Buying a Home at the End of the Year Can Really Pay Off (in Actual Dollars) — Here’s How

published Nov 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

‘Tis the season to be house hunting. Yep, you heard us right; if you’re looking to score a deal on your dream home, the end of the year is a great time to do it.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Who would want to trek to open houses in 20-degree weather when you could be curled up by the fireplace at home?” And the answer would be: People who really, really want to get a good deal. So come out from under the blankets and pull on your boots, because the deals are waiting… if you want them badly enough.

Competition is Way Less Fierce

The most obvious, and most significant reason why you should house hunt at the end of the year is simple: fewer people are doing it. It’s much easier to sell a home during the warmer weather, when sprawling lawns and sparkling swimming pools attract buyers left and right. But when that disappears during the early winter, so do a lot of the prospective buyers.

“To put it in perspective, turn-key Metrowest Boston homes were getting 30 offers last Spring in the first few days on market,” says Ann Cohen, of Keller Williams Realty Boston-Metro. “Now, [in November] similar homes are getting 10 to 12 offers.”

Less competition means that from the open house to the offer table, you’re getting more attention as a buyer. “While other people are hitting shopping malls, Christmas tree lots and office parties in December, you’re heading to open houses,” says Ed Deveau of Century 21 Mario Real Estate. “If you’re in a position to make a strong offer, I guarantee a seller will take it seriously,” he adds. “They don’t want to wait until April for another one to come in.”

Everyone’s Itching for Tax-imum Benefits

Circle, underline, and highlight it: TAXES. Buying at the end of the year can be a huge opportunity for buyers, since sellers really want to sell their property for income tax purposes. “The seller can maximize deductions and possibly take losses to set off their income,” says Real Estate Attorney Felicia B. Watson. “This is a huge opportunity for buyers, since now the seller is more anxious to sell and will be more willing to negotiate, thereby placing the buyer in a better bargaining position.”

Sellers Have One Foot Out the Door

Whether it’s empty nesters looking to head south before the dead of winter, or a new job that starts January 1, properties on the market at the end of the year scream “take me!” “The homes still on the market have sellers that usually need to sell for a reason,” says Sarah Maguire of Compass Real Estate in Boston. “This usually means the sellers are in process or have already bought something else.”

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

You’ll Get the Very Best Price

“Properties that were originally overpriced at the beginning of Fall market — historically right after Labor Day — and are still on the market, have typically seen price reductions by this point in the season,” says Lara Shuqom of Compass Real Estate. This is the perfect time for you to hop in and attempt to negotiate, compared to earlier in the fall.

And if you happen to be hunting for new construction, you’ve got a better chance at striking a deal by the late fall and early winter, says Maguire. “If these units and homes hit the market in the fall/early winter, the longer they sit vacant, the more money the developer loses everyday. They may be willing to negotiate instead of letting it sit until things get busy again come spring.” Which means you can likely talk your builder into waiving costs for upgraded finishes and features.

You Can Take Your Time

The spring is such a competitive time for house hunting that buyers sometimes leap before they look… and realize they’ve made a rash decision. “In the Spring, buyers often need to make an offer within an hour or two of the open house when the property is first opened to the public. To be competitive, buyers may need to waive an inspection, bid without a second showing, and not fully explore what would be needed to address suspected issues,” says Cohen. “Buyers often move so quickly, actually thinking about the house they are bidding on becomes an afterthought. Just having even a night to sleep on the decision of making an offer, may result in buying a home that is just right.”

It’s a Good Moment to Move

By the end of the year, chances are you’ve got leftover vacation time stored up that you need to use, or else you lose it. You may not be able to go on a sunny vacation to Hawaii, but you can certainly make good use of those days by taking them off to pack and move.

You’ll probably save money, too. Moving is always a pricey endeavor, but particularly during the the high season. However, come the end of the year, moving companies have much more flexible dates, and generally lower prices. This provides you with the opportunity to shop around before deciding on which one to go with.