Everything has a season – including selling your house. Listing at the right moment could mean more money in your pocket.
Traditionally, spring is the hottest season for real estate. Sales peak in April and May and stay strong in June and July. It’s a good season for families to move, between school terms and while the weather is warm. People have just received their tax refunds, which they can use to help finance a down payment. And the nice weather and beautiful flowers in spring and early summer make it a great time to show your home.
In fact, a full 60 percent of America’s moves take place in the summer. But closing a sale can take weeks, so it’s a good idea to list your home early in the season.
August brings a lag in sales, as people go away on vacation and start to think about the new school year. Then sales surge briefly in the fall before dropping in winter as buyers and sellers focus on the holidays. But by January, buyers are out again, and sales steadily increase into spring.
If you can’t sell in the peak season, consider listing your house in winter. It may sound counterintuitive, but you probably already have the house decorated and cleaned for holiday entertaining, so it shouldn’t be hard to get it in shape for showing. Moreover, you will have less competition and may get a better price. Another plus: buyers in winter are less likely to waste your time or draw out the closing. They may want to close before the New Year so they can claim the mortgage deduction on their tax return, which you could turn to your advantage in pressing for a quick deal.
But seasonal ups and downs of the market aren’t absolutes. They don’t affect home sales as much in temperate climates, like California and Florida, where people house-hunt year-round. And warmer weather in the Northeast and Midwest in November and early December can prolong real-estate seasons there.
Of course, selling in the hot season isn’t the whole story. You should pay attention to your local housing market and try to list during a seller’s market, when there will be more competition among buyers for your home – which could mean a better price, a quicker closing and fewer conditions on the offer. Your local real estate agent will be able to tell you what the local housing market is like.
Be aware of the underlying factors that influence the local market. Recent layoffs could mean a glut of desperate sellers, possibly driving down the market price of your house. Alternatively, you may be in an area of the country where housing prices are going through the roof. For example, the price of a house in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton has shot up by almost 77 percent in the last three years. You may not live in Boca, but if prices in your area are on the rise, it can create a rush of buyers who want to close a deal before the prices go higher. Anticipation of an increase in interest rates can have a similar impact on the urgency of buyers.