal at all. Bidding wars are common.
But as we head into the colder months, this heated competition will ease as many homebuyers press pause on their home search and regroup. Or, some homebuyers will engage in a light search and only attend open houses on weekends and in good weather.
This easing of competition presents an opportunity to the industrious homebuyer. If you’ve done your homework with a mortgage affordability calculator and locked in the best mortgage rates with your mortgage broker, there’s no reason to ease off your search as the weather turns cold.
Instead, you’ll just need to change your strategy a little.
The early bird gets the worm, er, icicle
When the days become shorter, darkness falls before the workday is even over. During this time many house hunters will shift into house hunting lite mode. They will only view homes on weekends and in full daylight. If you’re willing to go to new listings after work, in the dark, there’s a chance you’ll be the first one in the door and the first to put an offer on the table.
Brave inclement weather for less competition
You can apply the same concept to poor weather. If you can brave the snow and ice to attend an open house or new listing, you’ll face much less competition. Here are some tips to make winter weather navigating a little less stressful:
If you use a car for transportation, make sure it is equipped with proper tires to ensure maximum safety and so you can easily make it to your destination.
Next, you’ll be less likely to thoroughly inspect the exterior of the home if you’re freezing! To make yourself impervious to colder weather, bundle up in winter coats, hats, and scarves.
Adjust your checklist
In winter house hunting, you’ll often view homes that are cloaked in both snow and darkness, so you’ll need to adjust how you assess potential homes.
Backyards that would typically be a showpiece are now completely hidden under a blanket of darkness or snow or both. It may also be difficult to judge how much natural light enters a home because the sun has already set outside.
You can mitigate these issues by asking the seller to provide photos of the home during the daylight hours and also of the backyard and front yard during the height of the summer growing season. A good real estate agent will have these photos on hand already.
A chance to assess other factors
There’s one major benefit to house hunting in cold weather: You have the chance to evaluate some aspects of the home that would otherwise pass unnoticed in the summer time. Here is a list of factors that you can evaluate during the winter.
First, how well does the heating system work? Are there parts of the home that are colder than others? Is the whole home cold? Cold spots or general chillness can indicate a poorly designed HVAC system.
Second, as you walk around the home, do you feel any cool breezes around the windows? Drafts can be a sign of old windows that need replacing.
Third, are there any parts of the home that are poorly insulated? Signs of a poorly insulated space include cold floors and walls.
In my recent home purchase this past summer, I had no idea that the enclosed storm porch wasn’t insulated because it looked as though it was part of the rest of the home. Now that the weather is cold, the freezing floor clearly indicates that there’s minimal insulation under the linoleum!
Finally, are there giant icicles hanging from the gutters? Icicles can be a sign of ice damming, which leads to leaks inside the home and very expensive repairs.
All of these issues are virtually invisible any other time of year, and they are all costly to remediate.
Buying a home in the winter isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you persevere you’ll find less competition and a chance to get an edge over your fellow homebuyers. Just make sure to travel safely and dress warmly!
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