Question: We are planning to buy a home in the next 12 months and wondering what the real estate market is like during the winter. We’ve heard it’s a bad time to sell, but does that mean we won’t be able to find anything we like?
Answer: I love working with buyers in the winter because we have more opportunity to negotiate (a nice reward for fumbling with keys in the dark when it’s 30 degrees) and the probability of finding a seller ready to negotiate increases substantially. In Northern Virginia, the winter market generally runs from late November through late February/early March (Thanksgiving to March Madness) and is defined by increased buyer leverage, less contract activity and fewer new listings. While many buyers can benefit from winter shopping, it’s not the right time for everybody.
Buy In The Winter If…
- You’re a bargain hunter
- What you like is priced just outside of your budget
- There is a regular supply of homes you like
- You can accept having a few offers rejected
Wait For The Spring If…
- You have specific, hard-to-find criteria
- You value the perfect home over a great deal
- Your purchase is contingent on selling your current home (requires additional conversation)
That’s not to say you can’t negotiate a great deal in the spring or find a unique property in the winter, but if you’re playing the odds, the above is a good set of guidelines for deciding the best seasons to focus on a purchase.
I’ll let you review the trends in Northern Virginia for yourself:
Buyer Leverage Increases In The Winter
In the winter, buyers pay about 2% less, relative to original asking price, than they do in the spring. On a $500,000 purchase, that’s $10,000 in savings.
New Contracts To Purchase Drop By Half In The Winter
Buyers have more leverage in the winter because there are fewer of them actively searching the market.
It’s Harder To Find What You Want
The probability of the home you want hitting the market in the winter drops substantially, making it difficult on selective buyers. This is also why fewer homes go under contract in the winter.
If you’re on the fence about buying this winter or not sure if you have time to prepare yourself to make a purchase, send me an email at Eli@EliResidential.com or give me a call at (703) 539-2529 to discuss your options and put a strategy in place.