There are some obvious reasons why winter is not the traditional time to buy or sell a house. We don’t want to disrupt our family during the school year, it’s a pain to move when it’s cold and it can be hard to showcase a yard’s beauty and color when everything is dormant. Perhaps most importantly, HOW WILL SANTA FIND US if we move before Christmas!?!
But these reasons also create a very compelling argument for jumping into real estate during the cold wintery months. And don’t worry, Santa has GPS!
“Because of weather, our statistics say we are a seasonal market,” says Nevada real estate agent Gary McDonald. “To a degree that can be true. I have had weekend showings cancelled because California buyers could not make it across the mountains. With that said, once spring hits, the markets accelerate. Smart buyers are aware of that.”
“I think it’s a much more efficient time to sell or buy,” adds Nevada real estate advisor Cindy Pratte. “Buyers who are looking in the winter have a reason to be out, so sellers know they’re dealing with people who are serious.”
Fewer people shopping also means there tends to be less competition when you do find the home of your dreams. “As a buyer, you’ll see more competitive pricing,” Cindy explains. “You’ll almost always get a better deal buying in the winter.”
Because there are fewer real estate transactions happening, the turn-around time can also be more compressed. Real estate agents, lenders, title companies and inspectors tend to be a lot less busy in the winter so they can put more time into your transaction. The caveat to this is that holiday schedules can get in the way.
“Everybody needs the business so escrows are shorter,” Cindy explains. “Everyone is more accessible and not as frenzied.”
Snow or cold weather notwithstanding, moving can also be easier than in the summer, as moving companies have more time and truck rental companies have more inventory. And while moving in the winter can be tough, cold weather has nothing on the pain of moving in the Southern Nevada heat. Besides making your move extra sweaty, 100 degree storage is not good for your valuables.
Another big reason to consider buying a home in winter? Year-end bonuses can come in mighty handy at down payment time! And if you’re not expecting a fat bonus from the boss man, Nevada Housing Division is happy to step in with the Home Is Possible homebuying programs complete with bonus money.
Home perfect home
If you’re ready to buy, here are some things to keep in mind to help your search:
- Ask for pictures of the yard in different seasons. “I bought a house that had three inches of snow in the yard,” shares Vicky Dayton. “They told us the backyard was landscaped. A deck, a few small shrubs and a lot of dirt does not count as landscaped.”
- Ask for proof of maintenance and repairs since the inspector may not be able to get out to see everything.
- When you’re visiting homes in the winter, you’ll have a better idea of how much room there is for coats, boots and hats. “We took all those off as we looked at different places, and immediately knew whether there was enough closet space for the kiddos to don all the gear,” says April Conway.
- Don’t settle for the first house you see. “Just because there is low inventory, does not mean you have to settle for less,” says Nevada real estate agent Ray Solorzano. “This last year I have seen more homes that need way too much work for the top dollar that sellers are asking for. Be patient.”
Putting your best home forward
If you’re on the selling side of things, it’s good to bear all this in mind as well. “To think of taking a home off of the market because it is Christmas isn’t what I would recommend,” Gary says. “Decorate, keep it ready to sell and good things happen.”
Here are some tips to keep in mind to overcome a seller’s cold weather challenges:
- If you know maintenance needs to be done, go ahead and take care of it. “It really can derail a sale trying to schedule repairs in bad weather,” says Kimberlee Tolkien.
- Document maintenance so buyers and inspectors know that repairs have been made and that the sprinklers and air conditioning work properly.
- Take plenty of photos of your home in all seasons, so potential buyers can better visualize what the yard looks like.
- Use lighting to make up for the cloud cover and shorter days. “You may want to consider having a fire in your fireplace during open houses and showings,” Cindy adds.
- Just as you want to tone down the personalization of your home with photos and other personal items, you’ll want to keep your inner Griswold in check if you like to decorate for the holidays. It’s important for potential buyers to be able to see themselves and their style in your home.
- If you live where there’s snow, be sure to keep your driveway and sidewalks shoveled. While you do want buyers to fall head over heels in love with your home, you don’t want them sliding on their keisters on their way to your open house.
- Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to use a licensed real estate professional to help you set the right price for your home. “You need to have a strategic plan and adjust pricing to suit the weather,” Cindy says.
If you’re ready to buy a home of your own, start by visiting our list of HIP-qualified lenders, who can evaluate your situation and let you know how much house you can afford. They can also help you figure out which HIP down payment assistance program works best for you! Then call a HIP-qualified real estate agent to get out there with you to find the home of your dreams!