For most of us, buying a house is the largest purchase we’ll ever make. So it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the most complex purchases in life — from finding that just-right neighborhood to hammering out the details of your home loan, you’ll make dozens of important decisions over the course of this single transaction.
One of those key decisions is when to browse and buy. The housing market goes through significant fluctuations over the course of a year, and careful timing can bring you closer to your ideal home buying experience. But there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the best time to buy. It all depends on your priorities.
School’s Out For Summer
Sometimes the question of when to move has little to do with the home or the price, but the timing itself. Parents of school-aged children know this better than anyone, because summer vacation is the only time of year to make a big move without uprooting their children in the middle of a school year.
Summer is also when average house prices are usually the highest, so families who strive for this timing often pay a price for the convenience to their children. But if your priority is to give your kids a clean break from one school and a smooth entry into another, it may be worth it.
Finding Your Goldilocks House
Home buying is a major commitment, and no one wants to end up regretting their final decision. If what you want is to embark upon a treasure hunt for the perfect home, it’s best to start hitting up open houses in the spring, when real estate markets are usually flooded with options. Asking prices tend to rise along with the growing inventory, ultimately peaking during the summer. So savvy home buyers try to find the right balance between a broad selection and a decent price by hunting between March and May.
Another benefit to shopping during this frenzy: higher house inventories mean buyers can spread out, reducing the likelihood of multi-way bidding wars among interested house hunters.
When Are House Prices the Lowest?
If a good deal is what motivates you to take out a mortgage, the time to act is now. Prices climb throughout the spring and summer real estate seasons, but they start to dip in September and usually hit rock bottom in January and February.
The major downside to house hunting in these months (besides battling frigid temperatures for every open house) is that the selection is at its smallest. Many of the houses for sale in late winter will have been on the market for months, and there may be several fixer-uppers. But there will also be diamonds in the rough, and the sellers may be so eager to finally sell that they’ll consider lower offers.
If you’re shopping in a cold climate, it’s also a good opportunity to see how the houses are standing up to the elements. If you’re interested in a home that is drafty, under-insulated or has rain gutters sagging under accumulated ice, you may be able to request repairs as part of your offer or use those flaws as leverage to bargain for a lower price.
So while there is no universal “good time” to buy a house, there will always be a good time for you to buy your house.
Happy house hunting!