Traditionally, the spring real estate market is March through May, but in many markets it can start as early as February, around Ground Hog Day. Sometimes sales continue to be robust, and the peak selling season will stretch into June.
Lessons from rush hour
Rush hour for traffic in many metropolitan areas is from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Commuters wanting to beat the heavy traffic will get on the road as early as 5 a.m. and often wait to leave after 7 p.m. In many ways, homesellers and buyers choose to follow that example.
Rush hour occurs because there are more cars than the highway system was designed to handle; it isn’t economic to construct enough roads for peak travel times.
There are incentives for traveling during peak hours, such as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, reduced fees on toll roads and free-flowing traffic on clear thoroughfares.
There are benefits to avoiding peak real estate seasons as well, with the most significant being less competition.
Avoiding peak season
As a homeseller, the buyers in the market are often more motivated. This can translate to buyers being less particular and more committed to the idea of purchasing a home rather than waiting for the “perfect” home. In spring, when many homes are coming on the market, the seller’s home may get lost in the traffic jam.
As new inventory continuously appears, buyers may be distracted in waiting until something better comes along, and not feel enough urgency to commit.
The benefits for buyers in the off season can go the same way — because sellers are also more motivated.
Sellers choosing to go or remain on the market in the slower seasons are usually “real sellers.” Rather than being on the market to test the waters, these sellers are responsive to market forces and willing to negotiate. And with less competition, a buyer’s offer is more likely to stand out and be considered.
Finding a ride during peak rush hour can be challenging, which is why Uber or Lyft have surcharges when demand outpaces supply.
Buyers and sellers can apply that to real estate: Ancillary services such as mortgage lenders, home inspectors, title and settlement companies, attorneys and representatives are more available during the offseason.
The season can also affect the contract-to-settlement process. True professionals should rise to the occasion and meet heightened demand, but there is more time and space available during the offseason.
Karen Briscoe is the author of Real Estate Success in 5 Minutes a Day: Secrets of a Top Agent Revealed, a top-seller on Amazon Books. She is the principal of HBC Group at Keller Williams located in Northern Virginia.