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Why Wait for Spring? Start Your Home Search Now

Spring may still be a few weeks away, but you don’t have to wait for the new season to hunt for your next home. According to local real estate pros, winter offers lots of great opportunities for buyers to meet their housing goals.

“One of the best reasons for homebuyers to start looking in winter is that agents, lenders and inspectors can give them a higher level of service,” said Amy Englert of Carpenter Realtors. “In the spring, we will see well-priced homes in top-notch condition selling quickly, sometimes with multiple buyers vying for the same property. This can be very frustrating for buyers. In winter there is less competition for great houses and a higher level of service.”

In 2015, the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors reached a record year with 67,342 pended units – that is, properties sold but not yet closed – surpassing 2014 by 10 percent and topping the previous all-time high. For 2016, the central Indiana real estate market is expected to remain steady. “We expect 2016 to be another favorable year, with stable to slightly increased prices in the Indianapolis market,” said Patrick Wilkins, a licensed real estate broker and office manager for Carpenter Realtors. “Almost 51 percent of all buyers nationally were first-time homebuyers in 2015. That’s a huge number reflective of the strong desire of Americans to own rather than rent, especially when you consider that rents are as high as 40 percent more than a mortgage payment on comparable properties.”

Time to move
If you’re thinking about waiting until March or later to look, remember that there’s no time like the present.

“If you don’t find just the right house now, we’ll wait until it comes along, but let’s get out there and start learning about the market,” Englert said. “Sometimes sellers who are on the market during the winter have compelling reasons to sell. They might be a little more negotiable on price and other key terms.” According to Wilkins, sellers in winter may be exceptionally motivated to make a deal because they’ve left the area, have a home they want to buy or simply want to end the hassles of showing their home. “Such an opportunity could benefit the buyer in a lower negotiated price and beneficial terms, such as seller-paid loan closing costs, leaving appliances with the house and possibly even seller financing,” he said.

If winter house hunting has a downside, it would be the cold, dark weather. “Because it gets dark so early, we sometimes have to view properties in the dark,” Englert said. “Buyers should plan to make time during the day to go on showings. Visual inspections of the home in daylight, particularly of the exterior, are important.” The inventory of homes tends to be lower in winter, too, because sellers remove them from the market or wait until spring for a larger pool of buyers. As you’re house shopping, don’t let overcast skies cloud your view. “Homes don’t look nearly as inviting on most winter days as they will in the spring, summer or fall,” Wilkins aid. “A wise buyer will attempt to see a drab ‘winter’ house for what it could be in the more desirable months of the year. Remember that a coat of paint, your own personalization and well arranged furniture can make any home warm and inviting.”

Real estate professionals urge buyers to enlist the services of a quality licensed inspector, who can check a home’s major components. Home inspectors are trained to look at mechanical issues and educate the buyer about potential problems. A one-year home warranty is another way buyers can gain peace of mind, and sellers often provide one to show good faith.

Settled by Spring
“Home sellers and buyers hold the erroneous belief that they should wait until spring to act instead of taking advantage of the winter months, when motivated sellers are looking to make a deal to get moving,” Englert said. “I’d like to dispel the notion that we have to wait for the spring market. In fact, I bet if more sellers would embrace the notion of selling in the winter, more buyers would become excited about the opportunity jump into the market because of all the great houses to choose from.”

Just think: When you move in the winter, you’ll be settled in by spring. Wintry weather won’t keep you from unpacking, painting, organizing and completing other interior projects. Then, when spring arrives at last, you can turn your attention to landscaping and outdoor maintenance.

Why buy at all?

According to the National Association of Realtors, buyers will find many benefits in homeownership, including:

  • Establishing a good place to raise a family
  • Owning a place of their own
  • Building a nest egg for retirement
  • Gaining financial security now
  • Becoming part of a community
  • Settling down