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Holiday season a gift for frustrated buyers

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis December 2, 2013 09:20 AM

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You may not find your dream home this time of year. Actually, I can almost guarantee you won't, especially here in perpetually overpriced Greater Boston, where even Watertown and Natick now boast million-dollar condos.

But amid the most competitive market in a decade, the slower pace of the holiday season could prove to be a gift from on high for frustrated buyers.

This is a time of year when only serious buyers and sellers need apply.

After all, with a month packed with company parties, family gatherings and the onset of serious winter weather, it's a tough time of year to be either showing your house or looking for one.

Yet for frustrated buyers ready to take the holiday home-buying plunge, this could be a chance to land a house at a more bearable cost.

OK, sure, all those hot homes that buyers flocked to in the fall and summer are no longer on the market. In fact, they are long gone, with the new owners now decorating for the holidays.

But yes, there are opportunities for determined buyers. There are homes where the sellers stuck out for an unrealistic price and may now be ready to negotiate, as well as properties that may have an issue or two that have left them as second, third, or fourth runners-up in the home sales beauty contest.

And, of course, there are those homes that suddenly come on the market in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sales triggered by a job transfer, divorce, or some other unexpected life twist in the seller's life.

Yet for would-be holiday buyers, especially those who found themselves on the outside looking in during the hectic spring, summer and fall sales seasons, let's be be blunt here: Another buyer's reject could very well be your happy find.

Certainly the numbers point to a less competitive sales season.

Sales typically drop, in part because there are fewer buyers and fewer sellers out there during the cold weather months.

It is a seasonal pattern that holds true in good times and bad, as can be seen in these pending sales numbers for the past decade the Massachusetts Association of Realtors recently released.

Home sales have fallen off each December from November since 2004, typically on order of 22 percent or more, though a couple years saw more modest declines of 13 percent.

Prices can follow suit, though last year they actually increased from November to December by nearly 3 percent to $303,500, according to MAR.

Still, you are more likely to see month over month decreases in sales and prices as we head into December and January.

For frustrated buyers in a tough market, the next few months could provide a small window of opportunity.

But if you are determined to snag your dream home, better wait until spring, when more homes will hit the market.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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