Ask the Egghead: When is the best time of year to buy a house?

Dear Egghead: Is the middle of summer a good time to buy a home? It seems like there is less activity and less competition among buyers.

ANSWER: Yes, seasonality affects the real estate market. A lot of people are on vacation this time of year — buyers and sellers. So the “dog days” of summer are slow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong time to buy. Sellers tend to lower their prices during the summer months, especially if they are motivated to sell quickly.

Holidays and the middle of summer are the times people are out of town on vacation or traveling to see friends and families — or they’re very busy hosting a gathering. Not surprisingly, real estate is on the back burner for most people, and transactions are less likely to happen during those special times.

So, let’s assume you’re a buyer who is actively looking during those times when most people aren’t focused on home buying or selling. If you find a suitable house, it’s likely you’ll have less competition for the house and you may find a bargain.

But of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. During those slow times of the year, there also tends to be less inventory on the market. So the other side of the coin is that you might have unexpected competition from other buyers because there are fewer homes for buyers to buy.

Here is more to consider:

  • Few open houses are conducted during the winter when weather is bad. If the skies are dreary, you might not recognize a jewel of a house that you’d love to buy any other time of the year.
  • If the weather is snowy, it can be hard to inspect the exterior of the house and the yard.
  • On the bright side, closing usually happens faster during the winter when processors don’t have an abundance of parties waiting for their services.
  • When the weather turns better in springtime, you’ll be competing with other home shoppers who bided their time during winter, and are now ready to buy, and perhaps even engage in a bidding war for houses they want badly.
  • Early fall might be the best time to shop for a house. Inventory is still high, while most families have already found a place with desired schools for their children.

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