Should I buy a home in the winter? I heard this is better and that is worse. There’s so many opinions, myths and facts about purchasing a home during Michigan winters, so I figured I’d lay it all out there for you. Don’t forget your winter coat, this one is going to be cold.
As of November 26th, Michigan has experienced its first true snow that is actually sticking on the ground in southeast Michigan, salt trucks are out, people have forgotten roads are slick trying to adjust to the snow again, and accidents are happening every 10 feet it seems, so I figured why not take this time to bring up some winter homebuying, it seems fitting. (As of publishing this 12/11/2023, the snow is gone. Welcome to MIchigan friends!)
Before I jump forward I wanted to mention two videos I made pertaining to Michigan winters, one is about preparing your home for the winter as a homeowner and the other is getting educated about Michigan winters and a little bit about the housing market, which I will link in the description. This video will be all about the winter housing market in Michigan, answering questions such as: is it a good time to buy, what are the pros, what are the cons, and what’s just some good info to know. If that tickles your fancy, stick around for a while.
Seasonality is a crazy crazy thing here in Michigan, and I've mentioned that quite a bit in my other Michigan housing market videos. In the past, this would be the time the market essentially shuts down, between Thanksgiving and Christmas until late January or early February, Realtors and mortgage lenders take their vacations as they recoup in preparation for a hectic spring and summer market. That is still holding true today to a certain extent, but there are definitely serious buyers in the market today regardless of if the snow falls or not, they are determined. Interest rates are higher we know that, but there’s been an acceptance in that department to some degree, so a few more buyers have said “Well, this kinda sucks, the market didn’t crash and the rates didn’t plummet, I can still afford a home now where everything is, so why not”. I’ve honestly never been this busy in my 6+ year career at this time of year than I am now, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you out there. With this changing market in mind, I want to talk about the pros and cons of buying a home in Michigan during the winter.
PRO #1 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Find A Better Deal
Kicking off with the pros, number one is you may find yourself a better deal. As I have said before, homes that are listed in the winter months are typically people who have to sell or it’s inventory that has spilled over from the warmer months. On average it’s said that people who close on a home in January pay 0.51% less than those who buy a home in other months. Of course that’s just average, but savings is savings especially when purchasing a home at a premium. Sellers become more motivated at this time, because in their minds, each day that the home sits is more of a sign that the home has become stagnant, and that’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of. Have you ever gone on Zillow casually, and saw a home on there that you saw half a year ago and you skipped it without a second thought because there has to be something wrong with it? That’s stagnant. Even though there could be nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t priced correctly at first and people think a million agents have seen it so that must be the consensus. In reality, people may have not scheduled a showing at all because they saw the price tag and said “wow you’re on drugs, next.” I can almost see some of you shaking your heads in agreement because I hear that all the time honestly.
PRO #2 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Competition Is Slimmer
Jumping to pro #2, and that’s the likelihood you won’t get outbid and the competition will just be slimmer. This pro is extremely important and reassuring for a lot of people out there, because with the bidding wars and over asking price offers over the years, it drove a ridiculous amount of people out of this housing market, which is understandable of course. You’d fall in love with a home just for someone to say, that’s cool and all but do you have an extra 10-20,000 thousand dollars to pay out of pocket to go over asking? It was just outright yucky, but it still is to a certain extent and I'll touch more on that in the cons. Competition is a huge reason prices got to be this way, it was a full blown car auction, and once that auctioneer stopped mumbling you got your offer accepted 100K over asking price, then the neighbor sold for 100K over asking and so on and so forth, it was a true snowball effect (all puns intended). The fact that you can look at a house now, sleep on it, bring your dad by, maybe your aunt another day, then finally decide, you know what, I'll throw a lowball offer in and see what happens, then it gets accepted. It’s a great feeling. Out of the last 6 or so offers I have submitted, the prices averaged $250,000 and the offers came in an average of $15-$20K less than asking price, and that may feel unheard of to you, but I promise you it’s a reality. People are so quick to accept lately (from my experience anyway) maybe it’s impatience, maybe it’s so it doesn’t sit too long in the winter, there’s a million possible scenarios. The moral of the story is, you don’t know the seller's situation, so don’t be afraid to put in an offer under asking price.
