The Best Time to Buy a House
Home prices depend on the season, week and day of the purchase
Real estate is seasonal. Certain times of the year are busier than others, and that impacts pricing, availability of properties, and the overall conditions you’ll encounter as a homebuyer.
If you’re considering purchasing a home, understanding these seasonal trends can help you more effectively achieve your goals. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Is Real Estate Seasonal?
A number of factors drive real estate’s ebb and flow, including school schedules, weather, and even local tourism activity.
Karen Parnes, a real estate broker and owner of Maryland-based NextHome Your Way, told The Balance via email that school is the main reason people buy, sell, and move.
“In general, the school season dictates the supply and demand, and therefore the seasonality of the real estate market,” Parnes said. “A large portion of buyers want to be settled in by the time school starts.”
The data certainly supports this conclusion. Home inventory is typically the highest in the spring and summer when families put their homes on the market at the end of the school year (more on that later.)
Weather can play a role, too. Buyers and sellers tend to be more active in the warmer months, with demand on both sides slowing down as the weather cools—especially in areas with more extreme winter weather.
“If you are in a cold-weather environment, you might find that the real estate market shuts down for the most part,” Yawar Charlie, a real estate agent based in Los Angeles, told The Balance via email. “It’s physically not conducive to show homes in the dead of winter."
Charlie also says weather plays a role in how a home can be marketed. Snow and other winter-weather conditions pose problems for photography, home tours, and more.
Local tourism trends can factor in as well, depending on the market. This is a common theme for Mary Lou Wertz, founder of Maison Real Estate in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston sees its strongest real estate markets in spring and fall, thanks to increased tourist activity.
“At least in Charleston, early spring and early fall see the best weather and most cultural events,” Wertz told The Balance via email. “People tend to list their homes during these times to ensure the most exposure and potential interest.“
In low-tourism times, Wertz said sellers tend to get more flexible with pricing to accommodate slower demand.
The Best Time to Buy for a Good Deal
Generally speaking, you’ll get the best pricing if you buy in the winter. An analysis from the Journal of Housing Research shows that, historically, housing prices are lowest in the colder part of the year—specifically, the first and fourth quarters.
December is a particularly smart time to buy. A recent analysis from Zillow shows that home purchases in this month can save buyers as much as $5,000 in some markets.
“The best time to find a deal on a home is in the winter months—especially during the holidays,” Kristina Morales, a real estate agent in Houston, told The Balance via email. “During this time, buyers will have the least amount of competition when making offers on properties. This reduction in competition will help buyers purchase a home at better prices."
Conversely, buying in spring or summer comes with a premium. The month of May, in particular, is a costly time to buy a home. Zillow’s data shows that, in some areas, early May home purchases command $2,000 more than other times of the year.
“When I get asked ‘What's the best time to be looking to buy real estate?’ my answer is, ‘When others aren't,’” Domingo Perez, Jr., a real estate agent with New York City-based Warburg Realty, told The Balance via email. “Think January and February, when it's cold, damp, and bitter outside, or August when the humidity level is as high as sellers' humility. You'll have less competition and sellers will be much more open to negotiating because they'll think you're either crazy or dead serious to be out in this weather, particularly if their home has sat through the fall season without an offer.”
The Best Time to Buy if You Want Options
Housing inventory tends to be at its highest levels in the spring and summer months—particularly May, June, and July. This is when you’ll find the most options as a buyer (often because families are looking to sell because of the start of school).
“There’s more inventory in the spring because sellers are incentivized,” Sissy Lappin, a real estate agent in Houston, told The Balance via email. “From the seller’s perspective, the chances are higher they will have their home sold quickly and with less negotiating on price.”
Buying during these seasons does have some drawbacks. Though there are more homes to choose from, they tend to come with higher price tags than those listed in colder parts of the year. It also means more competition.
“In the spring and summer months there is a lot of activity which equates to a lot of competition,” Morales said. “When there is competition for homes, this could result in bidding wars that drive prices up.”
Best Day and Week to Buy a Home Overall
If you’re looking for a good combination of the above factors—affordable pricing, solid inventory levels, and lower competition—data from realtor.com pins early fall as the best time to buy. The week beginning September 22 is the best single week to buy a house, offering 26% less competition than other weeks of the year, according to the research. The week of October 27 is also a smart time to buy, according to the analysis.
If you want a specific day, ATTOM Data Solutions shows December 26—the day after Christmas—as the absolute best day to buy. Buyers save about $2,500 by purchasing a home on this day. Other days on the list include December 4, 7, 21, and 29.
Buyers might also benefit from hand-picking the day of the week they buy their home, too. According to an analysis from real estate data platform RealtyTrac, buyers closing on a Monday see an average discount of 2.30%.
Other Strategies for Timing Your Purchase
Ultimately, real estate is local, so while some seasons may be the best time to buy in one region, it might not be as smart in another. Because of this, it’s important to talk to a local real estate agent about seasonal trends in your specific area.
- Fall or winter are the seasons when you’ll save the most money on your home purchase.
- You’ll have the most options in the spring and summer.
- The best week to buy overall is the week of September 22.
- The best day to buy overall is December 26.
Journal of Housing Research. "Is there Seasonality in Home Prices—Evidence from CBSAs." Page 13. Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
Zillow. "Why Mid-to-Late Spring is the Best Time to List a Home for Sale." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
National Association of Realtors. "Inventory and Months' Supply." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
Realtor.com. "When is the Best Time to Buy a Home?" Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
ATTOM Data Solutions. "Top 10 Best Days of the Year to Buy a Home." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.