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Home Mortgages Thought Leader

‘Tis the Season to Search for a Home

Though you most likely don’t have visions of house hunting dancing in your head during the winter months, the holiday season is surprisingly a great time to buy a new home. “House shopping during the off-season can mean fewer competitors, fewer multiple offers scenarios and the lower likelihood of being outbid,”  “Five Unexpected Upsides to Off-Season House Hunting.”

Kathy Gyselinck is Executive Vice President for Southeast Mortgage

Kathy Gyselinck is Executive Vice President for Southeast Mortgage

Less competition

“There’s no place like home for the holidays – and that’s doubly true if you’re looking to buy a home right now,” reported consumer expert Clark Howard.

In hot zip codes, such as Atlanta, the lack of housing inventory still affects cities, and bidding wars popped up as buyers outnumbered sellers this year. However, most buyers evaporate from now until mid-January. The decrease in competition increases your chance of “winning” your dream home. Less competition also means that sellers who are still trying to sell their home may lower their asking price as prices are often at a 12-month low during December.

“So if you are an interested buyer, this could be an opportunity for you in a market that feels like it might be stretching out of your price range,” according to Howard.

More individualized attention

Fewer buyers mean less work and more time per client for real estate industry employees such as Realtors and mortgage loan originators. Some lenders and Realtors even reduce fees in hopes of gaining more business during the off-season. Less consumer volume can also result in faster loan approval, which may enable you to move into your dream home before the New Year.

Money pits become clear

Though almost all homes on the market undergo inspections, the property inspection report often comes with a list of caveats. Inspectors can’t make a call on some things due to the season when the house is viewed, which is often in the warmer months. Off-season house hunters have the advantage of seeing the less-glamorous side of a home during the winter months. The wintery weather will reveal the true state of drainage systems, basements, leaks and the roof.

However, the disadvantage of viewing a home in the winter is that the same weather that will reveal the true nature of some home features could also hide exterior home features. If snow is on the ground, you may not be able to see any cracked or unsightly sidewalks or the roof. Make sure to extensively view pictures of how the home looks during the summer months as well.

This year’s home buying season not over yet

According to the Realtor.com’s Winter Home Buyer Report, this winter housing market is still going strong with rising home prices and an increase in mortgage applications.

“Instead of the usual seasonal slowdown, October data show the 2013 fall market moving at a fast pace,” said Realtors.com’s President Errol Samuelson.

Though conventional wisdom advises against buying a home between Thanksgiving feasts and New Year’s celebrations, today’s experts disagree.

“So heed these words: If you’re looking to buy, I don’t want you to sit out the holiday season,” said Howard.

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