Ask your Realtor about the best time to buy a home, and he or she might reply, “You ought to buy right now, and I know just the place.” But “right now” might not be the right time for you.
Indeed, there are seasonal advantages to finding your dream house, but one size does not always fit all. The best time to buy a new home depends on your particular situation and where you’re looking to live. Let’s look at how seasonality — as well as life events — can affect your home-buying experience.
Consider the calendar
Families with children — typically on the lookout for larger homes with great curb appeal and safe backyards — tend to house hunt when kids are out of school, and when properties are green and lush. Seeing their kids playing outside can be a real motivator for potential buyers who, to minimize disruption to the upcoming school year, may jump at something that’s move-in ready. But it may not be the best time to buy: prices increase during the summer.
Some real estate experts will tell you that the best time to buy a house is the first week of autumn, just after the height of the summer selling season. With kids back in school, cheaper vacation packages, and the Jewish holidays approaching, prospective homebuyers find less competition, more price cuts, and more unsold inventory from which to choose. It’s a great time to house hunt. And buyers making offers in November and December often get great deals.
Waiting ’til winter
Is it worth waiting until winter to make an offer? Possibly. You’ll see prices drop on homes of all types between January and March, and much less foot traffic — especially in colder climates — so there’s less chance of bidding wars or multiple offer situations. Unfortunately, all those homes sold in autumn means that inventory also drops in the winter. But sellers who keep their homes on the market at this time are often motivated to make a deal.
Spring into action
During the springtime you’ll find plenty of homes on the market. And although it’s a great time to buy new construction, every available condo and house seems to be spruced up in their search for top-dollar bids. They don’t call it “spring cleaning” for nothing. But open houses will be crowded, and bidding wars are common for choice properties.
Pro Tip: If you can’t resist house hunting during the spring and summer, use these seasons as a chance to investigate new neighborhoods. Test commutes and local dining options in areas you’re considering. When the frenzy dies down, you’ll find more motivated sellers and fewer shoppers, so zero in on your favorites in the autumn and early winter for the best deals.
Life events matter, too
Regardless of when you choose to house hunt, consider that milestones in your life can help you decide when the best time to buy a new home might be.
All the single ladies
Waiting until you tie the knot is old-school thinking when it comes to homeownership: the earlier you buy a home, the sooner you start building equity. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that single women — including those who are divorced, widowed, or who aren’t waiting for a guy to put a ring on it — are buying homes at more than twice the rate of single guys.
OK, boomer, nice place
Baby boomers have had plenty of time to narrow down where they want to retire. Snowbirds looking for an easy-to-manage second home or empty nesters ready to downsize typically aren’t beholden to school calendars and might want to consider making a move during the post-holiday price drop. Less inventory, but fewer shoppers, means there are deals to be made. Even in sunnier spots like Florida and Arizona, early winter is still an excellent time to buy smaller homes and condos.
If your new home purchase is dependent on the sale of an existing one, consider the local market carefully. Sales spike in the summer and draw higher prices, which is why many homeowners pull active listings by fall in hopes of starting fresh in the spring. But a good property will always stand out in winter, and motivated sellers who stick it out during the holidays find it’s the best time to sell a house.
Don’t be ruled by rates
A common tactic to stimulate the market is for real estate “experts” to suggest that mortgage rates are on the verge of rising. Despite this, rates have remained historically low for the past decade. Even in an election year, concerns of an economic slowdown are often countered by continued attractive mortgage rates. Our advice? Resist the urge to let today’s interest rate dictate your decision to rush into — or to delay — making an offer. You may end up with a killer rate, but end up in someone else’s dream home and not yours.
The best time to buy is when you’re ready
The key takeaway here is that the optimal time to buy a home depends on what makes the most sense for your situation. No seasonal discount is worth rushing into a decision, paying a higher interest rate, or ending up in the wrong house.
Save up for a down payment, watch your credit score, and make sure your paycheck can comfortably handle a mortgage payment. Just don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for your mortgage application. See our tips on how to be a better home loan candidate.