What you need to know about buying or selling a home in the winter
Financial personality Dave Ramsey is known for his practical advice on all things personal finance, from building an emergency fund to paying cash for cars.
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In an October 27, 2023 blog post on his Ramsey Solutions website, he offered advice on what readers need to know about buying or selling a home in the winter, no matter which side of the transaction they are involved in.
Selling a house in the winter
Selling a home in the winter has its own challenges, but it also offers some additional opportunities.
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Not as competitive
Most sellers don’t want to try to unload their homes in the winter. Although they sometimes don’t have a choice in the matter, sellers often want to take advantage of spring and summer buyers, who are more plentiful and often make higher bids. But as a seller, you can take advantage of this low offer and stand out from the little remaining competition. If your home is one of the few on the market, most buyers in the market will see your listing and review it. In other words, you’re very likely to get at least some offers, even if they’re not at the price you’re seeking.
Can play for this season
Although you shouldn’t saturate your home with too many seasonal decors, playing on the festive cheer of winter can help put buyers in the right frame of mind. While Ramsey suggests that having an inflatable reindeer in your garden in February won’t increase your home’s curb appeal, a warm fire and the scent of fresh baked goods can increase the comfort factor and perhaps help your sale.
Most buyers are serious
In the winter, you’re unlikely to find rooms that look like they’re checking out all the open houses in the neighborhood. Instead, someone who makes the effort to inspect your home in the dead of winter is more likely to be a serious buyer. This can cut down on a lot of wasted time and false hopes that come with the endless stream of so-called “interested buyers” who often walk through the neighborhood in the spring and summer.
Enhanced curb appeal
Remember, if you’re selling your home in the winter, you’re already fighting an uphill battle in terms of fewer buyers and a home that may look less attractive. Do what you can to enhance curb appeal in the darkest months, perhaps with additional lighting that can highlight your home’s views and safety features. Remove ice and snow in areas where buyers might slip, such as stairs, decks and front porches, but leave enough to highlight the homey charm winter can bring to your home.
Buying a house in the winter
Buying a home in the winter may not sound attractive to you, but you can use this counterfactual thinking to your advantage.
You usually won’t have to compete with many buyers
If you feel that going out into the cold or even snowy weather to look at the house is not the most comfortable thing to do, you are not alone. But this can work to your greatest advantage when purchasing a home. Without a large number of buyers to compete with, any offer you make is likely to get serious consideration. Depending on the seller’s actions, you may also have more room to negotiate for a better price. When 10 buyers are offering more than the asking amount, it is unlikely that a low deal will be reached. But if your offer is the only hat in the ring, even a less generous offer could close the deal.
You can see the house in the harshest weather conditions
On a beautiful sunny day in the middle of summer, even an ordinary home can look amazing. But if you’re shopping for a home in the dead of winter, when it’s cold and dark outside and possibly covered in snow, you can see what kind of liability you might be incurring if you buy it. Winter can lead to leaks and damage in the home, and can reveal some of the difficulties of living in the home, such as poor insulation or icy driveways. These are factors that are easy to overlook during a summer inspection, which may give an advantage to purchasing in the winter.
Lower demand can lead to lower prices
In addition to reducing competing offers, the lower demand that comes with the winter can also lead to lower prices. Housing prices depend on supply and demand, and in most cases, demand for home purchases is much greater in the spring and summer than in the winter. Sellers and agents alike understand the seasonality of the home buying cycle, and are often willing to accept the offers they can get during the colder months. In fact, according to National Association of Realtors data cited by Dave Ramsey on his website, the median home sales price from March to May 2023 was about $20,000 higher than it was from December 2022 to February 2023.
You’ll still want to follow the basic financial steps
Ramsey stresses that no matter what season you buy a home in, you still need to stick to your basic financial principles. For Ramsay, this involves building up your emergency fund first, then making a large down payment, if you can’t afford to buy a house all cash. Most of all, always remember to stick to your home buying budget, no matter how attractive the home may seem to you.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Dave Ramsey: What you need to know about buying or selling a home in the winter