There’s a myth that the real estate market shuts down over the holidays and that it’s a terrible time to buy a home—because who wants to buy a home when you could be spending that time with family. You saw where we said “myth,” right?
The truth is that buying a home over the holidays can yield you a great deal while minimizing the competition. Here’s what you need to know if you’re in the market now.
Look past the sparkle
You’re going to see some inflatable Santas and lights galore. Some homes might have 20 years of holiday décor displayed throughout every square inch. While these sellers may have been smart to declutter and keep the holiday stuff light this year, it’s up to you to try to see beyond it. What do the bones of the house look like? Is the floorplan what you’re looking for? What about the size of the rooms? How much updating will you have to do? Regardless of what sellers have—and have not—done to their home, you’ll want to keep your key questions in mind while touring.
Decide what’s important to you
It can be easy to be seduced by a home that’s priced low and be blinded by the affordability to the point that you overlook a floorplan that doesn’t really work for you or a neighborhood that's not in your top tier. Creating a “must-have” list before you go house-hunting can help keep you on track.
Look past the imperfections
But, a home that goes on the market over the holidays might not be updated and staged to your standards. There’s likely a reason the home is for sale at this time of year. Perhaps there was a job loss or a transfer to another area. If you can look past the little things, you might be able to get a great deal.
Understand there’s less competition
“If there’s one undeniable truth about the holidays, it’s that real estate inventory is limited during the holiday months,” said Fortune Builders. “There’s simply less real estate activity — less people selling less homes — during the holidays. To compound this fact, there are fewer mortgage lenders, realtors and inspectors available than usual. But rather than seeing this as a major obstacle, this can add up to a huge advantage for home buyers during the holidays: less competition. If you’re able to find a property, there’ll be a lot less buyers — and the strong possibility that you’ll negotiate a favorable price that can put additional savings in your pocket.”
But understand that there are limits to how low you can go. Work with your real estate agent to make sure your offer is a strong one. You don’t want to offend the seller and lose out on the house.
Don’t underestimate other buyers
Just because there is less competition over the holidays doesn’t mean you can dawdle. If you’re smart enough to be out there looking for a home right now, there are other savvy buyers doing the same thing. If you find a house you love, don’t sleep on it.
Hire the best agent
In many areas, a handful of real estate agents sell the majority of houses,” said The Mortgage Reports. “Usually, they are at the biggest agencies, and they talk to each other about what’s coming on the market. This is important, because fewer properties are listed between Halloween and New Year’s Day. You want early access to as many houses as possible…and a successful, connected agent can help you get it.”
Get prequalified first
Many real estate agents today won’t even take a client to see homes without knowing what they can afford. Maybe a friend or family member who is an agent will let that slide just for the sake of seeing what’s out there. But what you don’t want is to fall in love with a home and lose it because you had to go talk to a loan agent when another buyer was prepared, prequalified, and ready to make an offer.
Get your house in order
If you have a house to sell at the same time you’re buying a new home, make sure it’s in listing condition. You could potentially delay or derail your purchase because your home wasn’t ready to list when you made an offer on the new home.