Gems Can Hide In Plain Site: Buying a Home in Winter

Once winter weather hits in California, the housing market slows: homeowners don’t want to spend time outside sprucing up their property in cold, wet conditions and this weather usually means the holidays are approaching—when most people would rather spend time with family than focus on selling their home. It’s much more fun to think about Thanksgiving dinner than painting your bathroom.

You’ll also see fewer buyers out looking for new homes this time of year. The idea of dragging small kids around to view houses for sale when it’s 45 degrees and raining isn’t too appealing. And if you do happen to find a house, the idea of tracking mud onto your new carpet as you move boxes out of your brother-in-law’s pick up in the rain is enough to cause any rational person to put off this whole adventure for a few months. Even if you’re brave enough to go house hunting and find a house to purchase, many people still prefer to wait until after the holidays, because there is something very special about waking up Christmas morning in a familiar home.

Now that I’ve completely talked you out of buying or selling a house in winter, I’ll tell you this: if you are willing to forge ahead with this home-buying adventure, you may just find a gem that others miss. For some, winter is the perfect time to buy. Typically, there’s more inventory available, so you have a better selection to choose from. And the laws of economics are in your favor: more homes for sale and fewer people buying usually results in a better value. For example, six months ago, there were only 68 houses listed for sale. In mid-October, there were 94 houses listed for sale. That’s a 38 percent increase.

This year, in particular, is shaping up to be a great year to buy because the interest rates are so incredibly low.

In addition to the economic benefits of buying in winter, you get to see your prospective home in non-optimal conditions. Shopping in spring shows you a house in all its glory—beautiful landscaping and warm, dry interiors. Winter shopping often gives you a worst-case scenario, so you don’t get any nasty surprises down the line: drafts are more evident and you can see condensation on the inside of windows. And while home inspectors and pest and fungus inspectors have a slightly harder time doing their job, the inspections are often much more productive.

No matter when you buy, it’s a good idea to hire a realtor. Is this comment self-serving? Yes. Is it true? Also, yes. Realtors can help you look for small issues that may indicate bigger problems. They can help you assess fair market value, whether you’re buying or selling a property. They can also negotiate on your behalf. In addition, they can arrange and attend appropriate inspections, make sure you get all the appropriate reports and disclosures, help you arrange for financing, make sure you have adequate insurance, and help you traverse the sometimes complicated escrow and closing process.

Remember, it is in a realtor’s best interest to help you meet your goal because theyonly get paid if you get what you want – if you complete a buying or selling transaction. It’s interesting to note that people in the real estate industry hire realtors for their own transactions; I’m talking about brokers and lenders with the knowledge to do the work themselves. They know the value of a good realtor. It’s kind of like when you find out your doctor goes to a specialist when he needs one. Don’t you want to do the same?

If you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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