While buying a home in winter comes with some benefits, there can be downsides, too. Here’s what you can expect.
Pro: Less competition
Fewer prospective homebuyers shop for a home in winter, which may mean fewer bidding wars and a more straightforward negotiation.
Pro: More serious, motivated sellers
Homes that remain on the market after failing to sell during the previous summer season might motivate the seller to accept a price closer to your initial offer.
Con: Less choice
Winter is a slow season in real estate. You might not have the widest selection of homes from which to choose. So, finding the right fit could take longer.
Pro: Opportunity to check out a home's heating and insulation
Insulation and proper heating are vital to living comfortably during the winter, especially in colder climates, but summertime home shoppers have no way of testing out how a home feels in the colder months. Shopping in the winter could help you avoid a potentially costly problem later.
Pro: Better prices
Home prices in winter versus spring could be significant. For example, the Huffington Post reports that the average selling price of a house (in Toronto, Canada) is $60,000 lower in January than in May.
Con: Moving could be trickier
Let’s face it: winter is not the perfect time to move house. Icy roads could make driving dangerous, and repeated freezing and thawing could damage household items stored in a truck or trailer. Get ready by ensuring you have winter tires, clearing and salting sidewalks and walkways, and paying attention to the weather.
Con: Snow may prevent a home inspector from checking everything
If a roof is covered in snow, a home inspector won’t be able to do a complete evaluation. The same goes for landscaping. Air conditioning can’t be thoroughly checked in winter, either. You can, however, ask for paperwork that verifies the last time the roof was replaced or write into your home purchase contract that the seller will take care of any air-conditioning problems that may arise. Be patient with any weather-related delays.
Pro: Faster closing times
Because winter is a slower selling season, you might be able to complete the complex process of closing on a home faster than when realtors, inspectors, lawyers, and other professionals have more on their plates.
Pro: Faster mortgage approval
Because banks and other lenders aren’t as busy processing mortgage applications in the winter, you might get approved faster and enjoy a smoother process in general.
Pro: Movers are less busy
Moving companies are usually least busy in winter, reducing any worries about last-minute booking. Keep in mind, though, that you should still aim to book at least two to four weeks in advance.
Pro: Tax benefits
Some homebuyers purchase in early winter to ensure closure by the end of the calendar year. That way, they can take advantage of any home-ownership tax benefits right away.
Pro: Realtors are more available and motivated
Since business tends to slow down in the winter, realtors are often more available for clients and may have more time and willingness to negotiate.
Con: Repairs may take longer
Sometimes, a home inspection reveals that pipes need replacing or electrical work needs to be done, issues that must be resolved before you move in. Safety measures or inclement weather might make it impossible to get a job done, and you could be stuck waiting a while.
Pro: Finding a contractor may be easier
One benefit to doing repairs in winter is increased contractor availability. You might even pay less for their services during the slow season.
Con: Trudging through the snow
An obvious downside of house hunting in the winter is that it’s just not as comfortable as touring properties in the spring. Visiting open houses in sub-zero temperatures (if it is permitted in your area) might not necessarily be your idea of fun, but with less competition, you might consider it a reasonable trade-off.
Pro: Check listings first
Whatever the weather, you can always browse home listings online. Take your time getting to know the market and book viewings without the pressure or rush of the spring season, when the market is hot and bidding wars abound.
Con: Changing schools mid-year can be tough on kids
Some families might choose to wait until summer to move, so their kids don’t have to change schools mid-year, which can pose academic and social challenges, particularly in high school.
If you’re buying a home that isn’t very far from your old residence, it might be worth looking into other options in the meantime, like commuting back to the old neighbourhood to avoid disrupting your child’s studies.
Pro: New year, new digs
Do you like to mark the arrival of a New Year with a milestone event? Winter can be a time of reflection and transition. Why not begin the year furnishing a new home and planning your future in it?