Should I be buying or selling real estate in Ottawa winter?

Published 17 November 15 11:20 AM | Gord McCormick 

While most Realtors would suggest “there is never a bad time to buy or sell a property”, there are certainly a number of issues to be considered in buying or selling a property in the Ottawa winter.  Here are a few items to consider: 

The case for listing in the winter:

Most years, the assumption has been that while there are fewer buyers in the market there are also fewer sellers.  With listing inventory levels running at historical highs, this will not be the case for this winter. There is significant competition for both residential properties and condos from both the resale and new construction markets.


Get a “jump” on the spring market?

There is also a case to be made that while buyers may not be “buying” (in large numbers), they have already started shopping and doing their online research in advance of the season.  There is some validity in this position; particularly as we get to mid-February when “cabin fevered” Ottawans are looking ahead to spring.  Open Houses also see a pickup in activity, especially when we get a warm(er) and sunny day.

It is equally as likely that a REALTOR® may be trying to “get a jump” on the spring market by securing a listing but that is another discussion.


Perhaps I can beat the MLTT or Home Energy Rating and Disclosure Programs? 

For 2016/17 we potentially face these two Provincial programs which may have an adverse affect on buyers and sellers, so some may feel that it could be advantageous to buy &/or sell before these two programs are in place.


Should I continue to list it over the winter?

Those who have had their property already listed through summer or fall often feel they “may miss a buyer” by taking their property off the market.  This may be true but it is more likely that a property which has already been listed for any significant period of time (60 days or more) may have some other issues inhibiting the sale and continuing the listing over the winter is not likely to produce a better result.

Continuing to list a property for an extended period can make the listing become “stale” and buyers tend to wonder; “what’s wrong with it?  Or “why hasn’t someone else bought it already?

Remember that online buyers have the very short attention span and if they have not gotten interested at first glance; then likelihood of their coming back to revisit a property deemed not to have measured up the first time is slim.


Sales are definitely slower:

November through February is the slowest sales period of the year and while sales don’t cease completely, they do drop off to only 33% to 66% of average sales during the other 8 months.  This is especially true of December and January.


Competitive disadvantage with those listing later:

By having one’s property exposed to the market earlier, those in the market get to have a look at the property and compare it to determine their potential interest.  A seller can also judge their pricing, based on market feedback.  However, equally true is that sellers who plan to list later on and their REALTOR® have a chance to plan their pricing and marketing strategy by knowing what the competition is.  (kind of liking seeing a competitors poker hand)  Subsequent listings will do their best to take advantage of this knowledge and present a more attractive marketing package for buyers.  This is why we see many new listings sell in the first week or two, as these sellers have adjusted and improved their offering compared to the existing already listed competition.


Buyer challenges:

Visiting properties in winter can be awkward/ difficult and many do not want to move in the depths of winter.

Many buyers also have a property to sell and therefore face the same slower market in trying to get a deal done on their own property.

Curb appeal and outdoor features suffer:

When we are mired in our 90 to 120 days of Ottawa snowbanks and deep freeze, most homes will not show their best, particularly those with key outdoor features such as decks, patios, pools, gardens, interlock, trees and privacy.

Also buyers are unable to as carefully inspect roofing, foundations, decks, fencing, sheds, air conditioning, swimming pools or other outdoor features and amenities.

Some negative features may stand out:

Properties with older or poorly designed heating systems may expose themselves in winter and focus buyer attention on cost of replacement and utility costs.

Older windows may emit drafts or show moisture/icing

Cool floors, bedrooms or basements may be highlighted
low light conditions may make some homes seem “very dark” or devoid of natural light which can be a big issue for buyers.

Street parking, snowbanks, driveways and walks and their maintenance needs in winter are all highlighted.  We see properties with large icicles hanging from the roof and eaves in winter, pointing to another inspection issue.

Homes that do not have eavestroughing may have glaciers forming on walks and driveways, depending on their exposure.

Homes or condos without indoor parking may be less of interest to buyers on a cold, snowy and windy day.

Buyer Opportunity:

As many buyers are focused on a distinct set of features, housing type, price point and location; some buyers may find that unique property becomes available or drops in to their price range in winter and choose to close a deal.  This is most likely advantageous to first time buyers or those who do not have another property to sell.


We are certainly available to discuss buying or selling requirements and plans for 2016 at any time and look forward to hearing from you!* For more about us and Ottawa real estate,  see our top ranked social media sites below.

* not intended to solicit those with existing representation agreements


Gord McCormick, Broker of Record

Dawn Davey, Broker

Oasis Realty Brokerage




Protecting your equity with 2 broker support and lower listing fees!



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