Winter is the real estate offseason. Ask any real estate agent, mortgage broker, appraiser, contractor, or homeowner and they’ll tell you just the same: there’s no activity in winter, so you might as well wait until spring to list your home. If buying, don’t bother looking until May, when the market will actually gain some activity.
But the truth is not so simple. If you just look at data from 2019, you see that winter months like January and February can be just as busy for real estate sales as the typical peak months. For example, data from the United States Census Bureau says that there were 669,000 homes sales in February of 2019; in May of that year, there were only 598,000. June was the peak month (728,000 sales), but both February and January were well above 600,000, and March, which is considered by many to still be “winter,” had almost 693,000.
Even areas that would normally be affected by harsh winters, which could reasonably be expected to slow sales, show little disparity between months. The Midwest and Northeast regions, like the rest of the country, maintained consistent numbers all through 2019, with little drop off from winter to summer; certain winter months actually had higher sales than some summer months.
The point is that when you look at the data, there really is no “ offseason.” Admittedly, this is a small sample size (a single year of data can’t tell the entire story), but it does show how the perception of a real estate “offseason” is wildly unfounded and inaccurate.
Buying a Home in Winter, AKA the Real Estate “Offseason”
Why Many People Wait Until Spring to Buy a House
Perception Becomes Reality?
In many ways, this is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy, based largely on the fast that most people believe that spring is the time to sell, which also makes it the time to buy in the collective minds or homebuyers and sellers. In a way, it’s become one of those myths that everyone seems to believe but, at least in today’s real estate market, has little founding in reality.
It seems like a reasonable theory. Winter is cold, icy, and snowy. With piles of snow all over the roads, getting to homes is more difficult. Besides, who would want to go out and look at homes when it’s five below? This is the thought of many homebuyers, so homeowners (who were once those buyers) wait to place their homes on the market.
There are also a few other factors besides weather that come into play. For one, many families don’t want to move during the school year, as this could disrupt their child’s education and create a rocky learning experience. It’s far easier, many believe, to simply wait until the summer to move, especially if there will be a shift in school districts.
Also, some homes are simply more appealing in the summer. If you have a gorgeous outdoor deck or elegant landscaping with a decorative pool, this areas will look far more interesting in the summer, and may be wasted on buyers who see the property covered in snow. Yes, you can show pictures, but seeing this landscape in person, and visualizing themselves in the area, is the only way to truly appreciate the property.
Clearly there are reasons to wait until spring to buy or sell a home.
But the reality is, apparently, far different. As the data tells us, home sales continue, on a consistent basis, all year long. So you might as well get out there and start shopping for a property whenever possible. In fact, you might discover real advantages to shopping in the mythical “offseason.”
The Advantages of Purchasing in Winter
Real estate “wisdom” tells us to wait until spring to start shopping for a home. But, precisely because of this belief, winter can actually be a great time to buy. There is often less competion for houses during December, January, and February, so you can shop for homes with more convenience and less struggle. The chances of you placing an offer on a home that already has multiple offers is far less.
You not only have a better chance at finding your home, there is also the chance that you could purchase a home at a lower price. (Not a guarantee, but a chance.) With fewer buyers on the market, sellers may be willing to negotiate on the home and allow a purchase at a lower price, and sellers may also accept offers that involve various terms that work to your advantage.
In many cases, homeowners selling a house in winter are doing so because they have to, not because they want to. Sellers may have accepted a job in a different market, and are now forced to sell quickly, increasing your chances of getting a great deal on the property.
Advantages of Selling in the Winter
Many of the same advantages realized by buyers in the winter can also be utilized, in principle, by sellers. Buyers looking in the winter are often motivated to purchase and less likely to negotiate aggressively to purchase your home. They may need to buy soon, so can sell your home at a fair value and get the most from your property.
While home sales remain consistent, housing inventory is often lower in the spring, and some sellers, unable to move their house the previous summer, pull their home from the market in a hope to start fresh in May or June. As a seller, this once again means that you could have less competion. The pool of buyers may be smaller, but the competion for these buyers will be lower as well.
Outstanding Service for Your Dream Home When Buying a Home in Winter
Whether you are buying a home in winter, spring, summer, or fall, we are here to provide a top-quality mortgage that fits your budget. No matter what the season, we’ll help you find affordable financing so you can purchase the home of your dreams!