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"In the summer you can't have that fireplace going," Reynolds says of another house feature that might go underappreciated in warmer months. For the buyer, this gives the opportunity to see how a fireplace works and fits within its surroundings. Cold weather also lets them experience firsthand how well (or not) the heating system works and whether there are specific areas within a house that are cold and/or damp.
Getting a good look at a lived-in home away from the spruced-up open houses of spring will give a more realistic view of everything. Is there clutter that couldn't be otherwise stored or scattered outdoors? Are there musty smells that fresh spring scents can no longer mask?
Buyers should be aware that sellers do have a few wintertime tricks up their sleeve.
"A lot of sellers will bake cookies or have hot apple cider on the stove with cinnamon and nutmeg in it," Reynolds says. "Those kinds of winter smells are going to be very pleasing."
Buyers may also need to keep on their toes as deals and counter offers proceed. Most agents with a solid grasp of local home values will probably urge a seller to take a reasonable offer more quickly, given a lack of many other prospects. Be aware that they may, at the urging of homeowners, be even more aggressive in trying to close a deal.
>>A look from other side: How the sellers beat the buyers in winter
A caveat, however, is that while winter can be a boon to buyers in most of the country, it can work against them in warmer states (Florida, California, etc.) that become even more attractive for snowbirds adding a seasonal home and folks whose relocation is spurred by a search for better weather.
The seasonal impact on home sales is also evolving.
Reynolds says that the advent of mobile technology is turning house hunting into more of a year-round process.
"They have access to [property listings] in the palm of their hand and at their fingertips 24/7," she says. "So while we are seeing that sales do wind down more so in the holiday season, in the fourth quarter of the year we have seen interest, searches and engagement on Realtor.com hold strong. People are always looking."
"Yes, interest, inventory and the amount of time properties are on the market dip when we get to the fourth quarter and in the very early stages of the first quarter, but the advent of mobile technology has helped buffer and temper the severe drops that we've seen in the past," she adds.
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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