Many home owners and buyers go into hibernation in winter, waiting for the bumper spring season to sell and buy their properties. But are they missing an excellent chance to seal a good deal?
Experts say that selling or buying in winter can have an unexpected upside, depending on the state of the market, the location and the features of the house, villa or apartment itself.
It’s all a question of supply and demand
One of the biggest advantages for a seller in winter lies in the traditionally low stock of properties on the market at this time of year.
“For sellers, there’s less competition for their properties in winter than there is in springtime,” says Vicki Laing of Laing Real Estate in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. “Every man and his dog wants to sell in spring.
“So if a vendor does put their property on the market in winter, then they have more of a captive audience, so that can be a very good time to put a deal together for both sellers and purchasers.”
For buyers, the lack of stock in winter and the comparatively low number of other purchasers can also make it a more manageable market, believes Greg Costello of Buxton Real Estate in Melbourne’s Brighton.
“There’s less of a choice out there, but it does mean if you find something you like you might have less competition for it with other buyers waiting for spring,” he says. “Therefore, if you find something you like and you’re in a position to buy it, buy!
“Don’t let it go, whatever you do. And while there’s been some speculation that prices will drop in the future, I can’t see that happening. By hanging on, you might well miss out.”
Does the time of year really matter?
In previous years, property sellers and buyers did wait for spring. But today, after two years of such a hot market, the seasons are no longer as relevant, says Nicholas Hall of Ray White Paddington in Brisbane.
“I think today, any time is a good time to buy or sell property,” he says. “I think the old adage of waiting till spring has gone out of the window. It just depends on your current circumstances.
“With less property on the market, those selling might get a higher price, but, in Brisbane, for instance, there’ll be a shortage of stock even in spring. There’s just not enough supply to meet demand, with so many people moving here, all year round.”
Rosalie Gordon of Planet Properties says it’s in winter that she always sees sales prices reaching new highs.
“I always break records in the dead of winter,” she says. “In spring, I might get $1.8 million for a house, but in winter, with the lack of stock, I might get an extra $100,000 to $1.9 million. Even though it’s cold, people are still out and about.”
Everyone’s more committed in winter
Many home owners still prefer to put their home up for sale when the skies are blue, the sun’s shining and the weather is good. As a result, buyers know that those selling in winter are usually very determined to sell.
“The buyer looking for a property in winter will find that sellers are very committed,” says Hamish Kyle of Raine & Horne Neutral Bay in Sydney. “They won’t be an opportunistic seller who’s out there, testing the market and wondering whether they really want to sell.
“These are vendors who want to sell and will be prepared to meet the market. For buyers, rainy, cold days might mean that there are fewer other buyers out inspecting properties, and fewer might turn up on auction day as well, so the price could be reasonable.”
Similarly, the buyers who are braving the plunge in temperatures to attend inspections are also likely to be more determined to buy, rather than being just tyre-kickers. They might be relocating for work or want end-of-year tax breaks on an investment.
Interest rates could be higher in spring
With the Reserve Bank of Australia indicating further interest rate hikes are on the cards with rising inflation, it would be good to make a purchase, or a sale, in winter while rates are still only slightly above rock bottom.
“I’d be locking in interest rates now, and not waiting another 12 months,” Laing says. “Those of us who’ve seen much higher interest rates can see how cheap money is right now, so it would be good to get in as soon as possible.”
Does my house look good in this?
Winter can be the perfect time to sell – as long as your home presents well at that time of year, Costello says.
“If your house is cold or damp or faces the wrong way, then it might be better to wait until spring or summer,” he says. “But if it looks good in winter, particularly on those magnificent sunny days, then that can be the best time to sell.
“You might have too many windows facing west, for example, which can be a problem in summer, but in winter, that can be a definite advantage.”
Christian Payne of southern Sydney’s Payne Pacific Real Estate is currently selling one home that has a beautiful wood-fire stove as the centrepiece of its lounge room. “That looks so good on a winter’s afternoon during an inspection, but it may not have the same impact in spring,” he says.
“Your house may also have some great nooks and spaces that you can highlight well in the colder months to look cosy and welcoming, and have real emotional appeal. But if you have a garden-style or harbour-front property or have a lot of attention on indoor-outdoor entertaining areas, and maybe with a pool, it might be good to wait until the warmer months.”
But, by the same token, your home may have great views in winter, when the leaves from the trees in front are gone, and you can see the harbour, a river or a park, says Laing. In the summer, those leaves might block both the views and the light.
What’s happening in the area?
In the suburb in which you’re selling or buying, there might be a shortage of entry-level homes this winter, or a lack of higher-end choices. Those factors can easily trump the seasons, Payne says, if the home you’re selling matches the criteria of lack of supply.
Buyers should also carefully check listings for different locations, Gordon recommends. There might be more first-home-buyer stock in a neighbouring suburb that could offer more choice, and then a lower price.