Winter can be a great season for homebuyers

House hunting during winter can be advantageous for buyers willing to brave the cold weather, as there will most probably be fewer other buyers searching, and much less competition when making an offer on a great home.

“Sellers know that spring and summer are the most popular times to look for a new home and often wait to list their properties then, so it is true that you may have fewer homes to choose from in winter. But you could potentially get a much better deal too, because homeowners who are selling in this season are often more willing to negotiate,” says Christine Appel, owner of the RealNet Durbanville franchise.

“First, their home many not have sold during the previous peak season, and there may be some pressure for them to conclude a sale soon. You should always enquire how long a property has been listed and why the owner is selling before making an offer.

“Second, most sellers will appreciate the fact that anyone who is willing to brave the adverse weather to view their home in winter is probably a pretty serious buyer, and that their offer will be worth considering.

“And finally, time is always money for a seller, and the rainy winter weather we experience in the Western Cape also tends to make it much more difficult to get a home ready for viewings or show days. Thus someone who has decided to sell in winter, for whatever reason, probably doesn’t want to prolong the process, or continue paying holding costs any longer than they have to – especially if their intention is to move somewhere warmer.”

Other winter-buying advantages, she says, include the fact that when viewing a home in “extreme” conditions, you will immediately get to see if there are any leaks in the roof and if the plumbing, insulation and electrical systems all work properly.

“And even if it is somewhat less attractive, a house that turns out to need a few repairs can present you with further opportunities to negotiate a reduced offer. Besides, you’ll avoid the potential problem of buying in summer only to discover that the roof leaks when the rains start the following winter – months after the sale has been concluded.”

Moving is also cheaper in winter, Christine says, because it is a quiet period for removal companies and they tend to discount their prices. You will probably also have more flexibility when it comes to choosing a moving date.

“Meanwhile, it is also worth considering the fact that home loan interest rates in SA are currently on a rising course, and could well be quite a lot higher by next summer. The banks are also steadily tightening up on their qualifying criteria, so buying this winter instead of waiting for summer could actually make all the difference, for many people, between being able to qualify for a home loan this year or not, and losing out on their dreams of home ownership.”

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