Is now the best time to sell your home? That’s an intensely personal question that depends on a number of factors -- many of them beyond your control. In 2006, some sellers might have been wondering if they should have waited another year and netted even more profit … but today we know that those sellers would have kicked themselves for making that decision.
Still, major economic shifts aside, there are ways you can manipulate your home’s sale to best benefit you and your family as you move into a bigger place or downsize to better fit your lifestyle. When you’re trying to target the most opportune time to put your home on the market, it helps to consider all of the factors involved and control what you can to maximize your price and profit.
The annual real estate doldrums ...
Most advice you’ll hear about selling will be different, but there’s one time of year that most experts believe you should avoid when it comes to listing a home: wintertime.
It makes sense. Between the holiday season and, in some parts of the country, the weather, there aren’t too many buyers incentivized to disrupt their lives and move into a new home, which means they aren’t really thinking about shopping for one, either -- at least in some markets. And fewer buyers means less of a chance that your home will be one of the homes that sells.
Winter also isn’t a very fun time of year to be a seller, logistically speaking. You might think you’ll get out of yard work (and you’ll be right), but you’ll probably be cleaning up after visitors tracking rain and snow through your just-cleaned house while they tour it in exchange.
There will be circumstances under which you have to sell in the wintertime -- and there are almost always buyers who need to find a place to live quickly, too. And if the housing market in your neighborhood is really hot, or if you can find a buyer who needs to relocate with some urgency, then it might not matter that there’s snow on the ground; more buyers will want to find a home because right now is when they can buy. So, like any “truth,” this is one to run by the real estate professional helping you make the decision before you turn against winter sales forever.
… And the peak selling season
Just like many experts will warn you against winter, springtime is commonly considered one of the best times of the year to sell a home. Buyers are interested in making a fresh start, yards look lush and green, days are starting to get longer, and tax season gives some buyers a leap ahead on any down payment savings.
So does that mean you should sell in the springtime? Maybe … but be aware that other sellers are going to have the same idea. There will be competition in the form of more homes available on the market, and that might mean you need to spend a little bit more money to fix it up before you list it, and spend more time vacating the premises while potential buyers take a look around.
Those buyers also might have the options available to be more picky in the home they end up buying, and that could mean they demand changes to yours before paying for it -- or pass altogether. And you may need to be more aggressive in your marketing tactics to capture their attention in the first place.
One benefit of listing in the spring, however, is that because it is typically the busiest sales season of the year, if you’re hoping to nail down the best price at which to list your home, there will also be more comparable listings (comps) available to help you find that figure.
Summer and fall aren’t as popular as spring for listing homes, but either might be a better choice for your particular home, depending on its features.
Your home’s favorite time of year
Here’s the thing about all conventional wisdom: It’s geared toward the median, the “normal,” the middle-of-the-road. But reality is all over the map, and the conventional wisdom for your home could be very different from the norm.
For example, if you live in a ski resort town, then wintertime could be the very best time of year to list your home -- when the area is full of visitors who are enjoying themselves and wondering whether they might be able to make a permanent move work.
Perhaps you own a family-sized house with a little room to grow that’s just a two-block walk from one of the most desirable elementary schools in your metro area. In that case, it might make less sense to list your home in the early spring, when many families with young children will be preoccupied with the end of the school year, and instead list in early summer, when they’re able to seriously consider a move.
Or perhaps the fall foliage in your part of the world is something tourists travel hundreds of miles to absorb, and you’ve got a grove of beautiful deciduous trees in your yard. Perhaps you have a swimming pool or deck area that really shines in the summertime. Or maybe it’s your flower garden that makes passersby stop and stare at your house, and the spring really is the best time for you.
Does the day of the week matter?
Actually, it might. According to a couple of different studies, homes that were listed on Thursday or Friday have been found to sell in the shortest length of time for slightly higher prices than any other homes.
It’s possible that the timing of the weekend is what’s honing Thursday’s and Friday’s edge over the other days of the week. Buyers are more likely to have time to schedule home tours or attend open houses over the weekend, and there are likely to be more of those buyers looking at each house (and therefore more chances of getting an offer, or maybe even multiple offers). And if the home was just listed and buyers see that competition for themselves, they’re more likely to put in a full-price offer for the home.
It’s usually not a good idea to list a home on a weekend, and you’re less likely to see buyer appointments to tour homes earlier in the week, so if you can’t swing a Thursday or Friday, try a Wednesday.
Timing isn’t everything
Even if you think you’ve nailed the absolute best time to sell your home and you’ve done all you can repair-wise to maximize your chances, there’s one big mistake that could shoot all your efforts right in the foot: Pricing your home incorrectly when you first list it.
Some sellers don’t think this is the huge deal that it really (really!) is. Serious buyers sign up to property watch lists and get an alert as soon as a home is listed on the MLS. Most of the buyers who could buy your home are going to see its listing within the first 48 hours of that listing being “live.”
Unless you overpriced it, of course. Then those buyers won’t see it until you reduce the price down to a more realistic level -- and you might think that the price is a starting point of negotiation, but a qualified buyer is searching for “homes I am qualified to buy right now,” not “homes I am not qualified to buy right now but that might drop into my price range later.”
So you get one big chance to make your home’s big debut in front of its buyers. And if you set the price too high (or too low, for that matter), you’ve blown it.
That’s why the best way to maximize your home’s price is to talk to a qualified agent, who can help you figure it out -- and why the best time to sell is when you’re ready.