The months of April through July generally account for more than 40% of a year’s housing transactions. This is when people think about whether to keep renting or if it’s time to buy a home.
What Is Home Buying Season?
Home buying season can vary, but in general, it starts at the end of March (early spring) and lasts through summer and sometimes early fall. Reasons why this time of year sees such a substantial uptick in home sales are varied. Improving weather is a big factor. It is much easier to move in the spring and summer than in the winter. It’s also easier for realtors to show homes when the weather is warm. Enticing home buyers to trek to an open house during winter’s snowy and cold weather is a much harder sell.
Along with that, many sellers don’t want to show their homes during the winter due to the holidays. With Christmas, New Years and all the stress that goes into the holiday season, accommodating real estate showings is something many home sellers balk at.
Another reason home buying season starts with the advent of nicer weather is that home repairs are easier to make when there isn’t snow or ice to contend with. That also ties into home inspections. Inclement weather, as well as a snow-packed roof make it harder for home inspectors to give accurate reports to prospective buyers.
The school year is a huge consideration for sellers and buyers with school-aged children. Most families prefer to buy and move before the start of a school year, so that the children can start school with their peers. That makes the March to July window even more appealing. Most schools end by May or June, leaving time for parents to close on a home, pack and move in before the end of summer.
Home Buying Season Isn’t Set in Stone
All that said, home buying season is a general window, and can really change depending on the place you’re buying (or selling). For example, markets in low-inventory areas, such as San Francisco or Washington D.C. experience home buying season practically year round. It’s always a tough market for buyers in those areas because of high competition.
While the environment across the U.S. seems to favor sellers at the moment, buyers still hold the leverage and sellers should not get greedy with their list prices. In the aftermath of the housing bubble and bust, buyers are more savvy than in the past. Both experienced and first time homeowners know the risks involved in buying a home. For that reason, they are not likely to jump on a good deal for that reason alone. They want to know that they are buying a home they can live in for many years, in a good neighborhood and with features that suit their needs.
Buying a Home During Home Buying Season
If you are looking to buy a home during this year’s hot buying season, give yourself the best chance by coming to the table well-prepared. If you are competing against other offers, you want to give the seller a reason to choose yours over the others. A winning offer is not always the highest one. If there is an “all-cash” offer, it will be hard to compete. But otherwise, there are some things you can do.
First, make the transaction as easy as possible for the seller. They would probably rather take a slightly lower offer than one that requires them to do repairs before closing.
Second, line up your mortgage financing ahead of time. Don’t just get “pre-qualified.” Get fully underwritten and approved. If possible, have your lender write a letter that states their closing time period. The faster the closing, the sooner the seller (and the listing agent!) get their money.
Lastly, be prepared to walk away. If you have been looking for months, this may be difficult, but there will be other houses. Don’t get sucked into overpaying, or pressured into buying a house that needs major work unless you are expecting to do renovations. With low inventory, sellers have an advantage. But that is no reason to get pressured into a purchase that is not right for you and your family.
Tips for Home Buying
- Before you even start looking at homes, you’ll want to know your budget. SmartAsset’s how much house can I afford? calculator gives you a detailed answer to that essential question.
- You can get a head start on the mortgage process by researching possible lenders before you even look at homes. Each lender offers different services and rates so it’s worth knowing which one may be the best fit for you.
- Keeping your down payment savings in a high-interest savings account is one of the best ways to earn interest while stashing money away.
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