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As the temperatures drop and the winter asserts its will, most people turn to the indoor comforts. Venturing outside becomes an exercise in proper layering and getting the car warmed up before heading out to work, to school or to get supplies. There are some who do cherish the arrival of frigid and snowy weather: those who have been waiting for the winter for the thrill of carving fresh powder on the slopes, or for the anticipation of a pull on the line from a hook dropped under the ice in belief that the catch is there. Whatever your winter pursuit is, here is one more activity from a Realtor’s perspective, that most do not necessarily associate with cold weather: house shopping.

Winter in real estate lingo is called the “slow” season. Historically, there are fewer houses on the market and buyer activity is sluggish this time of the year. Not surprisingly, the new trends of our digital lives are turning things around and are circumventing the cold season traditions. It is during the winter holidays that many homeowners find their quarters are too tight for the family gatherings, that their kitchens are short of satisfying the family chefs and that the bathrooms have become the battlegrounds for the growing teenagers. In addition, many new jobs open in the winter with better opportunities to advance and provide the next steps in carrier advancements. It is also the time that after a lifetime of working, retirement has finally arrived, and the long awaited plans of downsizing and moving closer to a milder climate, or closer to the grandkids, become a motivator to put up the house for sale. In today’s world, life is moving at a higher pace and those in need of new or better housing brave the elements.

There is a difference in the things that drive buyers and sellers to buy and sell in the winter. Their motives are usually more serious compared to the “summer” crowd. There are fewer “tire kickers” who would buy if they find a “screaming deal” and fewer sellers who would sell if they can get an unrealistic high price for their property. Winter buyers and sellers need to buy or sell and have less time to waste.

For buyers, touring homes in the winter setting gives them the insight that can only be speculated in the summer. They get to see for themselves what the property looks like in the winter. They can assess just how icy that steep driveway or access road are and how well the local roads are plowed. They can see how well the house performs in keeping the place warm and comfortable. They can see how the electrical and plumbing perform under stress conditions of the winter. They can see for themselves how drafty the windows are and which bedrooms stay warm or cold. In short, they get a view of the home functions when it is most critical. From a strategical point of view, there are fewer other buyers and therefore, less competition. It is easier to line up inspectors or contractors on a short notice. Another bonus is that homes on the market in the winter usually have less “fat” in the asking price.

For sellers, the advantages of the winter sale are that there are fewer competing properties on the market, the exterior maintenance of the grounds is limited to shoveling the driveway, the buyers are more motivated in finding a new home in a shorter timeframe and the holiday vacations offer the time for preparing for the sale or for the move.

In other words, consider house shopping and selling in the “off” season. If you are telling yourself that choices are limited, just realize that you are looking just for one suitable house and chances of “scoring” it in the summer are not any higher. Aux contraire, you may find winter search less stressful and have positive results. You may also find that you have a whole summer ahead to enjoy with the loved ones instead of cutting it short with the moving project.

Stevie Jones, Elkhorn Mountain Real Estate

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