Weekly Survival Real Estate Market Update

Advantages to Mid-Winter Real Estate Buying

One strategy in buying a survival retreat that I often mention to my consulting clients is making a scouting and/or buying trip in mid-winter. This has several advantages:.

1.) You see the effects of microclimates, first hand. Visiting a property in the summer and imagining what it looks like with snow on the ground is not realistic. You need to see for yourself, in mid-winter. (January is best, in the northern hemisphere.) If you ask the seller or the listing agent how much snow to expect, the answer will almost universally be “not much” or “it hardly even sticks”, even for properties on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The reverse side of a sunny ridge (northern facing, in the northern hemisphere) can be snowy in some regions for an extra three months of each year. Investigate the microclimates before you buy! In some instances just 500 feet of elevation difference, or a southern exposure can make a huge difference in your winter access, and the length of your summer gardening season

2.) You see the quality of maintenance of local roads. Some cities and counties have good snow plowing and sand, while others are horrible. Some roads–typically the school bus routes–get lots of attention, while others are neglected. You won’t know for certain until you see it first hand.

3.) You see the winter access of local roads. Even with good maintenance, some shaded canyon roads with just moderate grades turn into veritable toboggan runs in the winter. Again, you won’t know which ones until you see for yourself.

4.) You will likely be the only buyer in town. In the rural portions of most of the mountainous western states, the home buying season effectively ends at Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until early Spring. This gives a tremendous psychological advantage in bargaining for a property. After the first snow flies, sellers start to mumble to themselves and get a desperate look in their eyes. If the seller is “motivated”, they will take serious any offers received in the winter. The same offer that would have been laughed off in June will be seriously considered in January. Mid-winter is your chance to have a fairly “low ball’ offer accepted. Back when the real estate market was hot, this was a rarity. But these days it is becoming much more common.

5.) Mid-winter is your chance to have the seller agree to concessions. I can cite a couple of instances that I have heard from my consulting clients in recent years: A buyer from California made a February offer for a house on acreage, near Utah’s Wasatch Front. The property was listed with the house and shop on well water, on 40 acres, with an adjoining 20 acres with a 7 g.p.m. spring available separately, for an additional $175,000. (Land with springs are a rarity in most of Utah.) The property had been on the market for17 months, and the listed price had already been dropped once. The buyer put in an offer that was $20,000 less than the asking price of the house, for both properties. After just one counter-offer (that brought the price back up by $8,000), the deal was finalized.

Another client, from southern Nevada, made a January offer on a $1 million+ house with barn on considerable acreage near Lamoille (at the foot of the Ruby Mountains), in Northern Nevada. The buyer knew that the owner was retired and planned to move back to California to live near his adult children and grandchildren. He also knew that the house had been on the market for nine months. The buyer made an offer at the full asking price, but asked the seller to include: several major appliances including a chest freezer, two quad ATVs, two snowmobiles with trailer, a fairly new Ford tractor with several implements, three good saddle horses, eight cattle, a four-horse trailer, a hay trailer, a snow blower, a Troy-Bilt roto-tiller, two Husqvarna chainsaws, a barn full of hay, and several cords of firewood. The seller took three weeks to respond to the offer. He reluctantly agreed to all of the concessions, with the exception of just one of the horses.

If you see a property listed on SurvivalRealty.com that interests you, don’t hesitate to go look at it in mid-winter. You may be glad that you did. – J.W.R.