5 Reasons to Buy a Home in Winter

Evans Ave Front pix

On the Market: 1056 Evans Ave., Reno, NV: The sellers of this 4-bedroom home near the University of Nevada, Reno, are motivated! The property was listed in December for $529,000. 


The “best deals” for home buyers often happen in winter. Sure, there are fewer homes on the market to pick from, but homes newly listed or still on the market when it’s cold outside, are there for a reason: Sellers either need to sell now, or the property didn’t sell earlier in the year.

Plus: With fewer buyers out looking, there’s less competition for those homes. In a tight market like Reno/Sparks, that can make a huge difference in actually getting a home. Multiple offers still happen, particularly in the lower price ranges, but a buyer in Reno/Sparks might be up against one other offer vs. six.

Here are five great reasons to buy a house between December and May:

  1. Bang for your Buck   

In a tight market like in Reno/Sparks, prices tend to jump several percentage points as the weather warms.  On average, about 40% of homes sell in spring and summer (May – August), according to The Housing Wire. Homes generally sell for $1,500 – $3,000 more than those sold in winter, according to Zillow.

  1. Sellers are Motivated (or Finally Ready) 

Whether a house is a new listing, or simply didn’t sell earlier, sellers tend to be serious, and ready to consider all offers, during the winter. This may give buyers more room to negotiate and perhaps get a better deal.

  1. Fewer Choices = Easier Decision

Fewer homes may seem like a disadvantage at first, but perhaps it’s not.

There’s an overabundance syndrome known as the paradox of choice. This happens when people have so many good options they dither and end up losing out or second guessing themselves. They dwell on the “what ifs” – which leads to less satisfaction with whatever choice they make.

  1. More Attention

Buyers flood the market in spring and summer, which strain the time resources of Real estate agents, lenders, title companies and other professionals. In winter, homes may not sell in two days. And, once in contract, it takes less time to arrange for appraisals, inspections and repairs.

  1. Furnishing a New Home May Cost Less 

Need new appliances or furniture for that new home? In general, winter sales offer great savings, according to Consumer Reports.

Conclusion: A buyer may indeed find that perfect home in winter. If not, looking now helps buyers clarify what “perfect” means. By doing their on the ground research now, when that ideal home does come up for sale, they’re ready.

Buying a home is the largest investment most people ever make, and should not be done in haste just to save money. Consulting with a lender, personal finance professionals all come into play before buying a home at any time of year.

That said, do consider starting your search soon. Forecasters say the housing shortage in Reno/Sparks will continue for some time.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor (R) with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. Email her at Hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com or call her at 775-850-5900.


Thanks to Mike Pulley, who contributed to this article.


Potentials and Pitfalls of a Fixer-Upper in Reno, NV

How many home buyers say they want to buy a “Fixer Upper”? Yet, when it comes down to actually deciding on which home to buy, how many discover really don’t even want to paint? In my experience, most buyers!  For those who really do want to tackle a fixer upper, potential profits (and pitfalls) abound.

Prime considerations when investing in any type of real estate include location, value and potential. Consider these questions when buying any “used” property, especially in Reno, NV:

  • Could renovations/rebuilding bring the property up to the price point of newer/nicer homes nearby homes?
  • Do you have the money and/or skills to buy and fix it up?
  • Do you want to live at the property for a few years, or quickly flip and sell?

In Reno, investing in a fixer upper gives buyers the chance to move into a neighborhood they might not otherwise afford. Living in a home after it’s “fixed” gives it time to appreciate in value.  Renovation shows on TV only hint at the reality of fixing up a property. Are you intrigued enough to consider it?

Mt Rose Highway Kitchen

Vintage mixes with dated renovations: Original fireplace, tile counters circa 1980s. 


One of my current listings at 4955 Mt. Rose Highway is a true “fixer upper” with potential:

This home in South Reno offers a great example of opportunity vs risk/reward. This area is close to Lake Tahoe, skiing and just about 15 minutes to downtown or the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Home prices rank among the highest in the region.

In the last year, 208 homes nearby homes sold.  Of the 66 on one-acre or more, only 19 allowed horses, only 14 had RV access/parking. The median sold price for those 66 homes:  $791,250. Compare that to the $499,000 list price of the property in the photo.

Mt Rose Highway House w Mountains

Built in 1965, the original ranch house is ripe for renovation. 

