Is there a best season to list your home?
Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | February 26, 2015
Winter 2015 has been a strange brew of climate across the U.S.: springlike temperatures out West, record snowstorms in the Northeast and even cold, wet weather in usually balmy Florida. If you're planning to sell your home and have been told the best time to list it is in the spring, how will you know whether you're too early or too late this year? And does it really matter?
If you ask real estate agents when is the best season to list your home for sale, you might get answers like these:
- Spring. Is it the best of times, or the worst of times? You'll have more competition, but buyers like to look in spring.
- Summer. Greenery makes homes look more appealing. Families like to move when kids are on summer break.
- Fall. November is best because only the "serious" buyers would be looking at homes for sale before the holidays.
- Winter. Put your house on the market no later than February. You'll get the jump on everyone waiting till spring.
Best season to list your home: Is it a myth?
In today's recovering housing market, the optimal window of opportunity to list appears to be anyone's guess. Perhaps the long-held belief that homes show and sell best in spring has become as blurred as the seasons. In a February 2015 interview on Good Morning America, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, said, "Nationwide, the best time is mid-March. But if you live in colder climates, it gets pushed out to mid-April. In warmer climates, it's a little bit earlier in March."
He believes that online marketing of homes for sale has altered the traditional spring listing time. He advises, "Pay attention to listings on the Internet in your neighborhood and wait until two or three weeks after new listings start to bloom," to find "a sweet spot." Rascoff's observation that "when" depends on "where" is echoed by experienced real estate agents around the country.
Micro housing markets: location, location, location?
Tammy Waugh of the Sper Group, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Tampa, Fla., has been a Florida resident since 1963 and a Realtor since 1995. In her market, any time of year can be the best time to list a home. "Spring is a good time…buyers use their tax refunds toward down payments. People looking to relocate want to close by the end of June," so their kids can be settled in before school starts again. But some families will look in the fall so they can close by the end of the year and start the kids in a new school in January after winter break.
Winter months also bring an influx of the traditional "snowbirds," seasonal residents who buy Florida homes and then return north during the hot summer. Waugh says that the number of home closings for her agency in the last couple of years have been consistent for three out of four quarters each year, but which three quarters has varied. Regarding the housing market and how that affects when to sell, she points out that in 2014 one of every 41 homes in Tampa was foreclosed, so any season in 2015 is the right time to list "if a home is in good shape. It will shine like a gem."
In Colorado where there are four distinct seasons, Realtor Jenna Huelskamp with the Kiker Team, Keller Williams, Denver, has seen that during her seven years in the industry homes do show better in the spring, especially if they have gardens in bloom. "This time of year [winter], in a snowstorm, people don't want to go out." In November she's historically seen a dip in sales as people take their homes off the market before the holidays.
But this year, she doesn't think that season is as much of a factor. It's currently a sellers market in her area; demand is high with only a 28-day inventory of homes and mortgage rates still low. Like the others, she agrees that "it's so market specific -- even micro-market specific."
And the survey says…
Redfin, a real estate broker and technology company, publishes reports on home buying and selling. They analyzed their data from 2010 through 2014 to determine which season was best for selling in all markets across the country on the basis of time to contract and sale price. Their numbers confirm the traditional viewpoint that spring is the best time to sell your home, but winter is a very close second whether your home is in Boston under several feet of snow or basking in the heat of the Phoenix sun. Nationwide, fall and summer are the least promising seasons to list for a quick sale at more than your asking price.
In the end, the best time to list your home comes down to your own requirements. You don't have to wait until spring if you need or want to sell your home now. If you have the time, study your local housing market for at least a few weeks. Then, interview a few local seller's agents and compare their knowledge of the market before you decide when and with whom to list.
Photo credit to Kevin Irby