An inside look at Chicago real estate

A House for Christmas: Moving During Winter

Kay Severinsen By
Kay Severinsen
   | Buying, Moving

House with Christmas lights

There is one big reason why home sales and showings go down during December – fewer people want to move or make a life-changing decision over the holidays.

That was not a big issue for Sean and Joy McNamara, who not only found their special house just before Thanksgiving – they set a closing date of December 20.

Even though their old home, a rental, was all decked out for the holidays, they left the decorations and the tree behind when they moved just days before Christmas.

“I guess you just pick your battles,” Joy said. “We would rather deal with the snow than with a rental for several more months. We like this house and we were glad to move. Moving into your own house is exciting and neither of us wanted to wait.”

Their new home is in Crystal Lake, within the boundaries of Woods Creek Elementary, which Joy said she had picked out for their daughter Bailey, age 3, to attend when it’s time for school.

It wasn’t easy to find the house. When they told their Realtor about the small radius where they wanted to look, the real estate agent said that they had their pick of exactly four properties. The McNamara’s didn’t especially like any of them. But like any good Christmas miracle, this one happened when they were invited to open their minds and consider something slightly different.

Previously they had only searched for four-bedroom homes, but when they opened their search to include three-bedroom homes – there was their house.

“For me, it wasn’t an aha-moment,” Joy said, “it was a ‘comfortability’ – where we felt at home. Every time we came back, we felt ‘this is home’ instead of ‘this is the one.’ More comfortable than exciting. It was what we wanted.”

Sean is an ex-military man who takes everything in stride. And that has given Joy a can-do attitude as well. “Maybe it’s our attitude towards life, the military attitude,” Joy suggested. “We do what needs to be done. We weather stuff.”

It also helped that they had just returned six months earlier to the Chicago area after living in Arizona and did not have a lot of things to move.

Whether or not you are used to military moves, or have few or many possessions, there are a few things to consider if you’re planning a winter-time move.

  • The McNamaras suggest investing in some tarps, which they used liberally under and over their boxes in their truck. It was both raining and snowing during their moving days, and there was plenty of ice and slush.
  • Have a staging area such as a garage or covered porch, or the foyer of your new building, where an outside person can leave the boxes for an inside person to carry on in. “We didn’t really plan this, it just worked out this way,” Joy said, “but Sean brought everything just inside the door and I brought the boxes inside.” That way the sloppy shoes stay outside.
  • Daylight hours are in short supply, so think about what will need to be moved during daylight. If it’s going to be a tight fit in the truck, you’ll need all the light you can get to make things fit.
  • Before the move, do a quick inventory of the new place to see where lighting will be needed after it gets dark. Rooms without ceiling lights will need a lamp set on the floor.
  • Thanks to the exertion, you might be warmer than you think – a sweatshirt, with or without a down vest may be all you need. Wear layers.

In the end, the McNamaras said, they got exactly what they wanted – a comfortable new home with a big basement for Bailey’s toys, a three-car garage for Sean, and the best school district they could find. They even got a cat, Sean said.

The previous owners had recently discovered they were allergic to their pet and were looking for a new home for it.

“I said, we’ll buy the house if you throw in the cat,” Sean said. “They thought that was funny, so they even wrote it into the contract.”

And that was just fine with Cosmo, who didn’t have to move at all.