Why Winter Homebuying Is Hot
Cold Weather Can Mean Great Deals
When you buy a home in the winter, you may find that you have your pick of properties, save money and move in faster.
Some homebuyers who have bundled up and purchased a property during the coldest months have experienced surprising benefits. Builders and sellers thawed on their asking price and were willing to negotiate. Open houses were less packed in the winter freeze. Even the pace of the closing process was faster than it would be during the busy spring and summer buying seasons.
Andy and Maggie Kelly's winter house hunt in St. Paul, Minnesota, for instance, heated up just as quickly as their relationship. After Andy, 26, who works in health care IT, proposed to Maggie, a cardiac nurse, in January 2015, they decided right away to look for a home. They visited houses after work in the dark. The temperatures often were in the single digits, if not lower.
"We ended up breaking a key off in the door because a lock had frozen," he says.
Even with the seasonal inconveniences, the couple soon discovered that the winter chill worked to their advantage. The Kellys found a four-bedroom, four-bath home in one of their top neighborhoods, and didn't have to contend with bidding wars among other potential buyers. They quickly reached an agreement with the seller for $12,000 under asking price for their 2,600-square-foot dream house, which featured a finished basement, two-car garage and a fence for their dog, Wrigley.
The Kelly’s worked with JPMorgan Chase mortgage banker Matthew Weisseg to finalize their mortgage details and close within a reasonable time period.
"Our money is going toward an investment. It made it feel much more real, much more quickly," says Kelly. “We were very grateful that they could do it in a month."
Fewer Buyers, More Attention
"There's less people during the winter that are thinking about buying a home," says Lisa Foradori, head of Mortgage Banking Consumer Direct for JPMorgan Chase "You have less competition from other buyers."
In addition, like the Kellys, customers often find they are able to move through the application, approval and closing process faster because there are less people applying for mortgages in the winter, says Foradori.
Dave Forbes, a mortgage banker with JPMorgan Chase in Manhattan, has experienced closings as fast as 30 days during the winter. "During the summer months, the volume is so high. In the winter, you can focus more on moving the clients you have in and out of the pipeline," he says.
A RealtyTrac study last year found average buyer discounts of 2.1 percent in January and 2.4 percent in February.
Jon Pickens and his wife, Whitney, were viewing new homes in a suburban Atlanta neighborhood when a builder offered them $25,000 off a five-bedroom, four-bath home. It was Winter 2015, and the home was almost completed.
"I think we hit them at a time they were ready to move this home [off the market]," says Jon Pickens, who works in the technology industry.
The lack of competition also worked in Jonathan Frank's favor when he bought and sold a home during the winter.
Frank, a marketing executive for Yamaha Motor Corp., put his two-bedroom detached condo on the market just before the 2014 snowstorm that left Atlanta drivers stranded on roadways. But he saw buyers come out after the storm, and the home still went under contract the second week of February. They sold it for just $7,900 below asking price.
As buyers, Frank and his wife, in turn, snagged a home that winter before it came on the market. Their real estate agent learned about the brick home with a finished basement in a prime neighborhood for them when the seller was just thinking about listing it. The couple discussed a price and went into contract immediately.
"Go for it!" says Frank of winter house-hunting. "Don't be swayed by the time of year."
For more insights on the homebuying process visit chase.com/mynewhome.
Lori Johnston is a freelance writer and former Associated Press reporter whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on MSN.com, AOL.com, Bankrate.com and Forbes.com.