Spring is considered peak homebuying season, but don’t sleep on winter. For savvy buyers, winter might just be the perfect season to snag the New York City home of your dreams. Is it worth braving the cold? We’ve analyzed the pros and cons of buying a home in winter so you can decide for yourself.
Pro: There’s less competition
Perhaps the biggest perk of shopping for a home during the winter is that there is less competition from other buyers. Generally, spring is the busiest homebuying season with April marking the peak of the season.
“It’s the time of year when no one wants to look,” says Matthew Melinger of Brown Harris Stevens. “For the small inconvenience of braving the cold, you can get a great deal on an apartment because there are people who are simply not going to look because it’s not nice out. Some of my best showings took place during miserable snow storms.”
In addition to less competition, prospective buyers may also be in for some deals. Some sellers may relist their homes in January or February when they’ve failed to sell them the previous year. Eager sellers could mean potential discounts for buyers.
Con: Less inventory to choose from
Just as buyers aren’t inspired to shop during the winter months, the cold weather also means less inventory on the market. Sellers may wait until spring when they will have more shoppers out viewing and potentially get more offers on their property.
For a successful winter home search, don’t get tunnel vision
Melinger notes that in winter it’s easy to get sidetracked wanting amenities or features that would only be useful during the colder months. Focusing on how you will use the home during one season could not only limit your options, but could cause you to buy a home that doesn’t suit your year round needs.
“If you’re not organized it’s very easy to look at something with a very short-sighted lens,” Melinger explains. “Buyers should ask themselves, ‘is this something I’m going to enjoy and find utility in year round? Will this feature add to the resale value of the home?”
For example, in winter, having a working fireplace may suddenly be a must-have feature for you, but not one you would use more so than, let’s say private outdoor space.
Melinger advises to spend some time figuring out the strategy behind the current listing price on the home. “Peel back a layer further and analyze the neighborhood and the price point you’re looking at, how long it’s been on the market, and what is the seller’s motivation for selling. Everyone has a story and a seller’s unique situation may present a unique opportunity for a buyer.”
Sometimes sellers will go off market temporarily in November with the intent to relist in January or February of the following year, taking advantage of the upcoming spring selling season and minimizing the number of days on market. With this in mind, those who keep their home listed over the holidays and into January may be more motivated to sell.
Ask yourself, “Why is this still listed? If the home has been on the market for some time, is there a pattern to when the listing has previously been taken off the market when it comes back on?” Melinger says it’s a matter of figuring out the psychology behind the seller’s pricing and timing to market.
Don’t wait to make an offer if you see something you like
While inventory is higher in spring, it doesn’t mean that you should pass up a great home in hopes that something better will come on the market. If you see a home that checks all the boxes on your list and you have the means to buy it, do so.
“Holding out for the next best thing is going to turn you into the buyer that’s been casually browsing for 2-3 years,” says Melinger. “We frequently see buyers who don’t find anything by November and ask to pause the search until the new year. This is not an effective strategy and may indicate there are other reasons beyond lack of available options that are preventing the buyer from pulling the trigger.”
For the savvy, strategic homebuyer braving the winter months to shop can lead to big savings and unique opportunities for aggressive negotiations. With record low interest rates, there’s never been a better time to buy. Bundle up, beat the spring frenzy, and find your next home with Localize.