PRO #3 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
See A Home In The Elements
The next pro is being able to see how the home reacts to the elements. Sometimes it’s hard to decide, is this home worth putting an offer in on and going through the inspection process, or can I gather enough information personally to make the decision not to proceed and waste money on an inspection I’ll back out of anyway? The winter helps with that, especially in Michigan, where the temperatures fluctuate quite a bit, so you’ll see some melting, some freezing and some melting again. See how the gutters work, if there’s any foundation leaks, the windows are overly drafty with colder temps, as well as the insulation, where the snow builds up, some of the winter maintenance you can expect. I know seeing a home’s curb appeal on a warm summer day is amazing, but there’s more value in seeing it at its worst, it’s like going on a first date versus a tenth one, you learn a lot.
PRO #4 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Ease To Hire Movers
Another pro that I find gets often overlooked depending on how you go about your moving process is the ease to hire movers. If you’ve ever moved during the spring and summertime, you may be able to relate to this, but they are so so so incredibly busy, not sticking to their timelines, in a rush, not very delicate with your delicacies, sound familiar? Well, in the winter time, they are itching for some business, so they can keep to their timelines better and won’t feel the need to run 100 mph with your vintage imported piano over there head that they hit every wall with, it’s a little more relaxed, which is heavily appreciated. As if the moving process wasn’t stressful enough, you don’t want to spend a ton of money on movers for that to cause stress too, even though it seems unavoidable to a certain extent. Not only is that true for movers, it’s also true for contractors too, so if you decide to get a little fixer upper, or a house that needs a little more of your personal touch, you might actually get a call back instead of having to repeatedly reach out to them.
PRO #5 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
More Time For You
The last pro i’ll touch on has to do with Realtors and Mortgage lenders. Aside from the fact that there’s thousands of agents and lenders leaving the business every single day due to the hardship of the market, the there’s still of course plenty of agents to go around for the amount of buyers and sellers, but in the slower months when I mentioned we take vacations, the customer service will be better. To say the spring and summer is chaotic is an understatement, So buyers come to me saying their agent never got back to them, it doesn’t surprise me because each day is a new adventure. That’s no excuse of course, but from my experience and other agents and lenders would agree that when there’s less clients to tend to, you can get back quicker. In no way am I saying it goes from not responding to responding, I think that’s another issue altogether, it may instead of being half a day or a day for a response, it may be in minutes or hours, which is a nice no matter what service industry you’re working with.
CON #1 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Can't Inspect Properly
Switching gears to the cons of buying a home in Michigan during the winter, which In my opinion, i’d say its the biggest con that people don’t think about and that’s not being able to inspect everything adequately. When snow covers everything it’s hard to see every square inch around the home, on the roof, how the landscaping looks, etc. So a pro for a seller to sell in the winter would be to have the ability to hide some of the home's flaws, because it’s the truth. A lot of home inspectors will also not inspect septic systems in the winter which can be a hard pill to swallow because that’s important since it can be extremely costly. Of course, if the seller has a septic access it makes things a lot easier so they don’t have to try and dig the rock hard ground, so that increases the possibility, but another part of their inspection outside of just checking the flow from house to tank to tank, is to check the septic field which consists of utilizing a small post hole digger almost where they will scoop into the ground and pull up some of the gravel to see if it’s draining properly.
CON #2 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Inventory Is Slimmer
The next con is of course the competition is slimmer, but so is the inventory, there’s not too much to choose from, but if you can see yourself living in one of the few homes on the market during the winter time, that’s a huge plus for you based on all the pros I mentioned earlier.
CON #3 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Moving SUCKS In The Winter
Another con is, yes getting a moving company out is easier during the off season but that doesn’t change the fact that it can still suck to move your belongings from one household to the next during this crazy weather. Having moving boxes in and out of the house, driveway and sidewalk could be icy, you’re sweating but you have to wear 20 layers of clothes because it’s freezing, I’m sure you could imagine if you haven’t lived through it yet. Of course you make due with the situation, but if you’re like me, I’d almost want some of the stuff piled on the porch and brought in strategically instead of throwing it all in one room to figure out at some point. That’s where the art of labeling boxes comes in very handy.
