Everyone knows that the best time to put your house up for sale is in the Spring; the sun is out, people are on vacation and in a good mood, and you have the opportunity to really boost your home’s curb appeal. But what if you’re looking to buy a new home rather than sell? Can the same be said about Spring being the optimal time? No. Surprisingly, the best time for homebuyers to go home shopping is in the Fall or Winter (ideally around December or January).
You would think that the off-season would be the absolute worst time to go house shopping; everything is covered in snow and slush, aside from some christmas lights there’s not a lot of curb appeal going on, and most sellers probably aren’t all that excited about having random people poking around their homes during the holiday season.
In reality, all of those reasons are actually major positives if you’re the one looking to buy a house. Because it’s the off season, there’s far less competition with other buyers. You’re considerably less likely to get stuck in a bidding war over a property. By the same token, nobody wants to sell their home over Christmas/New Years unless they absolutely have to. Chances are most sellers are either desperate to get rid of the property or have no choice but to sell. This, coupled with the decrease in other home buyers, means you’re more likely to be able to haggle with the seller until you reach a better price.
That’s not to say home buying during the winter doesn’t have it’s limitations; there are far less homes available, meaning your search will be limited. If you have a specific ‘dream home’ in mind, you’re less likely to find it during the winter months as well (though it’s not impossible, just try not to be too picky and go in with an open mind). Many realtors will also have more restricted hours during the off-season than they would between May and August, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a realtor who’s willing to work with you so long as you’re patient and do your homework.
This doesn’t mean you should absolutely shun shopping for homes during the prime shopping months either – just be prepared for the negatives that come with looking for a house at the same time as pretty much everyone else.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the home of your dreams immediately. Take your time, don’t rush, and make sure your decision isn’t based purely on emotion. Waiting to ‘fall in love’ with a home is an idea that’s perpetuated on every house hunting reality show on TV at the moment, but you have to make sure that you’re practical about your decision as well.
The bottom line is, don’t buy a home until you know you can afford it. If the mortgage payments are going to put a squeeze on your wallet, downgrade to a smaller home, a less expensive neighbourhood, or keep saving for a while longer until you can afford to put down a larger down payment.
By the same token, don’t try to time the market to get the best deal possible. Home values and mortgage rates go up and down and the market can be nearly impossible to predict. Stick with what you know (the state of your finances, how much you can afford to pay each month, how practical the location of the house is for your needs) rather than the factors you have no control over.