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Right now I'm looking for a house, and might be closing in the next few months. One thing that I want to consider is when the closing date should be. We are flexible with the date by a bit, and the closing will be near the end of the year, so we should be able to choose the closing date to be in either 2012 or 2013 based on our preference.

What are the implications of buying a house in December versus January?

Are there tax implications that I should consider (will buying in December get me some benefit on 2012 taxes that I otherwise wouldn't get?)

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Buying in December might get some benefit to the seller, specifically in case of a short sale. Significant benefit in fact, so do take that into the account. It may help you leverage your negotiations with those affected. –  littleadv Oct 2 '12 at 21:09
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Although it's not a monetary concern, consider the effect of seasonal weather! I see you are in Minnesota; not having to move in during a snowstorm may be worth more to you than some tax savings! –  Steven Oct 3 '12 at 16:32
    
Of course seasonal weather is an issue, but I didn't want the question to be too localized. At any rate - moving in January or December in Minnesota both have a pretty good chance of snow. :P –  jamuraa Oct 3 '12 at 19:51
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There are several areas that need to be considered.

Taxes:

  • If you settle late in the year you might not have enough deductions for interest and taxes to itemize this year.
  • If you don't normally itemize then delaying charitable contributions until early the next year will allow you to maximize the benefits.

Moving.

  • If the new house is in other state you can avoid having to file in two states if the switch takes place after mid-December and before mid-January. They ignore these small windows of time when doing partial year returns.

General Advice

  • Frequently the government has programs that change based on the date. Many times it takes place at the end of the year, but not always. The recent federal first time buyer programs had mid-year dates.
  • In some states their first time buyer programs might have dates in sync with their fiscal year.
  • Don't forget to look at it from the view of the seller. If they are trying a short sale, completing it before the end of the year will be very important to them.
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Regarding taxes: if you're currently taking the standard deduction, and the mortgage interest deduction would push you into itemizing, I think you should close in before the new year: this way you can realize a full 12 months of mortgage interest deduction the following year. Also, delay any charitable contributions until the new year to get increase your deductions. –  Pete Oct 3 '12 at 17:05
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