Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winter or Spring to Buy or Sell A House?

Many buyers and sellers wait until spring to enter the market, especially families with schoolchildren, who want to make their deals so they can move in time for the next school year.

Still, there are people who, for a variety of reasons, are in the market in winter. And while the market is smaller, real estate agents say that foul-weather buyers and sellers tend to be serious about making a deal.

Certainly, there are plenty of obstacles—especially in a winter like this one. A house that would have a ton of curb appeal when everything’s in bloom is less attractive under gray skies and a blanket of snow. Buyers may struggle to find street parking and navigate icy sidewalks. Sellers find it tougher to keep the place clean as snow and road salt are tracked into the house.

Some agents say the smaller market works to the advantage of sellers. “If they wait for the spring market, there’s more competition” for buyers, said Ricki Sellner of Coldwell Banker in Upper Saddle River, who is Fonseca’s agent.

Other agents insist that the winter is a buyer’s market. “They can usually get a better price, because there are not as many buyers in the market. If a house is on the market in the winter, the seller is usually extremely motivated,” said Nicolette Lisella of Terrie O’Connor Realtors in Allendale, N.J.

“If a house has been on the market, and it is still available in the winter, the sellers are sometimes much more flexible, and prices more affordable,” agreed Dennis Decina of Werner Realty in West Milford, N.J.

Buyers who venture out in winter may be able to get faster action on their mortgages because the lenders aren’t dealing with as many applications, said Antoinette Gangi of RE/MAX in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Another advantage for buyers: They will be able to get a sense of how drafty the house is, and how well the heat works. But on the minus side, home inspections can be more difficult if snow covers decks and the home’s foundation, said Sharon Marinaccio of LeConte Realty in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. And buyers won’t be able to have the air conditioning tested or the pool inspected. For that reason, agents recommend that buyers ask the seller to put aside money in escrow, or supply a home warranty, in case repairs are needed later.

All in all, winter markets have super motivated buyers and sellers, but spring markets have more inventory. Regardless, get into the market now and find your dream home.

Peg Maloney


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