Buying in the winter: Opportunity could be hidden under all that ice!

Close up of grey house in winter

Opportunity could be hidden under all that snow and ice

A few years ago, few buyers would consider braving the cold of winter on the weekend to shop for a home. However, times have changed and today’s buyers (and sellers) make deals all year long. Especially in this crazy market.

You may not see a home’s front lawn until May, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until spring to start house hunting. Keep these points in mind as you shop through the winter.

Seeing a home at its worst is best

Let’s face it, the middle of winter is not the best time to show a home, no matter how great it is. It’s cold, dark and often wet, but that’s great news for buyers.

In the spring, flowers, grass, landscaping and foliage enhance a home, but the winter exposes its flaws, such as a lack of privacy, abundant street noise, leaks and drafty windows. Seeing a home at its worst helps you make the best decision when it comes to making an offer or walking away.

Ask to see summer photos

Smart listing agents get exterior photos from their sellers to showcase the home’s features that are hidden in winter, such as the pool, lawn, and gardens in bloom. If the listing does not include summer photos, ask to see some. It means fewer surprises when the snow melts and the home is yours.

Inspect all features

If the home has a pool, it will probably be closed for the winter and therefore cannot be inspected. If that’s the case, request that the seller leave money in trust for any potential problems.

Come spring, you can inspect the pool to make sure all parts are in good working condition. Unless the seller previously disclosed any damage, they are responsible for remedying any issues you find during the inspection.

Pool in winter covered in snow

Get documentation to alleviate uncertainty

Homeowners typically winterize sprinkler systems, accessory apartments and cottages. In the event you can’t inspect every feature, ask for documentation.

The sellers should have records from the plumbers, pool company and outside vendors that did any work, so you can request documentation that shows everything was shut down correctly. Even better, ask to meet with the tradespeople who did the work.

Opportunity in scarcity

Although homes sell year-round, there aren’t as many buyers willing to trek through the snow and ice to initiate a real estate transaction. For that reason, a winter purchase could spell opportunity. Everything is negotiable, so double up on due diligence and don’t be afraid to ask for special conditions. Smart buyers protect themselves and get a great deal.

As a seller, there is also opportunity in winter. Many sellers wait to list their home in spring when there are more buyers, but listing in the winter means your house has less competition and it may be the perfect home for one of those determined winter buyers.