Smart Homebuying: Catch a Winter Bargain!
Joseph Eamon Cummins is an award-winning writer and a specialist in psychology and human learning. A former licensed real estate agent, he spent three years researching and writing the clear, lively text for Not One Dollar More! Learn more
Smart Homebuying: Catch a Winter Bargain!
Buy a home in winter? Brave the chilly winds and ominous skies? Even hail, rain or snow? Well, yes. Because if you do you might just save a bundle and go smiling all the way to the bank.
But it doesn't look or feel like the right time of year, you protest. Of course it doesn't -- not according to conventional thinking, that is. Ironically, this is precisely the reason to consider a winter purchase.
Winter Homebuying: Perceptions That Can Cost - Or Save - You Money
Homebuyers and sellers typically remain completely unconscious of the psychological effects winter can have on their buying and selling decisions, and the missed opportunities that result. Winter tends to depress sellers' enthusiasm and price expectations, and reduce buyers' perceptions of a home's value and attractiveness. Buyers who can negotiate even a little, stand to win a significant eduction off the asking price of almost any home they bid on. However, those buyers who also can see beyond temporary, seasonal negatives are in position to negotiate even more successfully and win unusually good bargains.
Here are some critical factors that can miscue our senses and perceptions in winter and cause us to miss out on good deals. Brightness: Dark and overcast skies have negative effects on the appeal of a home. To counter this, agents will put on as many lights as possible when showing.
Freshness, scents and smells: Homes just don't have the same fresh 'spring' scent. They are likely to smell musty or dank or unventilated.
Tidiness: Few homes are kept as neat and sparkling and orderly.
Comfort: Home heating systems frequently work unevenly making some rooms feel warm, others cold, causing an unconscious negative impression in the buyer.
Feel and touch: Interior mats, runners and, particularly, plastic carpet savers, provide the wrong sensations underfoot.
Space and clutter: People move themselves and their belongings inside cluttering up open space and making rooms appear smaller. Clutter can prevent a buyer from visualizing living in the home.
Color and warmth: The home exterior is bare. The foliage and once colorful flowers are dead or struggling. Inside, the radiance and warmth of spring and summer are absent.
Damp and drafts: Leaks and bad-fitting doors and windows are more evident. To buyers, wind and drafts are turn-offs.
Basement and loft: Problems are hard to hide and often appear worse than they are.
Fewer buyers and sales: Agents tend to work harder to get even a low offer. And they push harder to get sellers to accept such offers.
Home Inspections: Disruptions are not as easy to prepare for as in other seasons. Sellers stay, and play, indoors more in winter.
Weekends: Inspections are often limited to weekends due to shorter days. Newness. This feeling relates to and how we think. Inside us there's a 'rhythm' that lifts us in spring and deserts us in winter. We tend to forget it always returns.
The rationale is simple, and well known to experienced deal makers: The best deals are most often made when no-one is looking for them. This is borne out by many savvy homebuyers and real estate investors who have long known that a deal made in winter is often hard to match in spring or summer. So, with that in mind, now might be a good time for you to shake off those winter blues and venture out in search of a home -- and a great deal!
But, if the idea of buying in the gloomy season just doesn't turn you on, keep in mind that winter offers another benefit. This is also the perfect time to prepare for a spring home purchase. Use the dark days to discuss it, research it, and set up a homebuying notebook -- preparation that will save you money later. It is this 'homework' -- if you'll forgive the pun -- that most buyers don't do; invariably, they pay higher prices for their slackness. (Explained in detail in Not One Dollar More! How to Save $3,000 to $30,000 Buying Your Next Home).
Let's assume you are willing to consider the idea. But, first, you want more evidence: Just why does a winter purchase make good sense? It all starts inside our heads, as of course most things do but not quite like this. Here our perceptions are affected, for the most part unconsciously, by sensations such as brightness, warmth, color, order, space, freshness, nature, scent, and mood. And it's no coincidence that these are just the senses and sensations that make up the 'vibes' you get or don't get when you inspect a home. When you perceive these vibes as positive, you want to buy. When negative, you don't.