This fixer upper was built in 1965 and sits on 2.35 acres. Back then, Mt. Rose Highway was considered “country” and “way out of town.”  Today, luxury custom homes, gated communities with private golf courses mix with semi-custom subdivisions prevail. For the most part, older homes are the ones with enough land and the proper zoning (no HOAs and low-density suburban) to have horses, RVs or other toys.

That’s the opportunity.

The challenge: Having the vision, energy and funds to fix it up.

Best features: Wide-plank hardwood floors and a large, brick wood-burning fireplace. The home has a natural gas furnace and water heater (vs propane). Washoe County officials say the well was re-drilled in 2003.

The Potential

This property – includes the main 2,171 square-foot house, a detached 3-car garage, and 300-square-foot guesthouse/home office. The buildings sit on the northwest corner of the level lot. The nearest neighbor to the east can’t even be seen. To the west, a greenbelt and a public access trail/dirt road borders this property, with a home beyond.

Mt. Rose Hwy View 1

2.35 level acres is zoned for horses with sweeping Sierra Nevada views.  

Ripe for renovation: The most obvious replacement priority: the wind-damaged roof. Some features appear original, or at least vintage – particularly the pink bathroom sink and the metal-framed windows. Dated, but perhaps not original: tiled kitchen counters and jetted tub upstairs. The property has a detached three-car garage of uncertain age, and a separate building that at one time was used as a guest quarters.

The pitfalls:  The property is older, with everything that could/might entail. This property borders Mount Rose Highway, a direct access route to Lake Tahoe. The level 2.35 acres is mostly open space, with natural vegetation (mostly sagebrush). Prior owners had horses, and the county allows this.

The competition

Within a 2-mile radius, of 27 homes on 1 acre or more actively for sale only eight allow RVs (seven of those allow horses).  Median list price: $1.1 million. Of the homes sold in the last year, the median price was $760,000.  Of the many ways to parse and leverage statistics, lot size, age of home and HOA restrictions are being used here.

Does it pencil out?

That’s a question only an individual buyer can make on any fixer upper — whether it is this property, or a starter home on a city lot. Certainly bringing this property into the 21st century is possible. These last two photos are of the same house — Really! The first is from 2010, when it sold for $295,000. The second is from 2017, when it sold for $700,000. Is buying a fixer upper a challenge you are ready, willing and able to tackle? Let’s talk!

Contact me, or have your agent contact me, for a private showing:


Phone/text: 775-762-7576.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor® with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. She has lived in Reno for 20+ years. 

Will Fixing Up a House to Sell Pay Off?

By Holly O’Driscoll
Chase International2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-003-20-09-2500x1668-300dpi - Copy

Many of my real estate clients start their house hunt saying they’re interested in a “fixer upper.”  They want to save money when buying a home. Yet, in reality, that phrase spans a wide range of home conditions. Once buyers see what qualifies as a true “fixer upper” in the real estate world, reality sets in.

In many cases, buyers can’t see past old/bad interior paint. Turns out, “fixer upper” to many people actually means move-in ready, without even minor fixes.

Fact: Homes with today’s styling sell faster, and for more money.

Maximizing Potential Profits 

The basics: Updating a home built in the 1990s or earlier with neutral interior paint, changing hardware such as door knobs and light fixtures, installing new carpet/tile/wood floors can pay off. Other attractive upgrades: getting rid of any and all 6×6-inch tile in the kitchens and baths.

Home buyers willing to tackle those projects can buy more house for less money. Home sellers who have the skills to renovate — or are willing to hire professionals — to tackle those jobs, likely will sell faster, and for more money.

It’s a matter of choice. Even in a seller’s market like Reno/Sparks, buyers want what they want. Most don’t have the time or skills to renovate, so buyers will pick, and pay more, for a house with other flaws if it feels modern and well kept.

On the seller’s side: Smart renovators know their skill limits and are willing to hire professionals to tackle certain jobs. Badly executed renovations are worse than no renovations!

In the home above, the sellers added wide-plank hardwood floors, replaced light fixtures and painted — among many other renovations. My clients received multiple offers on this property and were in contract within two weeks — for above asking price .

Now on the market! 

Another client paid professionals to redo most of the 1970s ranch-style home pictured bleow — including systems you don’t think about (the roof, wiring, plumbing), as well as features you use every day (the bathrooms, kitchen, flooring).lwk_3575-2lwk_3543

2985 Rustic Manor Circle in Reno, is a 5-bedroom/3-bath 3,070-square-foot home is on a cul-de-sac in southwest Reno (Jesse Beck Elementary school zone). It backs to a canyon, has a walk-out lower level and no lwk_3564HOA.

