Why Winter is a Smart Time to Buy a Home

When you own a home, mundane tasks become yours to take care of, no matter the season. Cleaning the gutters in spring, watering the lawn in summer, raking leaves in the fall. And then, there's the winter.

Whether you hate the cold weather or embrace it, a winter task list can be a long one: check the chimney and fireplace to make sure they're ready for use, check the heating system for the very same reason, prevent your pipes from freezing, salt the driveway, shovel the snow...

Personally, as a born-and-bred Floridian, cold weather isn't my thing. But when it comes to real estate, winter time could be a hot time to buy. I closed on my own home in January after a quick six weeks roughly between Thanksgiving and the new year. It wasn't so much strategic as simply when I began looking. In hindsight, though, I was on to something.

According to National Mortgage News, 7 of the 10 best dates to close on a home in terms of saving percentages are in December, with three in the technical winter season (dates on or later than the winter solstice, Dec. 21). Their study—which used sales data of single-family homes and condos purchased between 2013 and 2017—found that consumers can save an average of 1.3 percent off the home price by "striking at the right time."

So, if you're considering buying a home in the near future, it may be wise to put in an offer and tour a home quickly and aim for a closing date in December or February. (See the 10 dates with the best savings percentages below.)

Remember though, you'll need to budget accordingly if your closing date coincides with the holidays. Factors like traveling to see family, purchasing Christmas and holiday presents, and requesting time off work can all impact your financial bottom line during a time where you need to be prudent. Speak honestly with your friends and family about your plans to purchase and close on a home during this time of year—rein in holiday travel and expenditures if you can, particularly during escrow, when underwriters will closely monitor your credit card activity.

One more thing: Winter weather can impact closing dates too. As you'll read in my own experience, a freak snow storm hindered necessary repairs on my home before I was able to move in, which pushed my closing date back by about 10 days. 

The Best Dates to Close on a Home

1. Dec. 26

Average discount below estimated market value: -1.3 percent

Average savings: $2,500

Bonus: Celebrate Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, with an incredible gift you’ll enjoy for years to come. Closing on a home toward the very end of the year means homeowners will be eligible for the homestead tax exemption for that same year.

As someone who closed in January, I had to wait a full year before I was even eligible to apply. Also, you may not even have to request off work to close since many offices are closed between Christmas and New Year's.

2. Dec. 7

Average discount below estimated market value: -1.0 percent

Average savings: $2,000

Bonus: Just as with a Dec. 26 closing date, you'll be in your new home before Jan. 1 of the new year, meaning you'll be eligible for the homestead tax exemption sooner rather than later.

3. Dec. 4

Average discount below estimated market value: -1.0 percent

Average savings: $1,823

Bonus: A Dec. 4 closing date puts you in the sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sure, it's a hectic time of year, but it's far enough away from Christmas that you can have a bit of time to settle in. 

4. Dec. 29

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.7 percent

Average savings: $1,320

Bonus: Again, this late-December closing date occurs after the holidays but before the New Year—you'll be eligible for a homestead tax exemption and won't have to worry about a moving day just before Christmas.

5. Dec. 21

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.6 percent

Average savings: $1,223

Bonus: A winter solstice closing date! It's the shortest day of the year, and also the most special for a homeowner with this closing date. Closing right before the holidays could be stressful, but it's also a darn good excuse for eschewing holiday parties and family gatherings. Just saying...

6. Dec. 1

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.5 percent

Average savings: $1,000

Bonus: Save a grand on the first of a month *and* stop paying rent. Win, win! Once you own, mortgage payments are collected in arrears, so your first payment won't be due until the new year.

7. Oct. 12

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.5 percent

Average savings: $1,000

Bonus: The Oct. 12 date offers the same discount and savings as Dec. 1, but you'll be into your new home well before the holiday craziness. You can commemorate your closing date each year with a pumpkin spice latte, and you might even move in before there's snow on the ground.

8. Nov. 9

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.3 percent

Average savings: $666

Bonus: A Nov. 9 closing date means you could be putting in your offer right around Labor Day Weekend (the first weekend in September). The unofficial start to fall could also mean the unofficial start to your journey as a homeowner. However, if you’re putting in an offer on a short sale, remember your journey to closing could take longer.

9. Feb. 9

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.3 percent

Average savings: $500

Bonus: If you have a spouse or significant other, you'll have some extra savings to spend on Valentine's Day. But don't go too wild: It's important to have a rainy day fund as a new homeowner, since repairs, insurance, and more will all fall squarely on your shoulders.

10. Dec. 8

Average discount below estimated market value: -0.1 percent

Average savings: $149

Bonus: While closing just a week earlier will net you significantly more savings (a Dec. 1 closing date came with $1,000 savings, according to National Mortgage News), you can still pocket some extra savings for holiday shopping.

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