The Unexpected Upsides to Off-Season House Hunting

Conventional real estate wisdom has often advised buyers and sellers that once Thanksgiving comes around, they might as well pack it in, hunker down and wait till they’ve doled out all their New Year’s smooches to get serious about getting their transactions closed.


But there are some hidden benefits to taking the contrarian approach and doubling down on your house hunt right now, while the holiday season is in full swing:


1.     Lower competition for your dream home.


In most places, the summer months are the hottest months of the year in real estate, because families with children prefer to move into their new homes before September.


House shopping during the off-season can mean

• fewer competitors,

• fewer multiple offers scenarios, and

• lower likelihood of being outbid.


2.     Uber-motivated sellers


Though there are fewer sellers during the off season, those who are active tend to be highly, highly motivated.


Sellers who are willing to clear the whole family out of the house when everyone else is having warm fuzzy holiday gatherings are motivated to get their homes sold – and ready to entertain your offer to make that happen.


Even some banks and asset managers handling short sales and foreclosures may have above-average motivation to move properties off their books and get transactions closed before the year end. Don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies, but you might get you slightly more consideration, responsiveness and speed than in a distressed transaction at any other time of year


3.     Can’t miss properties that won’t wait


Off-seasons are when fewer new listings come on the market. That said, this is a great time to spot hidden gems that offer unique mixes of property fundamentals, amenities and location.


There are sellers who have stellar homes, but have been holding off on listing all year for some reason or other. They end up listing at just the time that works for their lives. If you’re a picky buyer, putting your house hunt on hiatus when most other shoppers take a break puts you at the serious risk of missing “the one.”


4.     Keeping a handle on your cash.


You’d be amazed at how many buyers and sellers find their financial plans – and cash

cushions – derailed by taking themselves out of the house hunting mindset.


Overspending is easy to do. If you pass your holiday season focused on Open

Houses and showings, versus how to find the bow big enough to stick atop your

wife’s new car, you’ll minimize the likelihood of having to press pause on your real

estate plans while you recoup from your hemorrhage of holiday funds.



5.     Money pits become crystal clear.


Buyers rely on inspections and disclosures to surface the hidden defects and

property issues. But if you’ve ever read a property inspection report, you know they

come with a laundry list of caveats and exceptions, line items where the inspector

simply can’t make a call or vouch for a feature, because they could not see the

feature in action during the time they were on site.


Off-season house hunters have the unique advantage of being able to see the roof,

drainage systems, slopes and basements of a property performing under the

precise weather conditions – rain, snow, wind and sleet – that often cause unpleasant

surprises to spring and summer home buyers.


If ‘your’ target property has a roof leak, you’ll know it, if you view it at this time of

year – and that allows you and the seller to negotiate a fix or a credit before you

lock in your price and terms,  of course you can also fix it, with the use  of services

like metal roof repair which will do a perfect job with this.


Remember: The normal rules apply


The off-season is a great time to buy, but don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies. Talk to your agent for real advice on what to expect. You may find you’ll get you more consideration, responsiveness, speed, and maybe a better deal than shopping any other time of year.

About the Author

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is a real estate broker, attorney and Trulia’s Real Estate Realist. Tara is a syndicated columnist and the author of two real estate books for consumers.

Over 5 million buyers and sellers have tuned into her weekly Ask Tara blog, at

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