Buying a home this winter? Here are three things to keep in mind.

house in winter

Winter is typically the slow season when it comes to real estate. But buying a home during this time can have its benefits. If you’re thinking of making a home purchase between now and next spring, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Home prices may be lower.

There may be fewer homes on the market during the winter season, but the homes that are on the market might be available at a lower price point than they would if they were being listed during the prime spring and summer months. Buyer traffic slows down during this time, therefore home sellers have fewer prospects and are likely to list their homes competitively. Sellers might be more motivated as well, willing to negotiate different aspects of the sale (repairs, closing costs, furniture, etc.) and may accept lower (though still reasonable) offers. Just be careful lowballing–the overall housing market is still pretty strong, so don’t expect to get a steal deal just because a home has fewer offers. Winter home prices are usually already be adjusted to match the slowdown in buyer traffic, so making a lowball offer could insult the sellers or frustrate the seller’s agent.

See related post, “Existing Home Prices Continue to Drop.”

Be mindful of holiday timing.

Buying a home in the winter means potentially buying around the holidays. Even if you do everything in your power to move the sale along quickly, there’s no way to know for sure when your closing will take place. Things like inspections, appraisals, negotiations with sellers, last-minute changes or unexpected delays can reduce the chances of a swift closing.

According to a 2016 study on real estate closings by Realtor Mag, Realtor.com’s official magazine, the average time it takes for a person in the United States to buy a home from start to finish is 50 days. Obviously, last year’s figures are likely to be different than what the market is currently experiencing, but since we don’t have 2017 figures yet, we’ll use last year’s stats for illustrative purposes.

Going by the 50-day figure, if you were to put in an offer on a home December 1st, you might expect to close in mid-January. Since this is after the three major winter holidays (Christmas, Chanukah, New Years) you wouldn’t be closing around any super busy celebrations, family gatherings or business closings; however, all that stuff you have to take care before closing might interfere with or be delayed by the holidays.

Buying in the South? Expect prices to be higher in key markets.

Major metros such as Tulsa, OK.; Little Rock, AR and Charlotte, NC are poised for strong price growth in 2018, according to data from Realtor.com. That means the winter slowdown may not be as slow as you think in certain southern cities.

Thanks to the South’s many appealing incentives for businesses, including tax breaks, low cost of living and favorable weather, economic growth has been strong in the region as more and more people relocate from other parts of the country to build careers and put down roots. Unfortunately, lack of supply has pushed up home prices in ket metros considerably. In Charlotte alone, where the median home price is $233,200, home prices are 8.6% higher than they were last year. As more homes are built and more existing homes enter the market, prices could level off. But until then, home buyers in major southern cities could theoretically pay more this winter than they would if they were buying next spring.

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