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Home price growth slowed quickly throughout the spring and even began to reverse this summer, a time of year when the housing market activity is usually near its apex.
Now, this already cooling home market enters an even colder season.
Homebuyers typically pay the smallest premiums on houses purchased in October, making the first full month of fall the most advantageous time to buy during a typical year, real estate data firm Attom argues in a new report.
“Seasonality has always had an impact on home prices, which tend to weaken in the Fall and Winter months when there’s less buying activity,” Rick Sharga, Attom’s executive vice president of market intelligence, said in the report. “Savvy homebuyers can take advantage of those lower prices and less competition from other buyers once the leaves start to turn.”
Attom determined the size of the “premium” that buyers pay by comparing the median price of homes that sold during a given month with the firm’s estimate of the value of those same homes. This valuation is based on Attom’s own automated sales model.
Depending on the time of year a person buys, they may “overpay” by three times as much as what the premium typically is in October.
The month of May, when the spring market begins to usher in summer, comes with the highest such premium of any month. The median price of homes sold in May is nearly 11 percent higher than Attom’s valuation of the same homes.
Meanwhile, October features the lowest premium. Buyers pay only 3 percent more for homes in October than the model suggests they might be worth.
Although October might be the best month to buy according to this approach, it’s just the first month of a long fall and winter season where the housing market tends to take its foot off the gas.
Buyers pay approximately a 4 percent premium on their home purchases in November, December and January before the spring market begins its ascent in February, Attom’s report suggests.
At a time of year when home prices usually grow at a quickened pace, their growth this year actually slowed as mortgage rates shot up and home purchases became less affordable for many buyers. The seasonal spring and summer rush may have even partly obscured the impact of the decline in demand.
Now, the market heads into uncharted territory. Some factors point in the direction of a further slowdown. Ongoing affordability concerns persist, and the seasonal shift into fall may not help matters.
Other factors, however, may help prop up prices or at least keep them from falling further than they would have otherwise. The supply of homes remains tight by historical standards. And new households continue to form, which ensures a rising need for housing.
Uncertainty also hangs over mortgage markets, which have seen some of the wildest swings in rates in nearly four decades, according to a separate report from the Seattle-based brokerage Redfin. If rates were to continue to climb, it could drive today’s home prices even further out of reach for some buyers.
But in the meantime, buyers who are looking for a deal — and perhaps are less reliant on financing — may find one easier to score soon, if Attom’s report is any indication of the weeks to come.