Should You Buy a Home in the Winter?

When it comes to buying a home, the perceived wisdom is that there are deals to be had in the winter months. Spring and summer tend to be when people hunt for real estate, especially in a country like Canada where sub-zero temperatures can last for months at a time. So when there’s snow on the ground – and many house hunters decide to hibernate instead – prices often trend downwards. But is it a good idea to buy a home in the winter?

Related Read: No Holiday Real Estate Slowdown Expected for 2016

Cold-Weather Sales Especially Active

That’s normally the case, although 2016 hasn’t exactly followed the usual script when it comes to real estate, particularly in the GTA. Such was the case last month, when Toronto Real Estate Board President Larry Cerqua announced that GTA REALTORS® reported 8,547 home sales in November. This represented a 16.5% increase on November 2015, and continues a trend for record breaking sales throughout 2016 as a whole.

“Home buying activity remained strong across all market segments in November,” he said. “However, many would-be home buyers continued to be frustrated by the lack of listings, as annual sales growth once again outstripped growth in new listings. Seller’s market conditions translated into robust rates of price growth.”

Price Relief in the New Year?

That’s how things stood in November, when winter’s icy grip had yet to really make its presence felt in Toronto and the surrounding area. December and January should tell a different story, at least if the forecasters’ prediction of a long, harsh winter are to be taken for face value. That should mean some alleviation to the constant price surge for homes in the city this year.

Carlos Moniz, an agent with Zoocasa, says the results for November largely compliment what he has experienced with his business as the year draws to a close.

“Generally we see most sales in the spring and the fall, but in such a tight market where inventory levels are so low, buyers are still out there now,” he says. “Just this week I had a client put an offer on a place that had 11 offers.”

Winter Sellers Often Acting on Urgency

One would assume that same property might not attract such interest when it’s -20 outside, so in situations when the seller is desperate to move the property right away, it creates better value for the buyer. At a time when many first-time buyers are being priced out of the market in the GTA, any faint sign of a bargain is more than welcome.

“The main benefit for the buyer is that you should have less competition buying in the winter,” says Moniz. “Families that plan to move generally do so in the spring market. If someone is selling in the winter it might not be as planned, so in November and December you can find some of the best deals.”
Canada isn’t called the Great White North for no reason – winters here are long and arduous, but also something Canadians take great pride in also. That said, you won’t find many complaining when the ice begins to thaw and the first shoots of green start to materialize. When that happens, real estate agents will be aware that their busy season is about to begin, and with that, any lull in activity in January and February will likely be replaced with 10-12 hour days and phones ringing incessantly.

“There’s usually a correlation with the weather,” says Moniz. “Once the snow hits the ground things tend to slow down. Depending on whether we have a long winter or not would usually decide when it starts to pick up – usually around March or April.”

About Daibhead O’Ceallacháin

Daibhead O’Ceallacháin is a freelance writer from Ireland that moved to Toronto in 2010. Writing for his local newspaper, he covered real estate during Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” era and the subsequent housing crash and financial crisis. Today he writes about real estate, finance and politics in Canada, the U.S., Ireland and England.

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