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'Tis the season? Buying a home at the right time, in the right place

By Christine Alleman

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3 2013 9:27 a.m. MDT

In this Thursday, April 26, 2012 file photo, a sign advertises a pending residential real estate sale in Framingham, Mass. Though many believe the best season to buy a home is during the summer months, buying during fall and winter is a better strategy.

Bill Sikes, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

When is the best time to buy a home? As a real estate agent, potential homebuyers ask me this question frequently.

Buying a home is the biggest investment most people make in their lives. It's scary to some people to think about having to make this kind of decision. First of all, ask yourself if you are ready. Here are a few questions to find out if you are ready to buy a house.

Do I have good credit? This is important. You must have FICO scores above 640 to qualify for a loan. Work with a licensed loan mortgage officer to help you know if you will qualify.

Do I have a home to sell? If you have a home to sell, you may have to sell your home first before you can buy another home. A Realtor can make this process move along smoothly.

Have I saved enough money for a down payment? There are 100 percent financing options available, usually at a higher interest rate. There are conventional loans available with as little as a 3 percent or 5 percent down.

How long am I going to live there? It's usually not a good idea if you are not going to live there for at least two years due to capital gains tax and your own equity growth.

Am I ready to take care of a house? Condos and townhomes offer little to no exterior maintenance. However if maintaining the interior is not your cup of tea, you may want to see what handymen would charge you. Just be aware of maintenance costs before you buy.

So you are ready to buy a house. When should you buy? Just like there are seasons to buy a TV, cars and coats at a good prices, this is also true of homes.

Typically most people move in the spring and summer. Inventory is up but so are buyers. Sellers tend to be more optimistic about their sales prices in the spring. Sellers tend to hang on tighter to their sales prices. With more buyers, there can be multiple offers, and up goes the sales price.

The time to really hunt the good deals is in the fall and winter. Here is why; home sellers usually are a little more serious about selling. They are less optimistic about what they can get on their home. Inventory goes down a little in the fall and winter but so do the buyers. Having fewer buyers in the market is a beautiful thing if you are buying a home. Sellers still want to sell, and seeing the decreased activity on their home is depressing. It's a great time to make an offer. You can see this seasonal swing by looking at statistics in Utah.

The sweet spot for getting the best deal (yes, there is one) is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This is the best time for real estate agents to take a vacation. Why? No one wants to think about buying a house in the middle of the holiday mayhem.

So if you are worried that you may have "missed the boat" in getting the best deal on the market this summer, just wait until fall.

Christine Alleman is a licensed real estate agent with the state of Utah. She has 12 years of experience selling real estate full time with Alliance Realtors.

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