Of course, these vibes combine with more practical factors that have little or nothing to do with perception. For example, if a home has two bedrooms and you require three, you make a very conscious decision to pass it up. Here certain vibes may tempt you, but they don't control your decision. Nonetheless, with the majority of homes you'll inspect, the factors that affect your 'yes' or 'no' decision are not so practical or obvious as being a bedroom short. In fact, many of the factors that influence your thinking are more likely to sneak undetected into your unconscious.
One reason for this is that we rarely stand back and analyze critically what influences our decisions, particularly our emotional decisions. Consequently, we decide to buy a specific home based not on critical dispassion but on bubbling emotion (and sometimes on weariness and despair). In other words, it's usually those bossy little string pullers -- our perceptions -- that prompt us and push us to buy, or dismiss, a particular home. It's that simple, yet we rarely know it's going on because our conscious thoughts are focused elsewhere.
With all that happening behind the scenes, what specifically should you do when you go in search of a winter bargain? More importantly, how do you control the 'vibes' that can lead you into a bad decision? The first step is to know how rain and cold and snow and dark skies can affect how buyers and sellers think.
For a start, when you buy a home in winter you have an automatic advantage. Winter tends to dull (mostly unconsciously) a seller's expectation of getting a top price. Clearly, it is seen to be the wrong time of year to sell. And it's easy to understand why. All the freshness and color of spring and summer, and even fall, are absent. Gardens and greenery look dead, with no new growth. And surrounding the home prospective buyers can't help noticing withered leaves, patchy and lifeless grass, damp and grubby pathways, and few, if any, flowers. The mood is dour; the situation has many negatives -- or that's how it can seem!
And then there are the elements, rain and chilly temperatures, even snow perhaps, that both buyer and seller must contend with. Not to mention the fact that most sellers are less than charmed by the prospect of shivering, drenched buyers traipsing through their lounge and bedrooms on the off-chance that one might make an offer. The negatives seem to abound, and our thinking is colored and shaped as a result.
No, a home just does not show or smell or 'glow' as well in dark, cold, and inclement weather. And even that is not the full tale of woe. Every home has its own share of specific 'faults' -- real and perceived -- that are likely to appear worse in the gloom and inconvenience of winter.
But, as the cliche tells us, things are seldom what they seem. And therein lies your advantage. Most of those negative weather-triggered perceptions are not fundamentally important. Few point to faults or shortcomings having any long-term significance. Therefore, your main challenge is to use your creative imagination, see beyond the temporary seasonal blah, discomfort, and inconvenience. In a nutshell, winter buyers recognize that negatives are often positives in disguise. And dreariness and darkness and wetness and clutter and other such enthusiasm killers can function excellently as the bases for making low offers. Then, negotiating strongly for a big price reduction.
The negatives that turn off both buyers and sellers in winter can create a bargain hunter's dream. For the clued-in home buyer such negatives can lead to a real gem of a deal. The motto that could put some serious money in your pocket between now and spring, is this: Imagine the future, and don't let winter pull your strings!
© Joseph Eamon Cummins 1999. Web posting rights given to HSH Inc 11/99
Joseph Eamon Cummins is an award-winning writer and a specialist in psychology and human learning. A former licensed real estate agent, he spent three years researching and writing the clear, lively text for Not One Dollar More!
The author's work is regularly featured in national magazines such as Money, Home, Business Week, Money World, and Kiplinger's, among others. He has appeared on CNBC, NBC, CBS, and other national TV and radio networks, and is on Money Magazine's 'Panel of Experts'.
A member of The Author's Guild in New York City and a former affiliate of American Psychological Assn., he has held faculty positions at a number of universities, and has produced acclaimed television documentaries.
Since it first appeared, Not One Dollar More! has been hailed as a classic, and has won for the author a score of superlative honors and reviews.