Conventional real estate wisdom often says that once Thanksgiving comes around, buyers and sellers might as well pack it in, hunker down and wait until the Ball drops in Times Square to get serious about getting their transactions closed. But there are several hidden benefits to taking the opposite approach and doubling down on the house hunt while the holiday season is in full swing:
1. Lower competition.
Conventional real estate wisdom pegs the summer months as the hottest months of the year, because families with children prefer to move into their new homes before September and the bad weather and holiday festivities keep house hunting to a minimum, during the winter.
So, if you do kick your house hunt into high gear right now, you’ll face fewer competitors. And that means fewer multiple offers and a lower likelihood of being outbid.
2. Motivated sellers.
Though there are fewer buyers and sellers out there right now, those who are active tend to be highly, highly motivated.
The sellers who are willing to clear the whole family out of the house when everyone else is having warm fuzzy holiday gatherings are motivated to get their homes sold – and ready to entertain your offer to make that happen…
Even some banks and asset managers handling short sales and foreclosures may have above-average motivation to move properties off their books and get transactions closed before the year end. Don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies, but you might get slightly more consideration, responsiveness and speed than a distressed transaction at any other time of year.
3. Can’t miss properties that won’t wait.
Off-seasons are when fewer new listings come on the market. That said, this is a great time to spot hidden gems that offer unique mixes of property fundamentals, amenities and location.
There are sellers who have stellar homes, but have been holding off on listing all year for some reason or other. They end up listing at just the time that works for their lives. If you’re a picky buyer, putting your house hunt on hiatus when most other shoppers take a break puts you at the serious risk of missing “the one.”
4. Keeping a handle on your cash.
You’d be amazed at how many buyers and sellers find their financial plans – and cash cushions – derailed by taking themselves out of the house hunting mindset.
Overspending is easy to do. If you pass your holiday season focused on Open Houses and showings, versus how to find the bow big enough to stick atop your wife’s new car, you’ll minimize the likelihood of having to press pause on your real estate plans while you recoup from your hemorrhage of holiday funds.
5. Money pits become crystal clear.
Buyers rely on inspections and disclosures to surface hidden defects and property issues. But if you’ve ever read a property inspection report, you know they come with a laundry list of caveats and exceptions, line items where the inspector simply can’t make a call or vouch for a feature, because they could not see the feature in action during the time they were on site.
Off-season house hunters have the unique advantage of being able to see the roof, drainage systems, slopes and basements of a property performing under the precise weather conditions – rain, snow, wind and sleet – that can often cause unpleasant surprises to spring and summer home buyers.
Remember: The normal rules apply
The off-season is a great time to buy, but don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies. Talk to your agent for real advice on what to expect. You may find you’ll get more consideration, responsiveness, speed, and maybe a better deal than shopping any other time of year.