When newlyweds Adam Schreck and Stacy Rosenberg returned from their honeymoon this past October, their first order of business as man and wife was to buy a new home together. They wanted to sell fast so they could buy before interest rates went back up. They also thought it would be good for the marriage to get a new place. That meant selling Rosenberg’s two-bedroom condo in Columbia Heights as quickly as possible – and right in the midst of the traditional winter slow season.
“We were pretty confident it was going to move,” says Schreck, 40, a multimedia specialist at QED Group. “We decided to roll the dice.”
Though November through February is typically considered an off-season compared to spring, realtors say there are some real perks to selling a property in winter.
For the newlyweds, selling the condo would enable them to get a better place while home prices — and interest rates — were lower.
“We were afraid if we waited until the spring, the prices would skyrocket again,” says Rosenberg, 39, a digital project manager at the Pew Research Center.
But if the idea of selling at this time of year gives you cold feet, here are a few things to consider about the winter market.
Slow Market? Says Who?
Rosenberg and Schreck’s real estate agent, Kymber Menkiti of The Menkiti Group (202-243-7777), advises clients to not shy away from selling this time of year. The buyers are there, she says, especially at the start of a new year.
“It’s a top resolution for a lot of people,” Menkiti says. “They may say, ‘I want to be a homeowner in 2014.’ ”
In fact, for the past two winters, D.C. hasn’t seen much of a “slow season” at all, says Mark Mlakar, owner of M Squared Real Estate (202-706-6163). “Winter seems to be that time where buyers believe that they can find a bargain,” he says. “It turns out that a lot of people are still very actively shopping.”
The Look for Less
Sellers typically get a little less for their home than they would in the busier spring season, when bids from multiple buyers could drive the price higher. But this trend could work in your favor, if you’re looking to sell first, then buy a new place — particularly a more expensive one.
“It may be worth it to lose a little value on the sell side if you’re going to buy,” Menkiti says. In other words, if your place sells for less, then you’re also likely to buy for less.
For Rosenberg and Schreck, they felt they came out ahead, despite getting around $10,000 less for the condo than they would have in warmer months.
Because the 2,500-square-foot home they purchased was more expensive than the 975-square-foot condo they sold, “The money we lost on not selling in the spring was more than made up for by the money we saved by buying in the winter,” Schreck says.
With demand as high as it’s been in the past two years, Realtor Tara Cellini of City Chic Real Estate (202-499-4284) says she hasn’t seen homes selling for much less in winter than they do in spring.
One property, listed Dec. 3, had five different offers within the first four days, she notes. “Buyers don’t want to chance waiting till spring, when interest rates might go up.”
Big Fish in a Small Pond
A somewhat slower winter market also means a seller is more likely to catch buyers’ attention, real estate agents say.
Gerard DiRuggiero, a broker at UrbanLand Co. (202-299-9223) says he always likes to put houses on the market before the “better” market is in full swing. “There’s less competition and the seller is in a strong position, as long as they don’t need to move ASAP.”
Schreck says the slower market was also better suited for the laid-back couple.
“I can’t imagine, for us, shopping in a hyper-competitive market,” he says. “If you’re a little more relaxed, buying during the slow time of year might be a better fit for your personality.”
A Warm Welcome
Realtors say the same tips apply in the winter when it comes to putting your place on the market: get a fresh coat of paint, clean, pull up carpets and have a professional stage the furniture. And don’t forget to keep the place warm and inviting for prospective buyers.
“Some people, especially if homes are vacant, will turn the heat way down,” Menkiti says. “That affects someone’s experience.”
Menkiti also recommends showing off any winter features the house may have, like a wood-burning fireplace.
“The D.C. market is hot enough,” Mlakar says. “As long as you market it right, you price it right, then it doesn’t matter [what] time of year it is.”