Buying or selling a home is a big decision, and when you make your move is one of the biggest decisions you can make. Knowing how the calendar affects your home ownership transaction will make sure you optimize your buying and selling decisions.
The Best Time of Year to Sell
There are benefits and disadvantages to listing your home during each season. From the best season to sell a house to the worst, here are some things you should consider before listing:
Depending on your location, houses typically sell faster and for more money in spring.
There are tax refunds rolling in that help buyers make their down payments, or can help you make renovations prior to listing your home.
Home shopping is easier in nice spring weather, and your curb appeal is likely to be at its peak as the landscape turns green and the flowers bloom.
Because it’s widely agreed that spring is the best time to sell, there will be plenty of activity to support your purchase—lots of buyers looking at listings, and lots of support from real estate agents, loan officers, title companies, etc. Spring is when most real estate deals get done, so as a seller, it’s a great time to act.
Weather will typically cooperate with showings in summer. This is a good time of year for buyers to move, and they’ll want to get it done before the kids return to school in the fall. In some areas, early summer is even more popular than spring.
After the busy spring season, buyers will have to get more competitive to grab the homes that are still available, so sellers can still optimize their home values.
On the downside, contractors, landscapers, and other professionals will be busy, so it will be tougher (and more expensive) to get work done in advance of listing a home.
Much less inventory means you’ll be one of the few sellers in fall. Buyers will want to hurry up and get into a property before winter sets in.
It will now be cheaper to get professional services like contractors, landscapers, etc.
Another advantage to fall is that curb appeal might be higher for you as the trees turn to fall colors.
Back to school will complicate fall sales, and reduced activity makes this the time of year where home prices are at their lowest.
Any buyers left behind in winter will be desperate to get into a home before the year ends.
One advantage for curb appeal to you as the seller: snow can cover any aspects of your exterior you’re not proud of. Holiday decorating can also be an opportunity to stage your home to sell–staging is always tricky, because you can’t predict your buyer’s tastes. But holiday decorating is an opportunity to dress your home up without putting off a potential buyer.
Best Time of Year to Buy
There are absolute advantages to buying during the cooler months. That being said, there is usually more listing on the market during the summer and spring months. Before starting your home search, consider these details:
Sellers focus on spring, because that’s the time that gives them the most advantages. The seller makes more money in May than September. That means as a buyer, shopping in fall will save you money.
There are downsides to buying in fall, which is why Spring is the busier time for home buying and selling. For one, if you’re buying in fall, you’ve missed back-to-school, and that will create huge extra hassles for you if you have kids. On the other hand, your seller might be very highly motivated if they are working to get their kids moved to another school.
The worst time to sell is the second-best time to buy. Like with fall, the buyer will get the benefits of very motivated sellers who will be increasingly desperate to unload their properties. A lot of buyers will drop prices in hopes of selling before the end of the calendar year, and anyone trying to sell in January or February is likely in a situation where they have to sell, so they’ll be aggressively pricing and open to negotiation.
Look at the advantages to sellers to find a downside to buying in winter. If snow is piled up outside, what are you not seeing that could be a red flag? Are Christmas decorations making a home look charming when it might look worn-down the rest of the year? If you’re buying in winter, you might save some money, but you’ll have to look a lot more closely when shopping for a home.
Summertime is a good time to move, as kids are out of school and plenty of people have vacation time they can take from work. This makes it a popular time for home buying and selling. That means you won’t get a great bargain during the summer, and as a buyer, summer shouldn’t be your first choice of times to move.
One disadvantage to winter that we talked about was how snow can hide landscaping problems. In summer, nice weather can also hide issues. You won’t know if the house can hold up to winter weather if you’ve only seen it in the summer. Dry weather will not give you the opportunity to see if there are any moisture problems with the house when it rains. Just like winter, a good home inspection is especially important in the summer.
It sounds stark to say that spring is the best time to sell and the worst time to buy. In reality, there is no bad time to buy or sell, only what is optimal for each party. In spring, houses will sell more quickly and fetch more money. As a buyer, expect to have less negotiating power with sellers.
It’s not all bad news, though. Higher prices will bring out more sellers, who might be forced to compete with each other, keeping prices from exploding too much. And all those extra sellers give you plenty of inventory to choose from, making it more likely that you’ll get everything you want in a home.
The Secret of Buying and Selling
All of the above advice is useful for first-time home buyers, who can save money by buying in fall or winter, and might want to avoid buying their first home in spring. But for homeowners looking to move, they’ll be both buying and selling, so every advantage they gain from selling in spring, they lose when they go to buy their next home.
The lesson there is, make sure you win on one end or the other. If you are moving in spring and will probably have to pay more for your next home, then do everything you can to get the most out of the home you’re selling. And if you move in winter and have to price your home to sell quickly, then negotiate aggressively to make up the losses on the home you purchase.
Best Day of the Week to Buy and Sell
We’ve talked about what time of year to buy and sell, but what’s the best day of the week for these transactions?
Experts tell us Thursday is the best day, both for buyers and sellers. New properties are coming on the market in advance of the weekend, so lots of buyers will be combing the listings. This is good for sellers who want to strike at the right time. Buyers also benefit from the additional inventory coming on the market. Buyers should also keep an eye out for price adjustments, as sellers lower their prices in advance of weekend showings.
In either case, the worst day of the week to list or look at a new property is Monday. Wait a few days and see if those prices come down, or new properties come on line. And if you’re selling, strike at the right time so your new listing will be seen by the maximum number of buyers.
Listen to Your Agent
All of this information is necessarily general—the specific area you live in might be different. For you, selling on a Monday in the summer might be the very best time.
You could spend time digging through statistics from the National Association of Home Builders, or the National Association of Realtors in attempt to find the optimal time for all of these activities in your area, but there’s someone who has already done all that work for you—your local real estate agent.
Find an agent you can trust, and ask them what it’s like where you’re looking to buy and/or sell. What’s the best time of year for these transactions? And if circumstances dictate that you can’t buy or sell at the best time, then talk about how can you and your agent work to make the best of your situation. Understanding the factors affecting home sales in your season will help you respond appropriately.
Finally, be aware that lots of considerations trump what season it is. Are interest rates really favorable right now? Have property values spiked (or plummeted)? Don’t get married to the idea of buying or selling at a particular time—stay flexible so you can respond if conditions in the economy make it an ideal time for you to make your move.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, or a homeowner looking for mortgage help, contact us today. We offer HUD-approved home buyer education, mortgage readiness coaching, and pre-purchase coaching for anyone who wants to be a successful homeowner.