It’s the season of spending. The end of the year is known for spending money on all things festive: gifts, celebrations, and the occasional new outfit.
Should you also put buying a house on your holiday shopping list? Crazier things have happened. Here are five reasons you may want to buy a home during the holiday season:
1. It’s not as overwhelming
In the winter months, there is typically a big dip in the number of homes available for sale compared with other times of the year.
“Home sales are definitely cyclical following seasonal patterns,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “In the winter months, inventory tends to be 20 percent to a third lower.”
Especially for first-time homebuyers, having a handful of choices within your budget can be far less daunting then traipsing through dozens of open-houses and viewings. Less competition from other buyers during the holiday season also means you’re less likely to be outbid or get turned down by a seller because they got a better offer. Use a mortgage calculator to determine what you can afford.
2. Envision what’s in store
For couples and families who dream of spending future holidays in their new home, house shopping in the winter can give you a clearer picture of what that might look like.
“Buying a home is an emotional process,” says Dave Mele, president of Homes.com.
If you tour a house and it’s decked out for the season, he says, it might resonate with you and help you envision your own family celebrating there.
A snow-covered lawn, for example, could conjure up visions of building snowmen and having sled rides.
Just be sure to ask for photographs of the house in warmer weather so you know what the landscaping and other exterior features look like without the fluffy white stuff.
3. You might get a better deal
“Sellers are more motivated this time of year,” says Samona Rosenberg, an agent with Stein Posner Real Estate in Boca Raton, Florida.
Homeowners who are selling in wintertime are likely to be looking to sell quickly and move on.
There are lot of reasons, both financial and personal, why someone might be looking to sell their house during this traditionally sluggish time. Whether the sellers have a new job, are empty-nesters, or can no longer afford to stay, chances are their eagerness to close on a sale could be your gain.
“A seller might be a little more apt to negotiate,” says Michael Seward, owner and broker for Michael Seward Realty in Palmer, Massachusetts.
4. Put your vacation to work
Taking some time off during the holiday season could also be a boon to your house hunt.
“You may have a little extra time that you might not have had otherwise have to go out and see homes,” Mele says.
If you have visiting relatives or if the kids are out of school, it’s a great time to bring them along, and get their feedback. Most families shy away from making a move during the school year, so involving them in the process could make it easier for everyone to get excited about a relocation.
5. It may make financial sense
Under current law, homeowners can itemize and deduct the interest paid on their mortgages up to the first $1 million, if their loan is used to buy or improve a first or second home. If you end up closing on a new home at the beginning of the new year, you’ll be able to take a deduction on an entire year’s worth of mortgage interest.
With the Fed expected to raise rates once more before the end of 2017, now might be a cheaper time to lock in a mortgage at a great rate.
With the various loan options available to home buyers, it may ultimately cost you less money up front to buy a place than to rent, says Nate Crandell, a realtor for Compass West Realty in Winchester, Virginia.
“A lot of people think they can’t afford to buy a house at the end of the year because they’ll need a ton of money for holiday shopping,” he says. But Crandell says that with FHA loans and other government-backed programs, the cost of ownership could be less up front than putting down a security deposit plus first and last month’s rent.