Mike Holmes: Winter’s a good time for a home search

Winter tends to be a slower moving time in the real estate industry. Homeowners are often cautioned against listing in the winter, and while that means less product on the market for potential buyers to choose from, it does come with its own advantages.

For one, while less people are listing their homes, there also tends to be less people looking for a new home, meaning if you look during the winter, you’ll have less competition for the homes that are available.

While this won’t be true everywhere (Vancouver and Toronto in particular), the winter tends to be a buyers’ market, which will give you a little more opportunity when it comes to negotiation (for example, to insist on a home inspection BEFORE closing). It also means that prices should also be a little bit lower to encourage a property to sell more quickly.

Motivated to move

Moving in the winter is a pain, plain and simple. There’s the holidays to contend with, not to mention unpredictable winter weather that makes moving more difficult. And like I mentioned, the market turns towards the buyer at this time of year. So why would a homeowner choose to list during the winter? Well, likely the current homeowners have a very specific reason for listing, meaning they need their home to sell quickly. If there are any of you who are selling this year, getting a pre-listing home inspection may help you sell your home more quickly.

That leaves much more on the table for a potential buyer. During the winter, you’ll be able to negotiate a little more freely — meaning things like sale conditions, closing dates and the price will have more wiggle room than they would during the warmer months.

A closing date tends to come within a month or two. With that timing in mind, as a purchaser, you may find it beneficial to look around January or February, knowing that your home won’t close until the springtime.

Your inspection isn’t infallible

No matter what time of year you buy, I always recommend getting a home inspection. One word of caution when it comes to home inspections: They can only inspect according to conditions. An inspector won’t do anything unsafe — so they won’t be climbing onto the roof when it’s covered in ice and snow. And if snow is obscuring the roof’s shingles, or cracks in the foundation, the inspector won’t be able to do a full visual inspection. Of course, this extends to the interior of the home as well: An inspector won’t move big pieces of furniture or climb though a basement with wall-to-wall junk piled up. They can only perform an inspection based on the state of the house at that time.

Find out how hard the home works

When you walk into an open house during the winter, does the home feel warm and cosy? You’d hope that it would, but how hard is the HVAC working to make the house comfortable? For any house sale, you should ask for copies of the utility bills. While they won’t paint the entire story (you don’t know how much they run the A/C, or if they turn the heat down at night), they will provide you with a good guideline of how much energy it takes to keep the house running comfortably.

When you’re touring homes in the winter, always look up to the roof. While you won’t be able to judge the quality of the roof when it’s covered in snow, this can actually be a good thing. That means the attic’s insulation is doing its job and not allowing heat to escape, making it more efficient to heat.

Your team will be more focused

If the real estate market is slow during the winter, then it makes sense that realtors aren’t as busy too, right? If you’re working with a realtor, take advantage of their open schedules. You’ll have more of their attention and motivation when it comes to finding the right home.

Does the new year mean a new home for you and yours? Don’t let the winter freeze you out of the housing market. Take advantage of the unique benefits that come with a search during the cold season and maybe you’ll be mowing the lawn of your dream home come spring.

Written by Mike Holmes