I get this question a lot, and it’s based either on an old trend or a fallacy.
First – the old trend. There was a time back when we didn’t have the internet (shocker, huh?) that real estate was extremely seasonal. Agents would conduct about 80% of their business between March and July. Part of this was due to the overwhelming feeling that parents wanted to get their families moved before the new school year so that their kids could assimilate and get to know the area. Now, parents aren’t as concerned with this as their kids keep in touch with their old friends, and make new ones – on social media. In addition, the weather is good during this time of year and it’s more pleasant to drive around and do the house hunt.
The reality is that the seasonality of real estate has greatly flattened over the last 5-6 years. Part of this is due to slow sales in other areas which causes moving delays into Fall. Another reason is that people don’t have as much equity in their homes as they did once. That trend will hopefully ease up in the next few years, but right now there are still people who bought their homes in 2006-2008 who must sell their home at a certain price in order to move. They either have to wait for the market to increase to the value they need or stay on the market longer to get the “perfect” offer (which is a bad strategy – see my other blog post on this).
Parents aren’t as concerned about assimilating their kids to a new area over the Summer. I think part of this is due to the realization that kids are tougher than was touted in some of the 70’s psycho-babble that was popular. Part of it is due to social media, where kids can stay connected to their old friends while they gain new ones.
Second – the fallacy. You can “time” the real estate and mortgage rate markets. Not true, for the most part. Most people who are selling a home are also in the market to buy one. Those people are also mostly moving locally. So, if you’re selling in a seller’s market (woo hoo), that means you’re buying in a seller’s market (boo hoo). So, if you’re going to get top dollar and pay top dollar, it’s usually a wash. Conversely, if you’re going to get a low price and pay a low price, it’s a wash.
So, if you’re selling and moving locally, the best time to sell your home is when it makes sense for your family. I see people who get so caught up in the dollars that they forget the logistics of moving and the “cost” of that exercise. Sometimes, it’s worth $5k or $10k to a family to go ahead and get the process moving and KNOW where they are going to live. I understand that, and it’s part of my discussions with clients.
If you’re selling and moving into a new market, and it’s not a choice (such as a new job), there’s no point in worrying over the financials of timing the markets in each area. You HAVE to move. The best way to deal with this is to do plenty of research from the moment you know you’re going to relocate. Make sure you hire an experienced professional in the area you’ll call home so they can help guide you in understanding traffic patterns, schools, etc. So, in this case, put your home on the market as soon as possible so you can have plenty of time to buy in the new place. If you have to do temp housing in the new location, it’s stressful somewhat, but it gives you the flexibility to negotiate without having a contingency to sell your old property. This can be the difference between you winning a bid on your new home.
So, to recap, the BEST time to list your home is when you need to. Trying to figure out the market (nobody knows what it’s going to do anyway) and time things for the perfect moment almost NEVER works out. So, relieve yourself of the stress of that worry and get on with it. Moving is an adventure! Look at it that way. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, make a new place your own and make a new start.