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Looking to Buy a Home in the Winter Months? 

The advantages of purchasing when most people aren't

Shorter days, the crisp air with twinges of bitterness, traces of white appearing in the Cascades and the barren trees are the annual indications that winter is tiptoeing its way into Central Oregon. Before long, as in its usual fashion, winter will no longer hold off its arrival and Central Oregon will be in full swing of the season, complete with the opening of Mt. Bachelor.

Is this really the time of year to purchase a home? The idea of bundling up and traipsing about town to look at housing inventory may feel as though it is embarking on a fool's errand. Everyone knows that the best time to purchase a home is in the spring and summer months, right? In the words of Lee Corso, longtime ESPN analyst, "Not so fast, my friend!"

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While it's true that the real estate market as a whole tends to slow during the winter months, that is not necessarily a bad thing for buyers. Does it take a little more effort to get out and look for a home in the bitter cold of winter? Yes. Does there tend to be less inventory during the winter months? Also, yes. And then there is the conundrum of trying to move during a snowstorm. All reasons why one may think that this is not the season to be looking to purchase a home. However, I would argue that this may be one of the smartest times to purchase.

First, there is far less competition in the marketplace during winter months. According to the National Association of Realtors, 40% of home sales take place May through August. Granted, there is traditionally more inventory during the spring and summer months; there are also more buyers competing for said inventory. This translates to the likelihood of buyers having to compete with multiple-offer situations, all-cash offers and buyers who may have stronger financing positions that require less seller contribution or potential appraisal hurdles. More buyers equates to increased opportunity for a seller to consider an offer that is not "their ideal."

More than likely, a seller who has listed their home for sale in the winter months seriously wants or needs to sell the property. This potentially gives a buyer some room with negotiations on terms and price. A word of caution: just because a seller may be eager to sell doesn't mean that they will be open to low-ball offers, out-of-the-ordinary terms or unreasonable demands. A buyer can sabotage themselves with this strategy, so it's important to work with a Realtor and rely on their professional experience to decide on the appropriate negotiation strategy.

Another advantage to purchasing a home in the winter: a buyer can put the home through the paces. The winter months give a buyer the perfect opportunity to evaluate the home in some of the worst climate conditions. A buyer will be able to see what the home looks like in the most barren of months. What does the property look like without the leaves on the trees and shrubs? Where are the opportunities for ice dams? What are the neighborhood streets and driveway like during incidents of snow? Does the home feel drafty and cold? And one could go so far as (in December, anyway) to answer the question of what height of Christmas tree will fit in the living room.

There are definite and unquestionable advantages to purchasing a home in the winter months. If a buyer is willing to put on the puffy coat and boots, they may just find the opportunity for the home of their dreams. And, what's not to love about spending the spring and summer months in that home; rather than spending the longer, warmer days looking for it?

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