If you’re looking at properties in a bustling tourist hotspot, like Charleston, South Carolina, the off-season is the ideal time to shop around. Tourism is slower, allowing you to see the city like a local and ask yourself, “Is Charleston, SC a good place to live?”
Whether you’re thinking of purchasing a home in the charming south or somewhere further north where the winters are chilly, these facts about buying a home in the winter may persuade you it’s the best time to shop.
When you’re buying a home in the winter, you’ll face a reduced selection due to a slower market pace. Fewer people list their homes during these months, especially in colder climates. This is partially because there is less interest, which means sellers can’t get as much money for their homes.
However, if you manage to find a property you like in the winter months, it’s one of the best times to buy.
Home buying in the winter may mean a smaller inventory, but there will also be less competition. Trying to buy the same property as other people can create a bidding war and drive the price far above your budget.
The slower market means you have time to weigh your options, potentially even visiting a property multiple times before deciding. Because there’s less interest, sellers are more receptive to offers, making it a buyers’ market. You can request conditions, like an inspection, for closing without risking losing the property to someone willing to buy unconditionally.
You may even be able to offer a lower price or come in around the asking price, allowing you to keep money in your pocket for renovations or upgrades.
Buying a home in a season where demand is lower means sellers are forced to price their properties lower as well.
Closing a home in January can result in a 0.51% lower price than signing papers during the summer months. While this percentage may seem insignificant, 0.51% of the average median home price of $350,000 equals $1,785 in savings.
Traditionally, home mortgage rates are lowest in winter, specifically January, February and December. According to Bankrate, you can score a mortgage rate that is 0.2% lower in January than you can in the busiest months of the year (October and June). In December, homeowners can save an average of $3,100 on their mortgage compared to summer rates.
Home values are also influenced by the seasons, with the lowest rates in fall and winter. A lower purchase price can save you money by reducing the principal amount of your mortgage.
Purchasing a home over the winter months presents the last opportunity to benefit from tax breaks. If you itemize your tax return, you can claim up to $10,000 per year in deductible state and local income taxes, including property taxes.
If you have a mortgage on your home accruing interest, you can claim a mortgage interest deduction. As of 2018, due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), you can now deduct up to $750,000 as a single filer.
If you are over 65, permanently disabled, or legally blind, buying a home before the end of the calendar year allows you to reap significant tax benefits in just a few months. If you qualify for the South Carolina Homestead Exemption, you don’t have to pay taxes on the first $50,000 toward your legal residence.
For investors purchasing a secondary residence, winter is the ideal time to get into the market and benefit from tax deductions fast. Invest in historic downtown Charleston rentals in December when tourism is slow and prepare them to host the city’s annual 7.3 million visitors in the new year.
The slower housing market during winter equates to faster closing times. This is often because realtors have fewer clients, and mortgage lenders don’t have as many applications to process.
The typical timeline for closing on a home with a mortgage can be anywhere from 30 to 60 days. During the winter, you can expect your mortgage loan to process quicker because of the reduced demand. If you’re looking to buy fast and move for the new year, a winter closing can help you get settled faster.
Home inspections during the winter are typically less thorough due to the weather conditions, particularly when examining the home’s exterior. However, when buying a home in winter, you can examine stresses on the house that are less obvious in the summer.
Inside, you can see how the home holds heat; the presence of draughts could indicate poor insulation or gaps around doors and windows. You can also test the HVAC system to ensure it effectively controls the home’s temperature.
The downside of a snow-covered roof is you won’t be able to inspect the condition of the roofing tiles. Surveying the landscaping can also be problematic. With the ground covered in snow or ice, it’s difficult to evaluate the grading of your yard. Everything looks dead, but it’s hard to know what’s just dormant. If you have concerns about the horticulture vitality, hire an arborist to inspect the plant life.
Moving in winter can be challenging when there are bad weather conditions. But most movers have a more flexible schedule during the winter months, making it faster to get packed and moved.
And because business is slower, movers can reschedule easier if the weather is uncooperative. You can often negotiate a cheaper rate because business is slower.
If you’re thinking about buying a property this winter, don’t let the cold conditions get in your way. Rather than waiting six months for summer weather and peak real estate season, embrace the winter market and use it to your advantage.
You might find the property of your dreams and clinch a deal below the asking price due to a lack of competition. Even if you’re unsure about moving in the winter, it’s never too early to start browsing.