There are MANY reasons why the winter is the absolute best time to buy a house if you want a bargain, want to be in for the spring or just want to be sure you aren't paying too much.
The current mortgage rate situation is unsettling to say the least. With rates rising quickly and expected to continue to do so your buying power is literally weakening daily. Now that doesn't mean if you aren't comfortable buying you should be rushing to do so but it does mean if you are serious now is the time to let me know what your dream home looks like. Waiting to do so could cost you the ability to buy completely or as much as tens of thousands of dollars a year to buy the same house you could have bought now for less.
Motivated sellers have been on the market since the spring & summer , desperate sellers typically do so without a price drop. They say things like "let's just let someone make an offer" they ask questions like " why hasn't someone made an offer" and they are convinced their home is unique and they may be right. They may have the best $400,000 house in town within the $440,000 price range and just be marketing it to the wrong buyer. Don't let a mis priced, mis classified listing scare you away from your dream home. Identifying a bargain is one of my passions. I keep a list of them town by town. Be sure to let me know where you hope to live and I can make some suggestions based on homes I have seen.
Here are some of the ways to determine whether you are looking at a Motivated Seller or a Smart Seller.
Motivated Sellers have been on the market for months and remain unsold. They have photos in their listings of the spring/summer months and they are still showing the house daily. They are driven to find a buyer but they lack direction, guidance or a solid plan. As a buyer these are your best resources for market or below market pricing in a Seller's market. Their descriptions oversell their houses and sound like a romance novel without any substance in person.
Smart Sellers have just hit the market with magazine quality photos and strong listing agents to be sure to capitalize on the serious buyers who are out today. They are setting deadlines for offer submissions and they aren't wasting time with the low offers. These sellers know what to expect and won't be scared into accepting a bullies offer. Don't fall in love with an out of your price range home here unless you are comfortable providing aggressive terms in their favor to make up for the monetary difference.
Motivated Sellers have listing agents saying things like "open to offers" or "flexible closing" or literally "Seller's are motivated". Often people assume that means they are going to take any offer they receive. In most cases that's pretty far from accurate BUT I am often successful through market education, negotiation and sometimes a good old fashioned heart to heart conversation where I present an offer in person to the seller and explain why it makes sense.
Smart Sellers are setting strict appointment viewing times and don't feel the need to overextend themselves to move quickly. They set times publicly and don't deviate.
Motivated Sellers are talking to their neighbors asking whether or not they know anyone in the market, posting their houses in the local yard sale groups, adding their houses to craigslist, adjusting their prices regularly and having multiple open houses.
Things to watch out for when buying in the winter
- Yard quality. Often you can't see the grass, driveway or lack thereof. Check google maps, bing or yahoo and look for seasonal recent photos online through their overhead shots to get a feel for what the space looks like. Check for any above ground pools or large outbuildings that may have recently been removed and could have left blemishes that you would need to repair.
- Retaining walls. If you are buying a home with a snow covered retaining wall you may want to consider using a portable heater at inspection to have it viewable to check for defects that could be costly but necessary.
- Siding and foundation issues. Often snow banks cover siding and foundation issues. Be sure to inspect the interior corner to corner looking for any signs of issues that could be hidden from the exterior viewing space. Consider using a portable heater if you are really concerned to melt or move snow.
- Roofing. It's common to not be able to view roofing during the winter. Your agent should be gathering details about when the roof was installed, any repairs that were made, who did the work, whether or not there is a warranty in place and asking the seller for more information. There are tell tale signs in attics when a roof has issues that your inspector can see but it never hurts to do more research.
A smart suggestion......
Plan ahead for your inspection. Home inspectors are human beings first and foremost. If you are asking for their honest opinions set them up to succeed by avoiding snow storms, blizzards or freezing rain on inspection day. If the weather forecast suggests it's going to be worse than typical talk to your agent about rescheduling. You don't want a frozen inspector to unintentionally miss a roofing or exterior issue.