A new realtor.com market report revealed that buyers in 20 of the 100 largest markets are beginning their home search in January.

Are your sellers waiting until February to list their homes for the spring homebuying season?

If so, they may be making a massive mistake — a realtor.com report released on Wednesday revealed that the beginning of prime homebuying season has moved from April to January.

January 2019 had the highest average views per listing in 20 of the 100 largest metros, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Jose, Calif., and Denver — a 17-market gain from 2018.

Credit: realtor.com

Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu said buyers are increasingly taking an “early bird gets the worm” approach as overall inventory levels have dropped 9.5 percent since November 2018.

“As shoppers modify their strategies for navigating a housing market that has become more competitive due to rising prices and low inventory, the search for a home is beginning earlier and earlier,” Ratiu said in a statement. “With housing inventory across the U.S. expected to reach record lows in 2020, we expect to see this trend continue into the new year.”

Although the buying rush is now starting in January, Ratiu said buyers shouldn’t wait until March or April to start shopping in the hopes there will be less competition.

“For example, in 2018, March, the most competitive month, had 21 percent more views per listing than the least competitive month, January,” he said. “In 2019, that gap between most-and least-competitive months narrowed to a difference of just six percent.”

“What used to be a lopsided bias for April is now a feverish search starting in January, staying consistently competitive across the first four months of the year as hopeful homebuyers look for just the right home,” he concluded.

Although realtor.com’s report focused on buyers, sellers must adjust their strategies, too.

According to a previous Inman article, sellers should seriously consider keeping their homes on the market through the winter, despite a temporary slowdown.

New York City-based Douglas Elliman broker Lindsay Barton Barrett told Inman some buyers begin seriously looking at homes during the holidays and are more apt to make a final decision in January after receiving substantial year-end bonuses.

Furthermore, Barrett said removing a listing from the market for more than 90 days (e.g. December to February) could cause a few logistical issues since agents may have to resubmit the listing to the appropriate multiple listing services. When that happens, interested buyers will have to find the information for your listing all over again.

However, Barrett said the final decision rests with your sellers.

“I have to be honest, I think there are pros and cons [of a seller taking their home off the market],” she said. “I’m not a firm believer that you have to leave it on the market at all costs.”

Email Marian McPherson.

 

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