Not every year is the same, but there’s a pattern.
First, though, I want to remind you that it takes about five weeks to close on a house, once you have an accepted offer. Here, I am talking about when you get your offer accepted, not when you close. So, for example, first-time buyers who have a lease that ends July 30 need to have an accepted offer by the last week in June.
The spring market begins when sellers start listing their properties in larger numbers. Look for these harbingers:
- No snow on walkways due to light snowfall or warmer weather.
- Easter has passed.
The spring market is driven by increased demand. Sellers know demand will be at its highest, so they sell in the spring if they can.
- First-time buyers are motivated to move when their leases end.
- Buyers are motivated to move in time to start the school year.
- Spring and summer are more pleasant times to move than winter.
Buyers, in spring you have the most choice, but you also have the most competition.
The competition generally thins out as the summer goes along. Buyers leave the market because
- Buyers have bought
- First-time buyers need to sign a new lease
- Buyers can’t close before the beginning of the school year
- Buyers and sellers get bored with real estate. They want to go on vacation without thinking about houses
The slowdown in demand begins after Memorial Day, increases after July 4th, and leads to a very slow period, sometime in August.
Buyers: in summer competition goes down a bit, but you’ll be looking at spring leftovers.
The autumn market is sort of like a mini-spring market. People are thinking about buying and selling before the winter sets in. Therefore, this season is short and peters out sometime between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. Buyers generally want to move sometime other than the winter. If there is a sudden snow, it is suddenly winter market.
Then, it is real estate winter. That is the time of lowest supply and lowest demand. That is the time when sellers will be most motivated, and you have the most room to negotiate a better price. The reasons for the limited listings is a combination of these factors:
- Buyers and sellers are distracted by the holiday season. Sellers don’t want to keep their houses showing-ready at this time of year.
- Houses don’t look as good, inside, in winter light.
- Buyers prefer not to move during holiday season or snow season.
- Winter is a hazardous and wasteful time to show a house.
- Sellers are liable if someone falls on snow or ice.
- Buyers need to remove their shoes or wear booties to keep from tracking wet all over.
- Doors opening all the time wastes heat.
Buyers, winter is your best season for bargain hunting. However, your choices are limited.
Advice: If you are looking for something fairly ordinary, I would say start in the summer and see what you see. You may end up waiting for the fall or winter market. If you are looking for your “forever home” and it needs to be special, you may need to jump into one of the higher supply times and face competition in the towns you are looking in.
Demand, as you know, has been silly-high for the last five years. We can’t change that, but we have a bag of tricks that help you make your best offer (the lowest one that might get accepted) and give advice on protecting your rights and limiting risks.