Winter is likely the best time of year to buy a home if price is your primary consideration, but buyers looking for options will find the widest selection of properties during the spring.
The truth is, the best time of year to buy a house depends on what you want. Below, we’ll cover when you should buy a house, whether you’re looking for:
- Lowest price
- Widest choice
- Best deal
- Fastest closing
Is the COVID-19 pandemic a good time to buy a house?
At the moment home sales are still holding up. Indeed, they’re booming.
But 2020 has been a strange one for those home sales. Certainly, periods of lockdown and general concerns among homebuyers slowed them down. But that created pent-up demand that landed as a tidal wave on many local markets.
All this has likely, for 2020, skewed the usual rules about when is the best time to buy a house. And things ain’t what they used to be, though how long that lasts is anyone’s guess.
But bear in mind as you read on that the following is based on data from more normal times.
Best time of year to buy a house for the best selection
If you’re prioritizing desirability over price, you’re most likely to be spoiled for choice if you home shop in the spring.
Homeowners often list their properties in February and March for four main reasons. They know:
- Their homes and yards will look more attractive at that time of year than during the winter.
- Many buyers want to get settled before the start of the school year and need to buy in spring or early summer to achieve that.
- The peak buying season is March through July (the period with the greatest choice) and they don’t want to miss it. They stand to get a better price than they would in winter.
- The premium over full market value paid in June is typically 7%, according to an Attom study.
Of course, this applies only as a nationwide average. Some downtown urban environments are much less seasonally dependent, as are places where the weather’s great year-round. And those selling vacation homes are likely to market whenever there are plenty of tourists around, perhaps through the high summer months, but in the winter if the second home’s in a ski resort.
Everyone’s wish list is different. But if you find your dream home — especially if it’s to be your forever home — you may be more interested in it than its price.
Other factors besides price to consider
When you’re buying a home, you might search for one that:
- Looks good
- Delivers all the accommodation and amenities you want and need
- Has the sort of yard or outdoor space that you’re longing for
- Provides opportunities for improvement
- Needs no work
- Has great views
- Is conveniently located
- A good, safe neighborhood that meets your schooling, medical and other needs
When to buy a house if you want the best price
If you’re looking for the best possible price on a home, the best time of year to buy is when the fewest other buyers are looking: November through January.
The winter months typically mean less buyer competition for homes, when the holiday season is in full swing. But the months on either side of that window can also be good for buyers seeking a bargain.
By November, sellers are realizing they missed out on the peak season. If they’re in no hurry to sell, they may withdraw the listing or just let it hibernate until the spring.
But others may be motivated to cut their asking prices and to be more flexible in their negotiations. And with fewer other buyers in competition with you, you’re likely to find yourself with lots of leverage when the time comes to negotiate.
December is best — in most places
Attom Data Solutions closely monitors housing markets. And it analyzed sales over the 2013-2018 period. In a November 2019 report, it said December was nationwide the best month in which to buy.
But there were variations by state. And some delivered the biggest seasonal discount below full market value in other winter months:
- Ohio – January (-7.4%)
- Michigan – February (-7.2%)
- Delaware – February (-6.3%)
- Tennessee – January (-6.2%)
- New Jersey – December (-5.8%)
An added bonus for winter buyers
You may get an additional, non-financial reward for buying in winter. Real estate agents, mortgage loan officers, appraisers, home inspectors and other professionals are generally struggling to fill their workdays at that time of year.
So you might get their undivided attention. And you could find your perfect home, see your mortgage approved, and then close on your purchase with incredible speed.Discover how much house can afford and get ready to shop homes.
Fall might be the ideal time to get selection and good prices
An owner who’d barely give you the time of day in June and July might change her attitude in the fall. As August sets in, she realizes that she’s likely missed those who want to be settled in for the new school year. And each passing day makes her more worried that her home won’t sell this year.
Indeed, some reckon August and September can be the sweetest months of all for homebuyers. There are usually plenty of homes still on the market. So you’re not scrambling around, searching for your pearl in a sea of unsellable or overpriced flotsam.
And owners are becoming increasingly motivated to cut their asking prices or accept low offers. Meanwhile, your buying agent — who was ultra-busy during the peak selling season — now has more time to make calls to other agents and brokers on your behalf. So your search can reach the dark corners of the market.
What’s the best week of the year to buy a house?
In 2019, Realtor.com, which is a website of the National Association of Realtors®, published a study that included the best week nationwide to buy a home that year. It turned out to be the week of September. 22.
That won’t be a surprise after the last section. But the details are interesting. Data from 2016-18 showed the first week of fall was the most advantageous of the year. Compared with the average week each year, the number of other active buyers is down 26%.
Meanwhile, the number of homes available is up 6.1% on that average. And almost 6% of homes available see a price reduction. How much? Well, homes are 2.6% less expensive than at their peak.
What’s the best day of the year to buy a house?
Unsurprisingly, the best real estate deals of the year are the ones when almost everybody is distracted and uninterested in real estate: December 26 and 31.
“Closing on a home purchase the day after Christmas or on New Year’s Eve can be one of the most financially beneficial holiday-season gifts you can get,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “While lots of folks are shopping the day-after Christmas sales or getting ready to ring in the New Year, our data shows that buyers and investors are buying homes on those days at a discount. That’s a far cry from buying during June, when they are likely paying about a 7 percent premium.”
Some believe there are advantages to scheduling your negotiations near the end of any month, regardless of the season. They argue that real estate agents often have monthly sales targets. And if the seller’s agent is short that month, he or she might pressure the owner to take your offer. You might prefer to regard that as rumor rather than fact.Talk to a mortgage specialist today.
The best time to buy a house varies by region
The best time of year to buy a house in Arizona may not be the best time of year to buy a house in Florida or Alaska or other states.
So, for example, that Realtor.com study found that the best week to buy in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area (and others in Florida) in 2019 wasn’t the week of September 22. It was the week of February 10.
But in Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV, it was October 13. And, even in places where September 22 was the best week, there are regional variations.
Home buying statistics for the week of September 22, by region:
|Region||Buyer competition*||Listing price**||Price reductions|
*Buyer competition compared with the average week
**Listing price compared with the peak week
***Share of homes for sale seeing a price reduction
Best time of year to buy a vacation home
We already mentioned that the seasonality of vacation homes can be different from that for main residences. It tends to be focused on the presence of tourists.
And that can be a shorter period, depending on the vacation season. It may also be at a different time of year. So the peak selling time for ski chalets is likely to be when the skiing’s best. And for hunting cabins, it’s probably the hunting season.
But the same rules apply as do for residential real estate. You’ll get the most choice at the start of the season and you’ll likely get better deals toward the end. But the lowest prices and meanest bargaining powers are reserved for those who are purchasing when nobody else is.
How far ahead should you start looking for a house?
You’ve everything to gain and nothing to lose by starting your search the moment you know you’re ready and able to buy. Appoint a good buyer’s agent and get your mortgage preapproved as soon as possible.
There’s no downside to having those in place early. And it gives you the agility to pounce on your dream home or an irresistible bargain if you’re lucky enough for one to come up.
But, absent that, take your time. If you’re not in a hurry, that can only work to your advantage. Sellers and their agents easily take advantage of the desperate.
So attend lots of open houses, schedule loads of viewings, and study prices and home features in your area. Because the more you understand your real estate marketplace and what’s available within your price range, the faster and more confidently you can recognize and seize what’s best for you.Click here for today's refinance rates.