2. Go where the people aren't:
Wouldn't it be great to get a little ski cabin or a sunny place in a warmer climate before the snow comes? Yes, genius, just about everybody gets that idea around this type of year. If your heart is set on a cabin in Snowmass, Colo., or a sweet little condo in San Diego this fall, might we also suggest booking a hotel room in New York City near Rockefeller Center for Christmas or reserving a hotel room on South Beach during Spring Break. Ski resorts, leaf-peeping corridors and just about anywhere warm won't get fall discounts. If you're pining for some lakefront property in Minnesota or really want that bed-and-breakfast on Nantucket, however, the time to act is now. Sellers in the Northeast and Midwest know winter's coming and aren't about to let the salt chomp away at their car for another year. While their sentimentality is on ice, make an offer before they get too warm and fuzzy again.
3. Have a good memory:
If a house you saw on Memorial Day just listed again with a price drop and new open-house dates, don't just chalk that up to coincidence. Again, home sales and prices have been climbing for the past two years or so, but they're not going to meet everyone's expectations. That gives you a little room to maneuver. There will be homeowners who just want a set price, but there are others who want out before winter hits again and their house is on the market for Year 2. If the sale is more important, they may be willing to come down on the price.
4. Welcome the worst-case scenarios:
You know what you don't get when you're house hunting in summer? Lots of torrential rain, falling leaves and full lawn growth. How much are you going to have to rake for the rest of your life? Do the gutters actually work, or do they need repairs? Does the bottom of the driveway or the backyard turn into a lake? You'll be better able to answer these questions in the fall and, yes, specifically on a rainy day in late September.
5. Remember it could be a lot worse:
The market isn't the only place where homebuyers can get a seasonal discount this time of year. Census Bureau numbers indicate that fall, and September in particular, is a low point for home and garden stores such as
. If the house listing you love is a kitchen upgrade or central air system away from being a dream home, home stores and builders are discounting their inventory around this time of year and letting a lot of your essentials go cheaply. Then again, if you're buying a plot and building from scratch, those discounts not only add up, but bring in business for a homebuilding industry that's grown 12.9% in construction and 6.8% in sales since last year but is still building just about half the "normal" number of homes it completes in a year.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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