The holidays might not be the most popular time to buy a home, but with lower buyer competition, motivated sellers, and year-end tax benefits, there are some good reasons to consider hitting “Pause” on decking the halls and high-tailing it to some open houses.
If you are savvy — and willing to brave the elements — shopping in the low season might get you into a home for less money than you’d spend in May. Chances are excellent you’ll be able to buy at a discount compared with prices in peak home-shopping months.
So brave the cold, pull on a winter coat, and get out there and house hunt. Here are seven reasons why December can be a magic month for bargain-hunting home-shoppers.
Fewer buyers to compete with
The most obvious plus of buying and moving in December and January is because real estate wisdom says to shop spring and summer.
Thanks to the prevalence of this popular piece of real estate advice, there will be fewer buyers in competition during December and January. It's simple economics—the low demand will work in your favour. So for the investor looking to find a good deal in the housing market, the December and January are considered prime time.
Looking for some end-of-year tax deductions? Purchasing an investment property near the end of the year is good for your bottom line when tax time rolls around. Closing by December 31 means that you can deduct investment property taxes, mortgage interest, origination points on your loan, and interest costs — all while building equity in your property.
Remember, mortgage interest costs are likely to be especially high in the early years of a home loan. So, this could be a nice last-minute tax break for your family.
A more realistic look at properties
Winter home-shopping gives you a chance to see properties in a clearer light. More importantly, it is a great time to see how any house you’re interested in buying handles drastic weather, whether it’s a frozen driveway or a home that doesn’t feel evenly heated throughout.
While touring a property, pay attention to things such as: how well the home is insulated, whether the window seals seem tight, whether you feel cold drafts and how well the furnace is working.
Rates are still low
Historically, trends show that interest rates are lower during the holidays. Due to limited demand, there is higher competition among lenders, thus driving interest rates slightly lower than in peak market months. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but generally more attractive interest rates tend to pop up around the holidays.
People can be forced to sell in December for all sorts of reasons, like financial pressure or job relocations. If you’re a buyer, that urgency to sell could mean money in your pocket. All the low activity in the winter will result in sellers being far more motivated to sell. Real estate agents know that the slow winter months are when sellers are more willing to negotiate, whether it is on selling price, closing costs, closing date or even terms of the sale, including what household appliances and items are included in the sale. And these are all the very reasons that many real estate agents recommend that their clients delay listing their homes till at least the spring. The winter is not a great time for sellers, in general.
…and motivated realtors
One worry that comes to mind: you might have trouble finding a realtor who’ll work with you. But if you don’t wait until the last minute to find a realtor, you should be fine. Some realtors will still provide their above and beyond service during the holidays, especially with low activity during the winter months. It means you will have their undivided attention, and he or she will be working harder for you. These lean months of low sales volume encourage realtors to try just that little bit harder to negotiate a sale.
There’s no need to wait until Saturday or Sunday to cram eight house showings into your schedule. Rather than using up your precious weekends, take an end-of-year vacation day on a weekday to check out the available inventory (especially if your company has a “use it or lose it” policy). Chances are, your agent has some time on their hands as well and would appreciate staying busy throughout December.