Sometimes we don’t have a choice as to when we buy a house. Factors such as changes in employment or family circumstances can dictate our need to buy a home at any time of the year, regardless of what the market is doing. Of course there are always the greater market changes to consider as well – rising and falling markets – but, putting these significant reasons aside, when is the ‘best’ time to buy a house? Does the time of year affect the price, and is there such thing as a ‘low’ time?
Well, any real estate agent knows that the housing market is affected by the time of year. There are highs and lows when it comes to buying and selling real estate, and as a buyer this can make a sizeable difference in the purchase price and incentives you can ask for. So what are the highs and lows and how can you make the most of them?
The Low Times to Buy a House
In most markets in the United States and Canada the low time is the winter season, and this is especially true in the colder climates of the continent. As the winter weather sets in the desire to buy homes and move house goes down for a number of reasons, , as do the number of homes listed.
Viewing homes during the winter may not be a particularly pleasant experience – if you have snow and cold conditions to deal with it’s less enticing to go out on a cold day to view homes. And if you do go out and look you can’t always get a good feel for the exterior of a home because of snow cover – snow can hide the garden features and landscaping, as well as hiding things like the roof, making it more difficult for you to judge the overall condition of a home.
If you do decide to look for homes during the winter you’re going to find there are far fewer homes listed. This is not a good situation for a buyer to be in as you will have less choice of homes and may end up choosing one that doesn’t quite fit your requirements. But, on the other hand, there are fewer buyers looking anyway, so this gives you the upper hand. If a seller needs to sell they are far more likely to accept a lower offer and to give extra incentives such as help with closing costs during the low times than they are in the peak times. On average, you could save between 7 and 10% by buying a home in the low season.
The same can be said for buying from a builder. Builders may be keen to sell their homes and get their inventory moving during the fall to winter season so you can often negotiate on discounts and upgrades from them during this time.
The High Times to Buy a House
Winter is not always a low time for house buying, as it depends on location and type of market. Ski resorts for example, and towns that are close to skiing and other winter recreation, can actually see a boost in sales during the winter. People visiting the area for skiing may combine their time on the slopes with time spent looking for homes, whether they are for year-round living or just seasonal use. For this reason, if you want to buy a home in a location like this, the better time to buy would be in the spring or summer when the resort is far quieter.
In most cities in North America though asking prices and the number of homes listed for sale rises in the spring and summer, because as the weather becomes warmer so too does the desire to buy.
As a buyer the advantage of looking for homes during the high times is that there will be a far greater number of homes listed. This gives you a much better chance of finding the home of your dreams, though purchasing that home will be more difficult. More homes means more buyers are looking, and you can end up with bidding wars and highly inflated sales prices, potentially pricing you out of buying the home you want.
So there are actually numerous factors to consider when looking at the best time to buy a home. Buying during low times can secure you a better deal, but there will be less homes to choose from anyway. Buying in the high times will give you far more homes to consider, but with increased competition from other buyers this becomes a sellers’ market – the ball is in the seller’s court and they can choose the best offer, so homes sell for more.