“The winter real estate market is here and excitement is in the air!” Said no one ever. You don’t hear much about the real estate market in winter because, generally speaking, it’s pretty dead.
But that’s why it’s also the PERFECT time of year for the right buyers and sellers. Although it’s not as enjoyable exploring backyards in parkas and kicking off snowy boots at front doors, there are LOTS of advantages to buying a home during the slow winter market.
There may be less inventory…but there is also less competition
Most families with school age children don’t want to move during the school year, particularly if it means changing schools. If this isn’t an issue for you, the winter market is a great option to the spring/summer rush. A broker/agent who may be working with multiple clients in the spring will have more time to devote to YOU. And, any offers you make are less likely to spark a bidding war.
Both Sellers and Buyers Are Motivated
When someone is looking to buy/sell before the hot Spring market, there’s probably a pretty compelling reason, like a job change. Winter buyers/sellers are often more motivated and negotiations may be more expedient. Showings are more likely to be for serious clients, versus the merely curious. Buyers who are looking locally can check out properties while their kids are in school. Sellers with children have an easier time keeping their homes ready for showings when kids are out of the house all day. Any seller who has been asked to clear out for a showing on twenty-minutes notice will appreciate the fact that winter buyers mean business.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
Homes simply look their best when adorned with brightly colored window boxes and lush green lawns. Curb appeal amps up, big time, in the Spring. On the contrary, with the exception of holiday decor or a newly fallen snow, there’s not much to make houses look better (than they actually are) in the dead of winter. For sellers who never get around to planting grass seed or weeding flowerbeds, this works in your favor…every lawn is brown now. For buyers, you can see how private the yard is, at its most exposed. Plus, without the emotional temptation of inviting swimming pools or peaceful rose gardens, you can stay objective about a home’s value.
It’s a Great Time to Show Off Energy Efficient Upgrades
As a homeowner, shelling out the cash to make your home more energy efficient hurts. It hurts a lot. It’s EXTREMELY important, but it’s not as though passers-by notice that the single pane glass in your windows is now double-insulated with UV protection. Guests don’t compliment your furnace. You don’t punch a hole in the drywall to show off your new insulation. But in the winter, buyers WILL FEEL the impact of those upgrades. ESPECIALLY for older properties, energy efficiency is the difference between a cozy home and a drafty old house. And when buyers are mentally budgeting for paint, wallpaper and furniture, the LAST thing they want to think about is new windows. Winter is the perfect time of year for sellers to get appreciation for unglamorous….but smart and costly efficiency updates.
What NOT To Expect….
Sellers shouldn’t expect to command a premium because inventory is low. Buyers should not expect the steal of the century, simply because they have fewer buyers to compete against. Either thought process is simply wrong and will lead to frustration and disappointment.
From time to time, we hear about multi-million dollar homes that have sold well below value – due to an unpleasant divorce or financial hardship. Buyers should not interpret these EXCEPTIONS as any indication that markets have bottomed out or that excessively low offers will be considered across the board. Most transactions are NOT multi-million dollar deals and most sellers cannot absorb a substantial loss as a tax write-off. For most sellers, their homes are their biggest financial asset and an insulting offer will be, well…just insulting.
In Fairfield County, with its proximity to Manhattan and strong school systems, housing prices simply do not fluctuate wildly across the winter and spring seasons. Prices are driven by the RELATIONSHIP between supply and demand. A reduction in both buyers and inventory will usually keep most markets in balance.
There could be some savings with more competitive mortgage financing, better off-season pricing from moving companies, etc., but buyers and sellers need to be realistic. There are lots of advantages to buying/selling a home during the winter market, but cut-throat pricing is NOT one of them.
Written by Tara Forrest