Home Buying in the Off-Season

home buying in the off season

If you’re home shopping this winter and feeling frustrated, know that market inventory tends to hit a dry spell this time of year. But don’t fret: There are still deals out there. While everyone else is distracted by ski trips, hot cocoa and watching Elf a half a dozen times, savvy buyers are hustling the home search.

It’s important to keep up with your basic search efforts like staying on top of new listings as they hit the market and regularly attending open houses. If you want to kick things up a notch, try these grass roots initiatives:

Scour Expired Listings

When a seller contracts with a real estate agent to list a property, the agreement typically includes an expiration date. This means the listing times out or expires once the date passes and the property has not been sold. Many times, a seller decides not to renew the listing because they want to wait to hit the market during the busy spring season. If you are working with a real estate agent, they will have access to the multiple listing service (MLS) and can run a search for cancelled and expired listings. There are a number of reasons why a home can sit on the market – sometimes it’s something as simple as bad timing. If an expired listing catches your eye, have your real estate agent reach out to see if the sellers are still interested in putting a deal together. The main advantage of this approach is that you are able to preview the property and ideally make an offer while it’s not actively being marketed to other buyers. This is a great strategy to take advantage of during any time of the year. It’s particularly effective in the off season if you can intercept a seller right before they plan on relisting.

Explore Bank-Owned Properties

Finding a deal is all about finding a motivated seller. If you’ve ever considered purchasing a home in foreclosure, now might be the time. In a competitive market, even foreclosed homes are moving quickly. Since the winter months are historically a slower time, you may get a bit more leeway to do your research and due diligence on a bank-owned property. Many banks are keen on getting loans off their books before the close of the year. If you can find a foreclosure to suit your needs, you may have more room to negotiate on price if you can be flexible with the timeline.

Revisit Older Listings

Your dream home may be right in front of you and you don’t even know it. There are countless reasons why a listing doesn’t grab your attention when it first comes on – especially when you are searching online and haven’t toured a property in real life. Take a look at the active listings in your market. Is there something that you missed? Just because a home is poorly marketed, doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid buy. While we all know better than to judge a book by its cover, sometimes we can’t help ourselves. Listings without pictures or bad-quality photos are a quick turn off. Perhaps you were too fast to rule out a home because of dated décor or a gross-smelling carpet. By revisiting some of these potential homes, you may come to a new realization. If you think a house isn’t moving simply because it’s overpriced, all the more reason to put in a bid with a purchase price that is lower than the list. If a home has sat on the market for several months with little activity, the seller may be ready to entertain a low offer and ready to work with the first buyer to bring them something in writing.

Work the Rental Market

While the odds are slim, there is a chance that you can find a rental property owner who is ready or gearing up to sell a property. Accidental landlords are those that find themselves deciding to rent a property due to circumstance rather than on purpose. An example would be an owner who had difficulty selling in the past and decided to lease, or someone who inherited a house after the death of an elderly parent. These landlords are prime candidates to target. If you can find a rental unit that you’d be interested in purchasing, make sure to discuss with the owner the possibility of a sale. One scenario worth investigating would be a rent-to-own situation, which would give you the option to purchase the home when or before your lease expires.