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Why Fall and Winter Might Be the Best Time of Year to Buy a House

Why Fall and Winter Might Be the Best Time of Year to Buy a House

Before the pandemic caused major upheaval in the housing market, fall and winter were often considered the best time to buy because of better prices. It’s hard to predict the future, but there is some hope for first-time homebuyers that the coming seasons will return to their rightful place as the best time of year to buy a house. “We are starting to see more offers come in at list price,” says Jen LaCroix, Twin Cities Habitat Open Market Lending Manager.

A for-sale sign in front of a home.

Seasonal changes in the market are well documented. According to the National Association of Realtors home sales dropped 38% for the months of November to February from 2000 to 2017, as compared to the peak spring and summer season. Jen says buyers should use that to their advantage: “I tell first-time homebuyers that this time it is a good window for them, especially when some people don’t want to move.”

Why Does the Market Dip in Fall and Winter?

There are several reasons why the spring and summer market are hot. The first might seem pretty obvious. “Families with school-age children want to move before school starts,” explains Jen. Given the time it takes to get pre-approved for a mortgage, find a home you like, negotiate, and close, families need to start that process 60 to 90 days before they move in. (However, Jen mentioned that this has changed slightly with online schooling options.)

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In the fall, sellers and their agents reevaluate marketing and prices for homes that were on the market but didn’t sell during the summer. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the homes that were just outside of your price range. Sellers might drop the price, meaning you could be in line for a bargain in the fall months.

As the days get shorter and nights longer, homebuyers in Minnesota fight snowbanks and parking restrictions to look at homes. That and the fact that there are fewer homes on the market keep some buyers from looking. But if you’re willing to put on snow boots and parkas, you face less competition and fall/winter sellers are usually more motivated to sell, which can mean better deals for buyers.

“I used to work on loans in Florida, and it was just the opposite there,” says Jen. “People didn’t want to move in the heat of summer, so they were more likely to sell during the winter.”

In Minnesota, sellers listing their homes throughout the winter holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year) may also be more motivated to sell. If they could have avoided it, they usually would have. This is because, psychologically, many people want one last holiday season in their home before selling—or don’t want the hassle of keeping homes “show ready” during busier months. Again, that means sellers moving during this season can be more eager to sell. That can be good news for buyers.

The Challenges of Buying in Winter

In addition to those listed above, bear in mind the following logistical challenges you may encounter if you are buying a home during the winter months:

  • Snow cover means you won’t get a good look at the yard.
  • Inspectors can have more difficulty seeing roofs and grading around the outside of the house, and they can’t inspect air conditioning units, among other things.
  • Repairs to the outside of the home can be challenging in the winter, and paint won’t stick in freezing cold. This might be a time you need to escrow for repairs if your lending program allows it. (Learn more about the Habitat homebuying program.)
  • Because our days are shorter, it can be challenging to see the outside of the home well and gauge levels of natural light inside, too.

On the flip side, there are also some logistical advantages that can get you to closing a little sooner. Typically, the people involved in your mortgage aren’t as busy in the winter, so they can process all the necessary paperwork more quickly. Plus, title companies aren’t as busy, so scheduling your closing is easier.

If you're looking to become a homeowner, fall or winter just might be the right time! Take a look at our First-time Homebuyer Guide—we can help you through the process.

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