Winter's Chill Gives Edge to House Hunters

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Among the many possible winter activities, house hunting may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

"People focus on the holidays," says Julie Reynolds, vice president at Realtor.com, the official Web site of the National Association of Realtors. In November, December, and January -- even October -- the bulk of the activity dies down. It may not become dormant like a lot of trees, but it definitely slows."
The open houses of spring may be long over, but homebuyers can benefit from cold-weather shopping.

Nevertheless, there can be advantages for buyers as demand drops along with the mercury.

According to Reynolds, the traditional homebuying season has run lockstep with school calendars because parents seek to relocate with minimal impact on their children. This has meant that late in the school year, through summer, is peak buying and moving season.

Changing demographics are putting that conventional wisdom to the test.

"The generations are changing and we are seeing millennials come of age, so to speak, and closer to the homebuying age," she says. "The median age of first-time homebuyers currently stands at about 30 and these new, hopeful property owners aren't as locked into traditional, seasonal patterns."

Breaking the mold can prove a valuable bargaining chip for cold-weather homebuyers. Just as warm weather is a boon for sellers, cold air means a buyer's market.

"A serious buyer who has flexibility in their lifestyle or is not moving because of a job that has a firm start date or doesn't have a very specific reason for why they are entering the market can definitely have a nice advantage, due to the pure economics of supply and demand," Reynolds says.

Icy roads and slushy sidewalks are among the wintertime inconveniences deterring potential homebuyers, but fewer rivals vying for a property gives an undeterred winter buyer a competitive advantage.

While much is made of "curb appeal," a winter tour may reveal a less orchestrated look at a property, and a house with trees that glisten with a dusting of snow and flecks of ice may help realize the quaint image a buyer may be looking for.

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