CON #4 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Can't Assess The Landscaping
The next con to keep in mind which I wouldn’t say is high on the priority list unless it’s a high end home and that’s the landscaping aspect. You can’t quite see how all of that is laid out when it’s all covered with snow, maybe it thaws out and it’s actually a complete trainwreck, and that goes back to not being able to inspect properly, all the flower beds around the house could be covered in snow, just for it to thaw and realize there’s a negative grade toward the house so water is constantly flowing toward the foundation and not being pushed elsewhere. As I mentioned, in the spring and summer you’ll see some breathtaking landscaping, the home will be at its best, but in the winter it could be a toss up on whether or not the home shows well in the spring and summer or if you’re going to have to work your magic and make it pretty.
CON #5 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
Where's The Daylight?
Moving along to the next con that is irritating from experience, and that is the daylight issue. During the winter time here in Michigan, it gets dark around 5pm, most people don’t get off work until that time, then they hustle to a showing to see it pitch black, so not only does snow cover the potential curb appeal, you can’t let that imagination run at all when it’s pitch black. Of course you can walk every inch of the yard with your handy dandy flashlight, but you and I both know that is not the same. You also can’t get an idea of what the neighborhood looks like, maybe it’s the coolest house in the world, but it’s smack dab in the middle of two junkyard houses that are up to the fences in junk. The unfortunate thing is, there’s no way around that, you could sit on the sidelines longer, but then you can’t reap the benefits of the pros of buying during the winter months, and some will say, just see the home early on the weekend, and yes there’s that, but you also want to have a sense of urgency whether you think the market is moving fast or not. If it’s listed monday and you’re thinking of seeing it saturday morning, that might be too late. My advice would be to have a bright flashlight, and make sure that if you do submit an offer that gets accepted, have the inspection in the morning so you can see everything you couldn’t before.
CON #6 - Buying A Home During Michigan Winters:
The Market Is STILL Hot (In Some Places)
The last con I wanted to tackle has to do with the current housing market. All the other points can be carried with you for any housing market shift to a certain extent, but what I wanted to make sure I mentioned is, when a home is a desirable area, and it’s priced correctly, it will most certainly get into a bidding war and over asking price offers, and depending on how good the home is priced, that could be the case in any housing market, but particularly in today’s housing market, I am seeing a lot of serious buyers who are still bid ready for the next home. It’s a plus for sellers right now in this market, but it can still be a hurdle buyers have to jump. And you might be wondering, how will I know if the home is desirable and the price is good? And the answer is, you’ll see it. Numerous cars waiting to come in for a showing, several business cards left by all the agents who have shown it. And even on Zillow when you see saves and views can tell you a lot without getting into the specifics of doing a comparable market analysis. Yes, a lot of people just casually look on there, but most times if a home is getting more views and saves than most, it’s because people think. “Wow this place is sweet looking and it’s priced good too”. Or it’s just extremely unique and 10 million dollars over their budget.
For those of you that moved during the winter, how was the experience for you? Let me know in the comment below.
If you’re looking to buy, sell or invest in the wonderful state of michigan, please don't hesitate to reach out and I would be happy to be your go to resource. Until next time!
Andrew McManamon is a Michigan REALTOR® with Signature Sotheby’s International Realty and provides real estate services to Buyers, Sellers and Investors throughout SE Michigan including Livingston County, Oakland County, Washtenaw County, Genesee County & beyond. Andrew has become one of the rising stars of Michigan real estate agents. Prior to his real estate career Andrew was responsible for managing a senior living facility in Brighton, Michigan as a dining supervisor and an activities assistant. Andrew’s passion to help people is unlike any other, and he continues to strive to be best resource he can be. Andrew graduated from Cleary University in Howell, Michigan with a double major and currently resides in Brighton, Michigan.