How to Buy a Home in Winter

how to buy a home in winter

A generation ago, few people would willingly trek out into the winter snow/sleet/slush to shop for a home. In our always-on, instant-information era, though, today’s buyers shop and make deals throughout the year. Here’s how to buy a home in winter.

1. Understand you’re probably seeing the home at its worst

Maybe a ski chateau looks great in winter. But most homes don’t. And that’s great news for the buyer. Here’s why: You can discover the home’s flaws, such as a lack of privacy, abundant street noise, leaks or drafty windows. You’ll see the home in its worst “light” — and in some cases, you’ll realize it’s just too dark or exposed.

2. Ask to see summer and fall photos

Smart listing agents get exterior photos from their sellers to show off the pool, lawn, flowers, and gardens in bloom. Even though they’re listing in January, they should promote the home’s assets from other times of the year. If the listing doesn’t include warm-weather photos, ask to see some. It will mean fewer surprises when the snow melts, the ground thaws, and the home is your responsibility.

3. Ask about amenities you’re unable to test

If the home has a pool that can’t be inspected because it’s closed for the winter, ask that they leave money in escrow or extend the closing time frame. When warm weather returns, you can inspect the pool and its systems to be certain it’s in good working condition and free of leaks or damage.

Unless a seller provides a disclosure about some part of the pool not working, they’re responsible for remedying any issues. If all works out, the attorney or escrow company will release the funds.

4. Ask for documentation

Frozen ground prohibits digging for contaminates of previous underground oil storage tanks. And homeowners typically winterize sprinkler systems, accessory apartments or cottages. In the event you can’t inspect every feature or get escrow funds negotiated, ask for documentation.

The plumbers, pool company and outside vendors should have records, so you can request documentation showing that all was shut down or closed out properly. Even better, ask to meet with the tradespeople who did the work.

5. Be prepared to ask for a longer closing if needed

For the right house, a winter purchase could spell opportunity. Double up on due diligence, and don’t be afraid to ask for a longer closing or to arrange to have the home inspected come spring. Remember: Everything is negotiable, but once a deal closes there’s rarely sufficient recourse.

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