Winter auctions: how to get the upper hand when buying

Traditionally, spring and summer are the charmed seasons for property sales. With an abundance of natural light and gardens in bloom to sway potential buyers, and warm days drawing large crowds to auctions, the warmer months are favoured by many sellers and agents.

However, it’s possible for a savvy buyer to score a great property at a great price in winter auctions for several reasons:

There are fewer properties for sale — and fewer buyers

Winter is the real estate off-season with less homes listed for sale, ergo fewer buyers. But be warned — less buyers doesn’t necessarily mean less bidders.

While there may be a smaller crowd at the auction, it’s likely that those who’ve braved the cold are serious buyers, rather than curious onlookers. This is evidenced by the fact that, despite lower stock numbers, winter auctions tend to have a higher clearance rate than those held during the warmer months. Be prepared for this by having your finance sorted before the auction, so you can bid with confidence.

Your agent may have more time for you
If they have fewer clients on their books during winter, it goes without saying that your agent will likely have more time to dedicate to helping you find and secure your dream property, and they’ll be hungry for successful sales.

Having a tenacious agent on your side is a priceless asset when buying — their inside scoop could help you snap up a newly-listed property before any other buyers know about it, and having their full attention will certainly come in handy when you’re attending inspections or negotiating with a seller.

It’s easier to spot a property’s flaws
Wet, wintery days are ideal for inspecting properties for leaks, damp and other flaws that may make the property a potential money pit. You’ll also gain a better picture of the heating and insulation the home has to offer, as well as how the property’s orientation affects the natural light coming in.

Be sure to have an expert building inspection done too, for all those hidden issues you can’t see with the naked eye.

Owners are often in a hurry to sell
Real estate agents commonly advise sellers to wait until spring to head to auction, and take advantage of the boom period leading up to Christmas.

Sellers who disregard this advice may be doing so because they need to sell now, for personal or financial reasons. If this is the case, you may have better luck negotiating not only price, but also dates and the terms of the sale, such as which electrical appliances or feature items of furniture are included. If the current owners are motivated to move hastily, you could benefit, big time.

You can get more bang for your buck
If you’re planning on flipping the property for a quick profit, buying during winter auctions gives you a few months to make the required renovations in time to list it for sale during the summer boom period.

Likewise, as rental stocks are often thin on the ground at this time of year, buying an investment property in winter can mean you have plenty of potential tenants fighting between themselves to secure a lease. You may also be able to get cheap deals from your removalist and other services, as they seek new business to fill their quiet period.