It is available as I write. If you would like to see it … call soon! 775-762-7576

Price: $579,900.lwk_3554

Christmas is a Great Time to Buy a Home!

Selling or buying a home in winter poses unique challenges — and real estate opportunities.

Seasonal swings in home prices and number of homes on the market happen in many cold climates, including Northern Nevada. Trees lose leaves, lawns turn brown. Hopefully, there’s snow on the ground. Sellers fret that buyers can’t see and appreciate the lovely landscaping they worked so hard on. Buyers must use their imaginations or rely on photos to understand the summer beauty of a home on the market in mid-winter.

Yet people buy and sell homes all year long. Families grow, promotions or new jobs require people to move, and many other life-changing events  prompt people to list a property for sale in winter.

Whether buying or selling a home, use these tips to get the most out of this real estate season!

Are you a  Buyer? 

Fact: There are fewer homes on the market from December – Marc2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-006-1-11-2500x1668-300dpih, so buyers have fewer homes to tour and from which to select. BUT those homes that are available are there for a reason — their sellers are motivated! In many cases, price points may be less than homes that get listed in spring.

Fact: In many markets, prices frequently jump in the Spring and early summer, then level out or even retreat for the rest of the year. In winter, some sellers are more willing to negotiate, if not on price, on other points. Buyers who wait until spring to start looking, may miss the boat. If prices jump again, but a buyer’s budget doesn’t, then they may have to buy less house.

Fewer buyers = better chance at getting a great property at a better price.

Timing: The weeks before and after Christmas are great times to make an offer on a house!

The reason: Many agents and many buyers take the holidays off. Less competition may mean a better deal for those in the hunt for a great home.

Are You a Seller?

Homes for sale in mid-winter fchristmas-front-doorace the challenge of fewer buyers. Make the most of what your home has to offer with these tips:

• Turn the lights on! Outside  may be blustery, cold and dreary, so make the house you’re trying to sell warm and inviting.

Home buying is emotional.  Create a comfortable environment for buyers. Add lights to dark corners, Consider installing recessed lights in dark hallways. Add lamps on a timer. Both are fairly inexpensive, yet very effective tactics to make your home sparkle on a dark day.

• Keep the heat on! No one likes a cold house. Many modern thermostats have timers for night and day. Use one, especially in a vacant house. Set the daytime temperature at about 68 degrees.  If a home is barely warmer inside than it is out, clients just won’t stay very long. Don’t lose a sale over a few dollars for heat.ornament 2013

• Consider professional staging. Smart designers can re-purpose or re-arrange your furniture to give it a better flow for touring. Decorate — but not too much. Pack up your personal items — photos, toys, games, “stuff” you are moving anyway. Look at model homes — which maximize a room’s features by strategically placing a minimum amount of furniture. Just enough to give an idea.

Odd fact: empty rooms look smaller than furnished rooms. Again, play into the emotion of buying a home. You want a buyer to pick your property over all other options. Focus on staging the master bedroom and the rooms you spent the most time using and enjoying. Kitchens: Only one item on the counters, and perhaps a small breakfast table staged with coffee cups hint at cozy conversations.

• Show the summer scene with photos!  An album, 8×10 display stands clearly show buyers how much shade the now-barren trees provide your yard. Colorful fruit trees? Glorious roses? Share photos of how lovely your garden will be in just a few months.

dollar sign artReno Market Insights: Inventory is still low. Is buying new construction the answer? Maybe not. Developers used to price homes below existing homes in Northern Nevada. Not no much today — especially when factoring in lot premiums, nearly mandatory “upgrades” plus the hidden costs of window coverings, landscaping and customized paint. Buyers who think they really want brand new, may  find their dollars go farther in “used” home — especially before the traditional spring price hike hits.

So from today through January ‘Tis the Season to, perhaps find a great deal! 

For more information, call/text 775-762-7576 or send an email to hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. 


Remodel vs Flip – Details Count


Remodel vs. Flips — understanding the difference matters in a long-term home investment.

Reality: Most home buyers want a home that’s “move in ready.” Investors, listing agents and savvy sellers know homes that show well sell faster and for more money.

Opportunity: No home is perfect. Those in need of updating or sold “as is” may offer buyers the opportunity to save significant money, if they’re willing to invest their time and elbow grease.


