Before residential real estate relocated online, Labor Day marked the beginning of the end of the sales year, especially in northern climates. Nasty weather and the holiday season limited buyers’ ability to tour homes. Also, kids had just started school and many families were unwilling to move. As demand dropped, sellers waited until the spring to list if they could.
These days anyone can shop for homes any time, in any weather, in their PJs at home. The season no longer ends on Labor Day, but rather it extends through the fall and winter. Online real estate has fostered new fall and winter mini markets.
What was once the “slow season” has been transformed to become the best time of the year for both buyers and sellers who want to get down to business.
The wealth of data generated by online real estate helps economists better understand market behavior, including the best time to buy or sell. In May 2017, Zillow’s experts analyzed metro level data from 2016 to 2018 and found that although spring offers the most new listings, it is also the time of greatest demand.
“Buyers seeking the best time to buy — looking to hit the market both when selection is good and deals are abundant — should remember that patience is a virtue and consider opening their home shopping window in late summer instead, according to a Zillow analysis of listing and price data,” wrote Zillow’s Jamie Anderson.
Or maybe a couple of weeks later?
Not to be outdone, last month realtor.com completed an updated analysis with its own data from 2016 to 2018. To no one’s surprise, their findings disagreed with Zillow’s, but only slightly. The best time to buy is not late summer but the first week of fall.
“The first week of fall (Sept. 22-28) is when U.S. buyers face 26 percent less competition and there tends to be 6.1 percent more homes on the market, compared to the average week of the year. Nearly 6 percent of homes on the market go through price reductions and tend to be 2.4 percent cheaper than their peak, making this an appealing environment for buyers looking for a deal,” wrote realtor.com’s Nicolas Bedo.
Or maybe you should try anytime?
The folks at The Motley Fool made the graph below to show how prices rise in the warm months and fall in the cold ones, which we already knew.
Rather than using data to find the perfect nexus between supply and demand as did Zillow and RDC, The Fool discusses a number of other factors affecting consumers and recommends you should just go ahead and try both to see what works for you.
Source: Journal of Housing Research, Vol. 22, Issue 1, via the The Motley Fool
“If you can find a home you like in winter and pay less for it, this is a smart financial and personal choice. But if you aren’t able to find a home that’s a good fit, you’ll need to decide whether to settle for what’s available or wait until inventory expands as the warmer months arrive,” wrote The Fool’s Christy Bieber.
So if winter doesn’t work for you, try spring, summer and fall.
Then there’s good old common sense
Sometimes the best advice comes from pros based on their personal experience and good old common sense. Elizabeth Weintraub is a Southern California broker with more than 40 years in the business who shared her advice with readers of The Balance.
“Almost nobody looks at homes on Christmas Day. People are in good moods, celebrating, opening presents, enjoying family and, let’s face it, some are a little tipsy. People are more inclined to be generous, even if it means coming down on the price. “Hey, it’s Christmas, hon; just sign it.” If a person has their home on the market over Christmas, that person is definitely serious about negotiating and selling that home. You can bet on it. Better yet, why not write an offer?
“Of course, the key is to find a real estate agent who will a) work on Christmas and b) be aggressive enough to worm her way into the seller’s home without batting an eyelash. Those agents are out there. When I was in Hawaii last December, I followed my own advice and bought a home. Pass the eggnog.”
Steve Cook is a communications consultant and editor of Real Estate Economy Watch.