When’s the best time to buy a house? That’s a pretty common question, especially for first-time buyers. The answer, however, isn’t always clear-cut.
The housing market isn’t static; it moves in cycles and certain seasons of the year are busier than others. When it comes to selection, pricing and competition from other buyers, timing matters in a big way. Understanding seasonal trends can help you pinpoint the best time to buy a house.
Pros (and cons) of buying in spring
Spring is traditionally the high water mark for homebuying. According to research from Zillow, the number of newly listed homes hits its peak beginning around March and home buying frenzy stretches into June. So what does that mean for you?
On the plus side, house hunting in the spring means you’ll have more homes to choose from. If you’ve got a very specific idea about what you want from a home, you’ve got a better shot at finding it when there are more houses on the market. You may also be able to up your buying budget a little if you’re sitting on a big tax refund.
The weather can make looking for a home in spring more pleasant compared to the rest of the year. And if you have kids, getting your new home lined up during the spring can make it easier to plan a move for the summer months when they’re out of the school.
But there are drawbacks to keep in mind. More homes on the market means more buyers and more competition. And that can mean higher prices as sellers angle to get the best deal possible.
While individual markets are different, Zillow’s research shows that March through May is when buyers can typically expect to pay the most for a home. And according to Redfin, almost 22 percent of homes sold in March closed for more than list price.
If you’re planning to buy in spring, you’ll need to able to move quickly and meet the seller’s asking price, or better it. If you’d rather not operate under that kind of pressure, the best time to buy a house might be later in the year.
Buying a home in fall instead
There are a couple of reasons why you might want to wait until the fall cool-off to buy. First, there aren’t as many buyers in the market so you have less competition to contend with. Sellers who listed their homes back in the spring or summer may be anxious to strike a deal with the end of the year closing in, giving you more leverage to negotiate.
Fall is also a good time to buy since you can still claim tax breaks — such as the mortgage interest tax deduction — before the end of the year. And the cooler months may be better suited for bargain hunter.
According to Zillow, some of the deepest discounts on home prices can be found in September and October. If you have a smaller budget for buying, that’s a good reason to skip the spring season and wait to make a move.
While waiting until fall to buy could save you money, the trade-off is a smaller selection of homes. Sellers who tried to sell earlier in the year may take their homes off the market and wait until next spring to try again.
Meet in the middle with a summer home purchase
If you don’t want to fight the spring buying rush but you’re worried about not finding the right home in fall, summer might be the best time to buy a house. Zillow’s data shows that between June and August, there’s still a glut of properties on the market. As summer winds down, sellers may be more inclined to drop their asking price to attract a buyer, so you get the best of both worlds.
Keep in mind that summer is a popular time to move, which means professional moving companies typically charge the highest rates during the summer months.
The bottom line
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer if you’re wondering when’s the best time to buy a house. Ultimately, the best time to buy depends on what you’re looking for in a home, your buying budget and how much patience you have. Looking at all the options can help you time your purchase so the season works in your favor.