Challenge: Some “flipped” homes consist of little more than “slapping lipstick on a pig” and jacking the price. Examples include cleaning, painting and re-carpeting. If that’s all a home needs, then great … it’s a win-win. Some homes need much more and cosmetic fixes merely put a veneer on a sub-par property.

In older neighborhoods, buyers may want to search for a home that’s been “renovated” which, for today’s article means, its had extensive work done to professional standards. Quality counts. Google home renovations to read expert advice and data regarding projects that payoff, and those that don’t.lwk_3554

Location matters. The seller of one of my listings in Reno decided to buy and renovate a 1970s-era five-bedroom property zoned for some of the city’s most established schools. She intended to live there for years, then sell. She did a huge renovation. Professionals replaced the roof, furnace, a/c, water heater and updated the electrical. Inside, professionals installed new hardwood floors, gutted and remodeled kitchen, remodeled all the bathrooms, painted, updated light fixtures and more. Overall, more than $200,000 in updates brought this old home into the 21st century. The home shines.


2985 Rustic Manor Circle, Reno, NV 89509: Five bedrooms, 3 baths, 3,070 total square feet. Price: $600,000

The cost: At $600,000, this home’s features and amenities now compare favorably to many newer homes in the same zip code — plus it has RV parking and the advantage of not being in an HOA.

Whomever buys this home will have the best of both worlds — a quality-renovation of a home with character set in an older neighborhood near popular schools. The list of upgrades completed by licensed professionals makes it it so much more than a flip. If this appeals to you, contact me for a private showing!

Interested in learning more about this home or about real estate in Reno? I can help. Contact me! Email: hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com. Office phone: 775-850-5900.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor at Chase International Real Estate in Reno, NV.

Matchmaking — and Teamwork — Make Real Estate Work

551 Tarn Way

For me, real estate is not about “selling” — it’s about helping people.

As a listing agent, my job entails discovering what a homeowner/seller wants to accomplish — and providing the expertise on pricing and marketing to make that happen.

As a buyer’s agent, I listen to what clients want, where they want to be, and what they can afford — then help them find it.

It’s about matchmaking … and about orchestration. Each real estate transaction — whether on the buying side or the listing side — involves more than a dozen people. Lenders, appraisers, inspectors, escrow/title professionals, repair people — plus the staff it takes in each office to pull all the records and documentation together. I work with incredibly skilled people across the board.

Each closing — such as the one that happened today involving the Reno property pictured above — required tremendous attention to detail by the professionals on all sides. This particular transaction included negotiations on price, repairs, recalls and appraisals. My clients were the buyers — and absolutely lovely people to work with. The sellers, and the sellers’ agent, were equally lovely and reasonable to work with. That is not always the case. On some contentious transactions a commission may feel more like “combat pay” (and low combat pay at that!).

So today was a very good day. The deal was finalized; the buyers received the keys; the sellers received their funds. Everyone won.

Top “Must Do” Chore for New Homeowners

Change Your Locks

Once you get the keys to your new home … one of the most important things to do is to Get Rid of Them!

Seriously, whether buying a new or resale home — top on your list of “must-do” chores BEFORE moving one piece of furniture in is to Change all locks! Even on a new subdivision house.

Here’s why: Who knows how many people have keys to the property?  The former owners, a property management company, builders, workers, cleaning people, the ex boyfriend/girlfriend of three previous owners?

How to do it:  Replace the entire lock — or “rekey” the existing lock.

  1. Most expensive: Replacing the whole lock, whether you do it yourself or hire a locksmith.  Hiring a locksmith may be the easiest, and most efficient way for buyers who don’t have time, interest or basic skills for a Do It Yourself projects. Yet, it is not crazy complicated to replace a lock. I’ve done it. Individual front door locks cost from $15 – $50. Fancy electronic/keypad locks cost more. Package directions and YouTube videos help! DIY replacement of four doors locks (typical for a home): less than $200. Locksmith’s charge for their time and expertise as well.
  2. Cheapest: Rekey the lock instead of replacing it. This job falls into the “it’s possible” to DIY — with help from YouTube, the hardware store expert and package directions. Generally it involves changing the cylinder part of the lock. Cost: Usually less than $50 for materials for four. A locksmith will also charge for time and expertise.

The important tip here: Change the locks! It’s a basic safety/security “must do” activity for any homeowner.Door lock

What’s on your “to do” list?  Leave a comment or email me.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor(R) with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada