By Drew Knight
The winter months aren’t a time you usually see flocks of home shoppers hitting the market. However, not many shoppers are aware of the benefits that hide away during the cooler season.
In fact, a recent report from The New York Times says that shoppers might even be able to find better deals in certain markets when buying a home in the winter versus spring.
The report highlighted data from Attom Data Solutions, which found that through the years of 2000 to 2016, the median selling price during February was about $104 per square foot — an average discount of 6 percent over the rest of the year. The study included a sample size of about 50 million homes.
In regard to the rest of the year, the same study showed that the next most affordable months were January, March and April with discounts at just under 6 percent, 4 percent and 2 percent over $110 per square foot, the annualized median price.
Other than a higher possibility of price discounts, buying a home in the winter versus spring also means you get the added benefit of not having to brave the heat to build and shop for a new home. Yet still, the Attom study found that this data trend held true in warmer climates like Florida, likely due to the fact that the early months of the year coincide with the middle of the school year when families aren’t typically considering a move.
“If you’re considering a move for the 2017–18 school year and want to build your personalized home, then now is the time to start seriously thinking about your home purchase,” says Kristina Jones, marketing manager for Texas-based Highland Homes.
Buying a home in the winter means you’d get to lock in on those lower rates, plus it gives you plenty of time to work with your builder to help bring your home to life on time.
“Buyers who begin their home search in the winter sometimes overlook new-construction communities because they assume work won’t start on a home until spring,” says Brian Hoffman, an executive with Illinois homebuilder Red Seal Homes. “What these buyers don’t realize is that regardless of season, we need a certain amount of lead time before construction can begin. As a result, winter can be the ideal time to start the planning, permitting and selection process so that we are ready to break ground as soon as weather permits.”
If you’re planning to buy a home in the winter, here are four key steps you can expect during the process with builders like Red Seal Homes:
1. Choose a homesite and floor plan.
Hoffman says these are usually the two things a buyer must do before a contract can be written for their new home.
“Usually, it takes somewhere from two to four weeks for buyers to lock in these decisions, as they typically make multiple visits to the community and meet with the sales team several times to discuss their options,” he adds.
2. Contract approval from an attorney.
Once the lot and floor plan has been selected, the builder will typically write the contract and send it in for attorney review. Hoffman says attorney approval is typically received about two weeks after the contract is written.
3. Permitting and selections.
After the contract has been finalized, the home is then submitted for permitting, a process that takes about three months. The builder may use that time to take the buyer through the fun part — the features and finishes selection process.
“We go through every detail, from asking the architect to make customizations like switching a loft to a bedroom or designing a finished basement to helping buyers make finish choices for features like cabinetry, flooring, tile and lighting and plumbing fixtures,” says Hoffman.
4. Breaking ground.
Construction begins after permitting has been finalized, starting with breaking ground.
According to Hoffman, the construction process of a Red Seal home usually takes about six months and the total time from homesite and floor plan selection to move-in is usually one year.
“While that one-year time frame holds true in most cases, the initial planning and permitting stages are sometimes expedited during the winter season when there’s less construction activity,” says Hoffman. “The takeaway for buyers is that building a new-construction home is a year-round proposition and there’s no reason they shouldn’t start planning during the cold-weather months.”
For buyers who’d like to bypass the construction time frame, another option is to discuss inventory homes with their local builders, which are usually available at different stages of construction or on a move-in-ready basis.
Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.