Is Spring Really the Best Time to Sell a House?

General wisdom tells us that spring is the best time to sell a house. Logic seems to support this idea, particularly if you live in a climate with hot summers and cold winters (like Indiana). The warmer weather and longer days draw people out, increasing traffic to open houses. In addition, many people with children hope to buy a home and make that transition over the summer, so that the school year is not disrupted by the move.

That said, some real estate agents argue that the fall/winter off-season can be a good time to sell as well. Although you are typically dealing with less industry and fewer buyers, the buyers who are looking tend to be serious. While you get much more foot traffic in the spring, many of those visitors tend to be mere window-shoppers or looky-loos. So what’s the answer? Is spring really the best time to sell a house? Let’s find out.

Selling in the On-Season (Spring/Summer)

Advantages:

  1. Higher Sale Price: In most other markets, higher inventory means lower prices. Counterintuitively, it is the opposite in the housing market: when inventory is high, prices go up. Because there are so many more buyers in the on-season, the supply of houses relative to the demand is actually lower than in the off-season. This drives sale prices up, which is good news for the seller.
  2. Better Valuation: When a house is being valued, an appraiser will reference comparable houses in the neighborhood. However, if the most recent data shows that comparable houses sold more cheaply in the off-season, the house will be valued at a lower price. To receive a better valuation, it’s best to wait until a few houses have sold nearby during the on-season for a more favorable comparison.
  3. Better Curb Appeal: Spring is the season of daffodils and tulips. Potential buyers out enjoying the weather will be drawn to a house’s inviting landscaping and curb appeal.
  4. Bidding Wars: When inventory is high and buyers are plentiful, there is a greater chance that a home will receive multiple offers. A bidding war attracts potential cash buyers and deters buyers from making repair requests or demands. Ultimately, the seller wins out.

Disadvantages:

  1. Pickier Buyers: With higher inventory, buyers can afford to be picky. In the on-season, buyers may be less willing to compromise on their wish lists. A house will likely be competing with many other beautiful houses, and, if work is needed, buyers may simply pass.

Selling in the Off-Season

Advantages:

  1. Motivated Buyers: There are arguably far fewer looky-loos in the off-season. Most buyers shopping for homes in the fall and winter (particularly close to the holidays) are doing so out of some kind of necessity. Facing any number of pressures, these buyers will be serious about making an offer.
  2. Less Competition: Although low inventory generally drives prices down, in certain circumstances it can work to a seller’s advantage. If there happen to be enough buyers competing over a small number of houses, bidding wars can occur.

Disadvantages:

  1. Less Curb Appeal: Once winter rolls around, houses just won’t be looking their best. Bare trees and dead lawns don’t have the same attraction as colorful flowerbeds.
  2. Lower Sale Price: As stated previously, lower inventory, lower prices. Though this can be circumstantially avoided, it generally holds true.
  3. Thrift Shoppers: Many buyers are aware that sale prices go down in the fall and winter and that off-season sellers can be quite motivated. These thrift shoppers are out looking for a deal, and sellers will likely have to field some low-ball offers.

Many people say that spring is the best time to sell a house, and, as it turns out, there is some truth behind that belief. The on-season housing market is advantageous to sellers. Of course every local market has its particular idiosyncrasies. It’s worth considering all the circumstances when selling. Who knows? December 24th could be the right time to sell for someone.