If you ask most real estate agents about the best time to sell your house, you'll likely hear "in the spring and summer months.” In Colorado Springs, our real estate market's overall sales nearly double from winter to summer. For this reason, there is a big difference in sales between these times of the year.
For most cities, the summer months tend to have many more homes sold than the winter months. This causes some people to think that the summer is the best time to buy or sell, but it's more complicated than that. A townhome downtown might not have a problem selling in the winter, while a 5-acre horse property may have little chance of selling. It really depends on the unique circumstances of each deal.
This article is not meant to persuade you to buy a home in the winter, as many internet articles are. It's designed to reveal the pros and cons equally so that you can evaluate your situation and determine what works best for you. As we go through all the pros and cons of buying a home in the winter, be sure to stay objective and truly understand the costs/benefits of this topic.
This information will also change depending on the area. If you live in an area that receives heavy snow during the winter months, you'll notice a big difference in over sales for your area. Cities in areas like Florida that receive no snow during the winter months can actually see a spike in home sales. In Colorado Springs, our market sells nearly half as many homes in the peak of winter as in the peak of summer.
SELLERS ARE MOTIVATED TO SELL
Since most REALTORS® advise sellers to wait until the spring to list their homes for sale, it's likely that the seller of the home you're interested in really needs to sell now. This can make negotiations much easier. It doesn't necessarily mean that you can come in and lowball everything, but you do have more leverage when the seller does not have multiple offers.
Since there are fewer buyers looking at homes in the winter, it’s less likely that you will have to compete in the same way you would in the summer months. The pressure to view a home on the exact day that it comes on the market is much less intense. Less competition may mean that you can take your time and not be rushed to make an offer right away.
MORE ATTENTION FROM YOUR REALTOR®
Fewer buyers in the winter typically means slower times for real estate professionals. During the peak of summer, real estate agents get slammed with showing requests. We typically only work with six buyers at a time to make sure that we are available. If you are working with a REALTOR® who is overbooked in mid-summer, it can be hard to receive the best service. The winter months are much easier for real estate professionals, so you're likely to get more attention and one-on-one advising.
MEDIAN SALES PRICE IS LOWER
In January 2017, our median sales price was $265,000. By June 2017, it had risen to $285,250. That's an 8.1% price increase. By last month (October), it had already dropped back down to $280,530. This is a predictable pattern. With more competition come higher prices. Bidding wars and multiple contracts are very common at the height of the market. It's likely that you will pay a little less for a home in the winter than in the summer months.
EASY TO FIND CONTRACTORS
Many people who buy older homes plan to do some remodeling. If you need to remodel before you move in, you will have to engage an aggressive contractor. Unfortunately, contractors can be very hard to find in the summer months, especially in Colorado Springs. If you're planning to buy a home and remodel it, you'll probably have an easier time doing it in the winter months when contractors’ work is slow. You may even get a better price on your remodeling in the winter.
LESS CRAZY MARKET CONDITIONS
With the number of home sales doubling from winter to summer, the real estate market can become crazy. Buyers may decide to write contract-waiving inspection contingencies and appraisal clauses that they would never do without the added pressure. When the market moves fast, buyers have to move faster. This makes the whole process feel out of control and chaotic. For some buyers, this is the number one reason they decide to wait until the winter to buy a home.
IMPOSSIBLE TO INSPECT CERTAIN ITEMS
For me, the number one con of buying a home in the winter is that it's really hard to inspect the exterior of the home. If there has been a snowstorm, it's nearly impossible to determine the condition of the roof with the snow on it. Roof repairs are the number one item that inspectors find in Colorado Springs because we have significant hail damage from past years. It's also impossible to check the air conditioning unit because inspectors can't run and test the outside units in cold weather.
FEWER HOMES ON THE MARKET
There are half as many homes on the market in the winter as there are in the summer, so your chances of finding that unique custom home are less likely in the winter. If you have very specific search criteria that are hard to fulfill, you're twice as likely to find that unique property in the summer months, when the listing inventory doubles.
HARD TO MOVE
Let's face it. Moving in the winter sucks! It’s especially difficult during a snowstorm. Having movers bring boxes in and out of your house while it's freezing outside is very difficult. Snow will end up getting into everything and then melting inside the house. The hassle of dealing with snow and moving is enough for some to wait until spring, especially in snowy areas.
HARD TO EVALUATE LANDSCAPING
I bought my last house in November, and all of the landscaping was barren for the winter months. I was pleasantly surprised when spring came around and all of the beautiful landscaping came to life. I've also experienced the flip side of that when spring came around and I noticed that some of the trees were dead. It's nearly impossible to tell what the landscaping around a home is going to look like in the summer when you are deep in the winter months.
LESS DAYLIGHT FOR SHOWINGS
After the fall daylight saving time change, Colorado Springs starts getting dark around 5:30 p.m. In the mountains, it can be as early as 3:30, depending on where the property is located. This makes it much more difficult to view homes in the evening. In contrast, in the summer months, it will stay light until around 9:00 p.m. The lack of daylight can easily put a squeeze on your showing schedule in the winter.
CHANGING SCHOOL MID-TERM CAN BE HARD ON KIDS
For families with kids in school, changing schools mid-term can be very disrupting. This is one of the main reasons there are so many more homes sold in the summer months when kids are out of school. The school year schedule has a large impact on the local real estate market across the whole United States and is a major factor in the increase in sales during the summer.
The best piece of advice that I could give any home buyer reading this article is to find a REALTOR® who you feel comfortable with and trust. They will help you work through all of your specific details to come up with a plan of action, whether that means buying in the winter or just finding a home to rent for now. A good REALTOR® will make sure that you are aware of all your options and they'll help you look out for your best interests.