Pros and Cons of Buying a Home in Winter

January 29, 2018

It's well known that Spring is the busiest season for home sales.

But just because Spring is a busier real estate season than the others doesn't make it better for buyers. Buying a home in winter has its advantages, but also brings its own set of challenges.

Being aware of both the pros and cons of buying a home in winter might give you a leg up on the competition:

#1: Less Competition

As we jump into 2018, home prices are rising steadily (if not strongly) in most of the U.S. In 2017, nearly 25 percent of homes sold in a bidding war, pushing up prices further.

Pros. One of the best reasons to buy a home in the winter is there are fewer buyers looking, so there is inherently less competition for the homes that are listed for sale in your neighborhood.

Cons. On the other hand, sellers often wait until later in the Spring to list their home for sale. (The number of homes on the market is often referred to as the "housing inventory.") Fewer homes listed means there will be fewer homes to see and choose from.

#2 Sellers Are Motivated

In the winter, many homeowners are distracted by the holidays and keeping their home in spotless condition for showings becomes less important. But sellers who do decide to sell at this time of year are often motivated to sell quickly.

Pros. When a seller is motivated, they're often willing to negotiate on price, closing costs, the closing date or what will be included in the terms of the deal, whether it's furniture, appliances, or light fixtures.

Cons. Some winter listings are there because the property has been for sale for awhile. It's become "stale" (in real estate terminology) and those sellers may feel a little burnt by the whole process. While these sellers should be motivated, they're often not, and if you go in with a lowball offer, you might find it rejected outright rather than being countered.

#3 Inclement Weather Showings

Today, most agents post dozens of photos of the interior and exterior of a home online. While you can see a lot about a property online, there's nothing like going to visit it in person. However, there are some pros and cons to doing it during the worst weather of the year.

Pros. When you see a home in the middle of a snowstorm, in the rain, or when the wind is blowing, you get to see a property at its worst, and gives you insight as to how the structure, mechanicals, and hardscape perform under adverse conditions.

Cons. You may not be able to spend as much time inspecting the exterior as you would on a fine, dry day.

Here's the bottom line: If you're ready to buy a home, there's no need to wait for a change of seasons to find the right home.

Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist whose latest book is 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask, 4th Edition.She is also the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves, a financial wellness company.