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When is the best time to buy or sell a home?

Est. 3 min read

Buying or selling a home is a big financial decision. If you’re a buyer, you’ll want to get a great deal on the house you’ve got your eye on. And, if you’re a seller, you’ll want to get top dollar for your home.

So this raises the question: When is the best time of year to buy or sell a house?

Depending on who you ask, you may get very different answers, as the bottom line is that there is no singular way to time the real estate market. With this said, there are some historically best times to buy or sell a home.

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When is the best time to buy?

Many real estate agents will tell you that the fall and winter months are the best time to get a good deal on a house as there is less competition from other buyers in the colder months. Some reasons for this: families are busy with school activities, people are preoccupied with the holiday season, and house hunters would rather see homes when the grass is green and flowers are in bloom, says Pam Foley, a realtor at Premier Properties in Easton, Ma.

Of course, the seasonal weather isn’t really an issue in states like California, Arizona and Florida. But, sellers — especially those living in the suburbs with school age kids — often wait until spring to list their homes so that they can move over the summer when school is out. Less inventory in the fall and winter often means buyers can snag better deals.

To see if this conventional wisdom holds water, RealtyTrac, a leading provider of housing data, crunched the numbers and discovered that the seasonal rule of thumb is true in most cases. In fact, RealtyTrac found that October is the best month of the year to buy a house. The company analyzed more than 32 million single family homes and condo sales from 2000 to 2015. It took into account 2.7 million closed sales and discovered that the average October sales price was 2.6 percent below the home’s estimated average market value at the time of sale.

Scott Farrell, a realtor and partner at Atlas Properties in Boston, agrees that the fall, especially November, is a great time to find a house and score the best deal due to less competition from other buyers.

What about selling: is there a best time?

When it comes to selling a house there is also no exact science to timing the real estate market. Nonetheless, realtors will tell you that the spring is a great time to list your house as more buyers are out looking. To boot, buyers who prefer to move in the summer will often come in with a strong offer to grab your house quickly. More importantly, increased buyer demand can help artificially drive up your home price, says Farrell.

If you’re lucky, even with more inventory, there will still be more buyers than homes and this can cause plentiful bidding wars – often leading to a higher sale price than your asking price.

List your house when you’re ready to sell

While the time of year may influence when you list your house, there are other factors to consider. First: Interest rates are low. Second: There are always buyers out looking.

In some parts of the country, inventory is very low and has been for months. This means that — regardless of the time of year — your house may sell fast for your ideal price because you’re the only game in town, says Foley.

More importantly, ask yourself these questions: Is my house ready to put on the market and am I prepared to sell? If you’re ready, your house shows well, and you price your home appropriately, you should be able to sell your house successfully.

Image: American Advisors Group

Published on February 17, 2016

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Robyn Parets is a personal finance and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids®, a children's fitness brand and online training course. You can find her on Twitter @RobynParets, follow her musings at Away From Om, or reach her via email at robynparets@gmail.com
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