The holidays are a unique time to buy a house. Sellers are scarce, the weather is uncooperative, and many real estate professionals are on vacation, leading to delays and other issues.
But there are also big, noticeable benefits to buying a home during the holiday season — as long as it’s done right.
“While many people associate the holidays with family reunions and time off from work, for homebuyers the holiday season can be the perfect time to buy property,” says Alex Shekhtman, CEO and Founder of LBC Mortgage. in Beverly Hills, California.
Are you planning to buy a house at the end of the year? Here’s what to expect – and how to do it successfully.
Benefits of buying during the holiday season
As Skekhtman mentioned, there are serious benefits to buying a home while on vacation. On the one hand, there is generally less competition. This not only makes it easier to find a home, but also to get a good deal when you do.
“There are usually fewer buyers in the market, which gives you more bargaining power,” Shekhtman says. “Also, many sellers are motivated to sell during this time of year and may be willing to accept a lower offer.”
According to ATTOM Data Solutions, he’s right: the best days to buy a house – at least in terms of price – are all during the last two months of the year (November 28, December 5, December 26, December 19 and December 12, to be exact).
But it’s not just lower prices that you could enjoy with the purchase of a vacation home. Real estate agent Rachel Bennett says sellers are simply more motivated this time of year – and that means other valuable perks too.
“Buyers looking this holiday season will face much less competition and may be able to negotiate a number of things such as price, seller concessions and mortgage buyouts,” says Bennett, agent at Orchard in Austin, Texas.
Finally, we must also think about the tax advantages. Buyers able to close their mortgages before the end of the year could be eligible to write off their mortgage interest charges, property taxes and more in April.
Disadvantages of buying during the holiday season
Despite the many advantages of buying a vacation home, there are also some disadvantages to consider. First, agents say there are generally fewer sellers, which means fewer listings to choose from.
“Inventory is typically lower during the holidays, which means shoppers have fewer choices overall,” says Christy Budnick, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. “You also need to be able to look past all the holiday decorations to see the house as you would live in it.”
Additionally, real estate professionals – including agents, lenders, and home inspectors – tend to have limited availability during this season. This can lead to delays and scheduling difficulties.
“The main challenges will be timelines,” says Michael Nourmand, president of real estate firm Nourmand & Associates in Beverly Hills, Calif. “It’s harder to line up inspections because people are on vacation and the loan process is moving very slowly.”
Weather, not to mention shorter daylight hours, can also add an extra layer of difficulty, especially when visiting homes. Plus, the upfront costs of buying a home — including the down payment, closing costs, and moving costs — can pose a financial challenge, especially during an already expensive time of year.
Tips for buying a house while on vacation
If you’re choosing to buy a home this holiday season, real estate professionals say there are a few strategies that can make your journey easier.
1. Hire a good agent.
Having a good agent by your side is essential at any time of the year, but it’s especially important during the holidays. First and foremost, you’ll want one that’s experienced and well-connected in your area.
“Fewer homes are often listed from Halloween to New Years,” says Jon Sanborn, co-founder of real estate investment firm SD House Guys in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “You will need someone to find these key properties and use their network.”
Choosing an agent who has colleagues you can lean on is also a good idea.
As Bennett explains, “I would recommend working with a brokerage that has multiple agents on staff. This will ensure that your search does not need to slow down, even if agents take time off to be with their families.
2. Get pre-approved.
You should also get pre-approved for your mortgage. This gives you a clear idea of what price you should be shopping at and also helps you act quickly when it’s time to make an offer.
“If you see the right house, it will help your agent make an offer on any day,” Bennett says. “You won’t need to spend time researching various speakers while on vacation.”
Getting pre-approved can also help you in a rising rate market, when you may need to make budget adjustments quickly.
“The single most important step a buyer can take to ensure a smooth transaction is to get pre-approved for a mortgage,” Budnick says. “With interest rates changing rapidly, it will be important to understand how much you are entitled to and what it will mean for your purchasing power if rates rise during your housing search.”
3. Plan ahead.
When shopping during the holidays, you can expect to encounter a few no-shows. Maybe your agent is going to visit family or you have a vacation planned as well.
“As soon as you step into the Thanksgiving holiday, people’s spirits kick in,” says Christian Ross, chief broker at Engel & Völkers in Atlanta, Georgia. “People don’t take two days off; they take a week’s vacation. Make sure you have additional points of contact so you can get your questions or concerns answered in a timely manner.
You should also line up other professionals early on in case they have other plans as well. This can include cleaners, painters, moving companies, and most importantly, a building inspector.
“Keep a home inspector on the lookout the closer you get to landing your dream home,” says Christa Kenin, agent at Douglas Elliman in Connecticut. “A delayed inspection can delay your mortgage process and frustrate the seller.”
4. Know the seller and be aggressive.
Since demand is down this time of year, agents say buyers have leverage — leverage they should use to get the best deal possible.
“Sellers would much rather unload a house before winter hits,” Kenin says. “Buyers can capitalize on this anxiety. I encourage my vacation home hunters to negotiate aggressively as we get closer to vacation.
To help you in these negotiations, work with your agent to understand the seller and their motivations for selling.
As Budnick says, “Determine the seller’s hot spots. Are there things important to the seller that are not important to you? If so, use them in your favor in the negotiations.