It’s beginning to look a lot like cold nights, evening gatherings, decadent cookie displays and overflowing cups of eggnog. The holiday season is here, but don’t let that turn your focus away from your goal of buying a new home. Recently, mortgage interest rates have started to slightly increase and during a year that has been historically low that may start to worry some buyers. What is important to know is that the holiday season can still be a great time for you to lock in a great rate to purchase the home of your dreams for 2017.

Steve Grossman, Vice President and Partner of NJ Lenders Corp. said, “The winter and holiday months are typically a slower time of year for real estate.  Now this market can be an advantage for buyers. Fewer real estate transactions can translate to less competition, more motivated sellers, quicker mortgage approval, plus other advantages. Home prices are typically at 12-month lows in December. Lower home prices mean buyers can purchase more home for less”.

One of the biggest reasons that many buyers make the leap from renting to buying is for the tax benefits. If you wait until January to buy, you won't realize the tax advantages until the following year. Closing by December 31 can mean tax benefits for home buyers, like deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes and some closing costs.

Here are 4 tips to remember while you shop for your new home this holiday season.

  1. Be a Grinch with Your Credit Card Spending

If you have already started the home buying process you have probably been pre-approved with an experienced mortgage lender. Remember, your credit score is often one of the most crucial factors that impact the interest rate for which you qualify.  Be aware that extreme spending on your credit cards and balance increases can hurt your score. Use a gift cards or a strict cash budget for your holiday gift giving purchases and keep your credit score from being affected. Homemade presents are great ways to save money while creating something memorable. These gifts might not work for everyone on your list, but they’re good options for some.

  1. Save Those Boxes!

Did you do any online shopping for your gifts? Will you be receiving gifts from family or friends who are shipping from afar? This is a great opportunity to save boxes that could be helpful during the moving process. Boxes can be one of the bigger expenses if you purchase more boxes than necessary or have to make extra runs to the store because you didn't purchase enough or the right size. The holiday season can often be busy and a bit stressful, but by being prepared you can still move with ease without rushing to purchase boxes at the last minute, especially when you are getting them for free.

  1. Expecting a Bonus? Avoid The Shopping Spree!

Retailers are really good at enticing people to buy. If you are expected a hefty holiday bonus from your employer do not take the money and run to purchase items for your new home right away. Remember extra cash-on-hand could be very helpful if unexpected costs arrive at your closing or after the purchase is complete. Also do not let the marketing tactics of “sales” entice you to buy now with your credit card use the cash to pay it off later. This strategy is a slippery-slope. It is better to save the cash now, as a new homeowner there is plenty you will want to buy later.

  1. “I’ll be Home, If Only in my Dreams”- Don’t Lose Touch with Your Realtor and Lender

Evening parties, gatherings with family and friends, days away from home- no matter where the holiday season takes you don’t forget to stay in touch with your Realtor and Lender.  Before you begin your travels, communicate your days and times of availability with those who are helping you complete the home buying process. Often during this period, there are some crucial times of contact such as confirming your bid was accepted and acknowledging your closing disclosure. If you will be without internet access be sure to make the professionals assisting you aware so that they can text or phone you with important information.