Nobody wants to be lugging a heavy couch in and out of a moving truck in the blistering cold … unless, perhaps, that offseason home purchase could save you thousands of dollars.
Turns out, buying a home during the fall and winter can have a flurry of advantages, including less competition and faster closing time.
Let’s look at the benefits offseason homebuyers receive when they skip the traditional house shopping seasons (no heavy lifting required).
Falling for a new home
The spring and early summer are historically the busiest times for home shopping. It’s when most houses hit the market for the first time and buyers can enjoy the warm weather while prowling for homes. And for families with kids, this gives them ample time to close on a new house and move without disrupting their school schedule.
But life doesn’t always follow a seasonal schedule. A new job or expanding family could leave you with no choice but to break out the coats while going to an open house. Or it simply may be the right time for you to find your next residence.
Lucky for you, shopping outside those months could save you thousands of dollars.
Generally, the best time to buy a home is September or October. That’s when inventory is still high but prices are falling hard, especially for starter homes. (One reason why: Kids are back in school and some families are now waiting until the next home-buying season.)
For sellers, their homes might’ve been on the market all summer with no luck. They could be getting a bit antsy to make a deal.
After October, you can still find good deals. You’ll likely have a smaller crop of houses to choose from, but sellers could be even more motivated to make a move for end-of-year tax-break reasons.
Location, location, location
If you’re searching for housing, you already know location is key. You want to be in the safest neighborhoods, close to work, etc. But location can also greatly impact when the best time to buy is, too.
For the majority of the country, March through May is the most competitive time, with houses sometimes selling above the listing price. In Denver, for example, 51% of houses go above the asking price in March. Wait until October through December? Only 21% sell above listing.
There are a few exceptions, though. If you’re flying south at the first sign of colder temps (or for longer) you could find hot competition in the winter months. The markets in Miami, Phoenix, and Tampa all see higher than average listing volumes in January, as compared to the behavior in other markets.
All in all, you can’t go wrong shopping in fall. But take note: Real estate markets are highly individualized and vary from city to city and town to town. So these trends might not exist in your location.
Dormant plants. Freezing temperatures. Blustery winds. It’s the perfect time to find that dream home. Seriously.
In the dead of winter, your potential home might not come with the curb appeal you pictured: flowers in full bloom, the sun shining bright, a fresh coat of paint. But that’s okay. There are many advantages of finding that Cinderella of a home before it gets dressed up for the ball (or in this case, summer).
Knowing how a home holds up in some of the harshest weather conditions can save you money down the line. For example, a new furnace can cost $5,000, so determining if one effectively warms a house is important. (And having a rainy day fund in place can help give you peace of mind, too.)
Plus, an inspector will be able to test crucial house components — like electrical wiring, plumbing, doors and windows, foundation, and more — in the cold just as well they would in warmer weather.
Your full and undivided attention
Realtors are usually working with several clients simultaneously during the busy home-shopping season, which could result in you not always getting their undivided attention. But worry not: They have far fewer clients in the fall/winter months, meaning you’ll get that attention you deserve.
And you know who else is more readily available? Movers, contractors, inspectors … the list goes on and on.
For movers, you could spend upwards of $1,000 to get the contents of your three-bedroom home from one place to another. But with little to no competition in the cooler months, you’ll have your pick of available moving companies and moving dates (and could even negotiate a better rate). Book early, pack your own boxes, and plan to move mid-week in the middle of the month to save even more.
Ready, set, buy
No matter the season, it’s likely that you’ll want to move fast when you find that house to buy. That’s why knowing your credit score, having money for a down payment, and getting pre-approved for a home loan are so important. Sellers are more likely to negotiate on price, accept an offer, and/or help with closing costs when working with a pre-approved buyer.
These tips can get your finances in tiptop shape before you buy a home.
Just like buying a heavy coat in the middle of summer, doing your house shopping in the offseason might feel weird, but it can save you tons of money. Strike in the fall when competition is winding down but quality homes are still up for grabs, and you could be kicking back in your dream home with plenty of extra money in your bank account.
Learn how to get pre-approved for an Ally home loan.