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Should You Buy a Home This Summer? Or Wait Until Winter?

Is it better to buy a home in July or January?

If you go by the numbers alone, buyers get a better deal on homes during the lazy, hazy days of summer than on the tree-bare, frigid days of winter. A Redfin study shows that in the past five years, more homes listed in winter sold faster and for more money than homes listed in summer. Another Redfin study concluded you’ll likely pay more than the asking price if you buy a home in December, January, February and March.

Or course, numbers don’t tell the whole story. And buying in summer or winter each has its advantages. Here are some things to consider when deciding when’s the best time to look for your dream home.

Summer Considerations

Lots of Choices:

Summer inventory throughout most of the U.S. historically is 15 percent greater than in winter, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means more houses to see and more chances to find exactly what you’re looking for. Of course, you’ll have more competition for those homes, because buyers are more willing to hit open houses on a balmy summer day than in the dead of winter.

Easier to Spot Flaws:

In summer, you can get a good look at the exterior of a home and its landscaping. In winter, most trees are bare, and it’s hard to tell the live trees from the dead or nearly-dead ones. But if a tree hasn’t leafed out by July, it probably never will, and either you or the seller will have to cut it down – good to know when negotiating a sale.

Moving is a Breeze:

If you’ve got kids, it’s easier to move them during the two to three months of summer break than during shorter winter vacations. And when your sunburned children say, “I’m boooored,” you’ll have a hundred moving tasks to keep them busy.

Winter Considerations

Less Competition:

During the winter holidays, most people are busy wrapping presents and trimming trees, not house hunting. That means less competition and more motivated sellers. On the other hand, buyers who look in winter sometimes must move for job, family or financial reasons, making them fierce competitors for winter’s reduced inventory.

Motivated Sellers:

Listing a house in winter is tricky business, and sellers often brave bad weather, fewer buyers and balancing a home sale with holiday planning. These obstacles can make sellers especially willing to work with whatever offers they get.

That could mean that the sellers accept lower bids with more contingencies or considering creative financing deals, like giving a short-term second mortgage to qualified bidders coming up a little short. That’s all good news for buyers.

On the other hand, let's not forget the Redfin data – homes typically sell faster in the winter, and sell at higher prices. Perhaps winter buyers are equally motivated.

Frightful Weather:

Bad weather can be a blessing for buyers who want to see how a home stands up to snow and freezing temperatures, something they can’t discern in August. Does ice dam on roofs, potentially causing water damage? Are rooms cold and drafty? Does water pool and freeze on driveways? House hunting in January can give you insight into what issues you’ll have to deal with in winters to come. Armed with this knowledge, you may have greater bargaining power.

Get a Good Look at the Neighbors:

Winter lets you see how neighbors handle the holidays and cold weather maintenance tasks. Do they clear icicles from their gutters? Do they hang tasteful holiday decorations or blast the block with 10,000 twinkling lights? House hunting in December and January will give you a preview of Christmases yet to come.

(Some) Real Estate Professionals Vacation in Winter:

Would you work during the holidays if you didn’t have to?

Some real estate agents, mortgage brokers, appraisers and inspectors often take time off in winter and can be harder to reach and less responsive than during the spring surge market.

On the upside, real estate agents who are working around the New Year are true professionals who put clients first.

Take-home lesson: Before you hire a real estate professional, ask when and if they’ll be taking holiday time off. The members of The Keen Team are upfront and clear about their schedules, and respectful of their clients' busy schedules. They work hard year-round to serve their clients. Not every agent (at other companies) will necessarily do the same.

In the End …

Don’t let any season be the main reason that you hunt for a new home. Start searching when you feel ready, and make an offer when you find the right home, regardless of season.

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