3 House-Hunting Mistakes to Avoid This Winter

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So you’ve crunched the numbers to see how much house you can afford and have gotten a mortgage lender to issue you a pre-approval letter. Great! Now all you need to do is team up with a real estate agent and start seeing some available homes in your neighborhood.

House hunting can be a challenging thing to do at any time, though. And there are certain hiccups you might run into during the winter months in particular. So if you intend to look heavily in the coming weeks, make a point to avoid these mistakes.

1. Not checking the air conditioning system

When you’re house hunting in winter, you’re sure to be mindful of things like how well the heat works and whether a home is drafty or not. But don’t forget that you’ll be living in that home year round. So make sure summertime components like air conditioning are running well.

In fact, your best bet is really to hire a home inspector once you’ve made an offer on a home to ensure there are no hidden issues. But the air conditioning system is something you’ll want to ask about and check up on before even getting to the offer stage.

2. Writing off a home due to a lack of curb appeal

Many otherwise nice-looking homes come off as a kind of drab in the winter. That’s something you may want to try to look past as a buyer.

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A smart seller will have spring and summertime photos of their home available that show off the property in all of its glory. That’s what you should pay attention to.

Remember, too, that curb appeal is something you can improve upon. You can plant flowers and shrubs at a relatively affordable price if you’re willing to do the work yourself to spruce up your home’s exterior. So even if the “before” pictures aren’t looking so great, don’t write off a home due to a lack of curb appeal when that’s something that can be addressed.

3. Assuming you’ll get a great deal

Winter isn’t usually a popular time to buy a home. The weather can be far from cooperative, and many people simply don’t want to trek to different neighborhoods when it’s cold and snowy out. As such, you might think you’ll have extra bargaining power as a buyer this winter. But that line of thinking may not serve you well.

It’s true that there tend to be fewer buyers in winter. But right now, the U.S. housing market lacks inventory in a very serious way. The National Association of Realtors reports that as of late December, there was only a 3.2-month supply of available homes. That’s well below the six-month supply it often takes to meet buyer demand in full.

Because many markets lack inventory right now, sellers are aware that they can get away with charging a certain price. So don’t expect a discount.

If homes in your preferred area have been selling for $350,000 in recent months, and you can only afford to spend $300,000, prepare to look elsewhere. You may not be able to talk a seller down to the tune of $50,000.

Remember, now is not a good time to stretch your home buying budget. Mortgage rates have come down a bit in recent weeks. But mortgages are still expensive to sign, so you may not have much leeway as far as home prices go.

House hunting during the winter is by no means guaranteed to be a disastrous experience. But make a point to avoid these mistakes to help things go more smoothly.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Maurie Backman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Flow. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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