Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo looks at why winter is still a good time for house-hunting.
What is the best day for buyers to make an offer on a property? Well, whether you’re a first-time purchaser, a second-stepper or someone buying a home for the last time, Nick Wooldridge of Stacks Property Search advises that December the 15th is possibly the best date of the whole year to put an offer in.
As a seller, you may now want to keep that particular date free in your diary!
While the age-old wisdom suggests that the weeks before Christmas are one of the worst times to buy and sell property, recent findings indicate a different story altogether. If you don’t quite manage to push through a deal before the festive period starts – and it can prove difficult with people starting to wind down for the Christmas break – the cold, dark months of winter should still be viewed as fertile ground for house-hunters and sellers alike.
For one, the festive period gives would-be buyers much more free time to devote to finding their dream home. Property searches on major portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla spike massively between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with people using their new smartphones and tablets to browse for homes or consolidate their interest in ones they’ve spotted before. Many then see the first few months of January as the time to put their house-moving plans into action.
Winter is also a good time to buy a home for a number of other reasons. As Nick Wooldridge puts it, there is generally “softer” competition as less hardy types put off searching for a home in the colder and wetter months.
“You will get first look at ‘soft’ launches – property that’s due to be properly launched in the new year, but that agents already know about and will show you,” Wooldridge adds.
What’s more, if a would-be buyer likes a property in gloomy December and January, think how that home will look in spring and summer and how much the buyer will love it then.
In addition, a buyer will get to see a more warts-and-all version of the property they hope to buy during winter. As a seller, you always want your home to look its absolute best and you want to give no reason for buyers to be put off. However, the cold, hard reality is that your home might not look as good in winter as it does in the warmer, brighter months.
“Bare trees will reveal local eyesores; dark houses will be very dark; badly insulated houses will be cold, draughty and condensation will be streaming down the windows,” Wooldridge advises. “This is warts and all property viewing at its most hard-core.”
When it comes to property viewings in the winter, Wooldridge has the following tips for buyers.
Choose your viewing time wisely
Buyers should factor in the more limited daylight hours available and work around this accordingly. As a buyer, you are likely to get less out of viewing a property when it’s dark.
Wrap up warm
The cold and wet shouldn’t prevent you from having a really good nose around the outside of the property, in particular the garden. You shouldn’t just be looking at the surroundings and the view, but at the fabric of the home itself, Wooldridge says. If it’s cold or wet outside, brollies, winter jackets, gloves, scarves, woolly hats and thermals will help to keep you nice and toasty.
Establishing the aspect
This one’s a bit more technical, so we shall leave it to Mr Wooldridge to explain more: “Without the benefit of the sun, you’ll need a compass to establish the aspect, and check what trees and buildings will obscure the sun at various zeniths when it reappears next spring.”
It’s also a wise idea to check the grounds of the property – whether that is a garden, driveway or other form of outdoor space – as you should be able to tell fairly easily at this time of the year if these areas are more susceptible to flooding or waterlogging.
Turn out the lights!
Bit of an odd one, this one, but Nick Wooldridge offers this advice once you’ve entered the property. “Once inside, ask the agent or vendor to turn out all the lights (they will have been instructed to turn them all on!) so you can establish how much natural light the property gets. And check whether the heating’s turned up to the max – it may feel warm and cosy, but at what cost?”
It’s important to remember, of course, that there is no perfect time to buy or sell a property. Each sale is different.
What buyers and sellers should remember, though, is that the rules surrounding house-hunting during winter have changed – and neither demographic should be afraid of doing all they can to complete on a property, no matter what the month or season.