When You Buy a Home In the Winter...

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The weather outside is frightful, but buying a home can be delightful in winter. Why, you ask? If the house is on the market during the holidays there's a likelihood the sellers are seriously motivated to move because usually owners will pull their listings until spring due to the holiday chaos. You may get a better deal than in the spring if you buy during the cold season. Even the Utah Association of Realtors has found that home prices generally fall during winter and rise during the spring.

When shopping for homes in December and January, be aware of some of the extra things to look for besides just good prices:

1) It's more cold than warm in Salt Lake City and I think it's especially telling to look at homes when there's snow on the ground. You can feel the cold air blow through the gaps in the windows and doors. When an agent lists 'extra insulation' on a house flyer, you can tell as soon as you walk in the door if it's fact or fiction. Also know there's a trend for buyers and home owners to get energy audits of properties prior to the closing as part of the buyers due diligence/inspection period. (I can tell you in the future an energy audit will be even more common as 'green' loans become more popular). I usually take a lighter or matches with me when showing vacant homes in the winter. I hold up the flame where we feel it's cold and see where the draft is coming from. No, I haven't caught any homes on fire!

2) If you're buying a vacant or foreclosed on property, have your agent check with the listing agent if the home was 'winterized' prior to the cold weather kicking in. Winterizing is a protection process where a contractor or technician goes into the property and drains the pipes and then shuts down the water from the house to the water main. The heat may be shut off (on purpose) or the thermostat set to a low temperature such as 55 degrees. These actions protect the owner from potential pipes freezing in the winter and causing an expensive disaster in the home.

3) You won't be able to test the air conditioning system of a house you're going to purchase in the winter as inspectors will not even look at the cooling systems if it is colder than 45 degrees outside. Murphy's Law would kick in during the summer when you first crank up the central air and it doesn't work, so always negotiate a home warranty that specifically covers air conditioning systems.

4) If it's a snowy winter, it's often hard for inspectors to get up on a roof and determine condition. If you can't see the roof, but the home is good, you can negotiate that the seller escrow the cost of a new roof at closing to be determined once the snow melts. If the roof turns out to be good and have a life of at least five years, the seller would get their funds back. Otherwise, you'd get a new roof in the spring.