12 Tips for Holiday House Hunting

Whether you planned to search for a home during the holiday season (November to January) or outside forces made the decision for you, you’re actually house hunting at a good time.  While there is less inventory in Winter than in July, there will also be less competition.  There are more advantages at this time of year as there are fewer buyers for one and the homeowner; if their property has been on the market for a while may let the sale of their property go below asking price.  Sellers may be willing to stay in their homes through the end of the calendar year, but rest assured, they’ll want to seal the deal for the New Year. Just because there are limited buyers doesn’t mean you’ll get a fire sale price, sellers who keep their homes on the market through the winter typically are motivated but also willing to wait until they get a fair and reasonable offer.  Every home and every seller are different; here are 12 tips to remember when looking for a home during the holidays.

  1. Balance your budget – Have a firm number you can comfortably afford for a mortgage. The last thing you want to do is make yourself house-poor.
  2. Check your credit – You don’t want your lender to be surprised by any forgotten accounts – good or bad.
  3. Get pre-approved – Sellers may be anxious to fast track the transaction, knowing you have already qualified for financing will make your offer far more attractive.
  4. Don’t charge it – Any holiday spending with the use of credit can put your pre-approval at risk. If you can’t afford to buy it with cash, don’t buy it!
  5. Make a list and check it twice – know what you can live with or without before you begin looking at properties for sale.  This will save you and your real estate agent time by narrowing down your search.
  6. Hire a good, reputable real estate agent.  Ask friends, family and co-workers for referrals. Choose someone who knows your buying area well and has a long-standing reputation in the community. Also, it’s important to choose someone who won’t disappear during, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.
  7. Showings – Look past the holiday décor and envision yourself in the home. When you have narrowed your search, return for a second visit before you make an offer and try to make that visit at a different time of day than the first. You may notice a difference in neighborhood traffic and activities.
  8. Take Notes – If you are looking at multiple properties you will likely lose track of which house had the Brady Bunch kitchen so take some notes on each home you visit.
  9. Request photos of the property’s landscaping – You don’t want to wait until the spring to be surprised by unsightly landscaping requiring a great deal of work.
  10. Be prepared to compromise – It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, your dream home does exist. Would you rather have the perfect home in the wrong school district or the less than perfect home in the right one?
  11. Make a strong offer – Although the seller may be desperate, after all, it is the holidays; make your offer as powerful as possible. You never know how many other buyers you might be competing with.
  12. Negotiate – Flexibility within your offer may net you a better deal. A seller might be willing to kick in some cash for your closing costs, if you allow them to remain in the property a few extra weeks.