- Home sale prices are highest in the summer, softer in the fall and lowest in the winter.
- On average, homes cost 8.45 percent less in the months following the holidays compared to summertime.
- The biggest difference between sale and list price is in October, at an average $18,943.
- For 29 metros, January held the least expensive home prices.
Timing is everything, especially with a major investment like a home purchase.
Given that every market fluctuates slightly different depending on the season, gauging the opportune moment is tough. However, a homebuying study from NerdWallet shows the best time to buy is generally in the wintertime.
The financial advice website analyzed two years of realtor.com listing and sales data for the 50 most popular U.S. metros, showing home sale prices are highest in the summer, softer in the fall and lowest in the winter.
In 48 states, January and February exhibited the lowest prices compared to the rest of the calendar year. On average, homes cost 8.45 percent less in the two months following the holidays compared to summertime.
Nationally, the average list price grows to $281,867 in June and drops to $258,272 in January, the study says.
Seasons and negotiating power
Although moving in the summer can be ideal because of warm temperatures, vacation time and approaching school start dates, June and July are the least accommodating months for a buyer’s budget, according to the study.
Inventory is typically higher then, but so is competition — driving home sale prices to an apex.
You may see some discounts in the fall, NerdWallet says, but only after negotiation.
Between summer and fall, sale prices drop an average 2.98 percent — or $8,300 on a median-priced home.
List prices, on the other hand, drop a mere 0.13 percent season-to-season. The biggest difference between sale and list price is in October, at an average $18,943.
Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com, says shopping for a home in the off-season gives buyers better leverage, including contingencies. Generally, shoppers have more control over their timeline than sellers who have more urgency to close quick.
Based on inventory from January 2012 to August 2016, time on the market is highest in January and February, at an average 107 and 104 days, respectively. Meanwhile, the median home for sale in May and June remains active for just 73.2 days, NerdWallet says.
It depends on the metro
For 29 metros, January is the best time to buy with the least expensive list prices. February showed the biggest slopes in price for another 19 metros.
Despite general trends, seasonality varies by locale.
For instance, New York-Newark-Jersey City is an outlier, with least expensive sales prices in March, at an average $369,500 compared to peak pricing in August ($405,000).
The Washington D.C. metro area spiked in June, at an average sales price of $400,000. The best time to buy in D.C. was in January, at an average sales price of $363,545.
Nearby, Baltimore-Columbia-Towson sales prices posted lowest numbers in February, at $247,750, and uppermost in July, at $294,000.
Over the past two years, the top of the market in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim for sellers was in June, with an average sale price of $535,000. In January, average sales price dove to $491,000.
In San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, average sales price was lowest in January, at $597,500, and highest in May, at $702,500 — a wide $105,000 disparity.
The best time to buy in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land is at the start of the year, the study shows, for an average sales price of $201,365, compared to $222,545 in June.
Austin homebuyers can get the best deal in January, with an average sales price of $232,500. They pay the most in December, surprisingly, at an average $261,969. Waiting one month at the turn of the year could save nearly $30,000 on an Austin home purchase.
In Miami, the best time to buy is in February, at an average price of $205,000. On the other hand, June brings sellers an average $242,500.
In the Chicago metro area, summer sales price average to $239,635. The best time to buy in the Windy City is in February, the study shows, when the average home price plummets to $209,188.