When is the Best Season to Buy a Condo?

By Brian Cargerman

Modern apartment houseWhen is the best time to buy? It’s a question that first-time buyers ask a lot, but one that can be overemphasized. If you don’t have your financials in order, there’s no good season to buy. That said, as a secondary consideration, seasonality can be important. While I’ve always felt that for the patient deal-hunter, winter is the best season to look, each season has its plusses and minuses. Let’s walk through the seasons, starting with the traditional beginning of the real estate year, spring.

SPRING

When the weather turns nice, you’ll start to see buds on trees, robins pulling worms from the ground and “For Sale” signs going up all around the neighborhood. True to the stereotype, spring is the most popular home-selling season. Sellers have had time to recover from the holidays and they know their homes look best when their gardens are starting to flourish. Also, buyers generally prefer touring homes when the weather isn’t an impediment.

What you can expect:

Inventory: Lots of choices, usually the highest inventory of the year. That means that if you’re browsing, or just getting your feet wet, this is a great opportunity to see a variety of homes.

Pricing: Spring is a time of great optimism for sellers, and many overprice their home thinking that they have months to make a sale. While this isn’t actually a good strategy, expect to find many homes that seem expensive and very few deals.

Competition: Spring is prime season for lukewarm buyers. While you can expect lots of people looking, the competition for homes may not be as cutthroat as it will become later in the year; buyers also know that the year is just starting.

SUMMER

During the dog days of summer, many of the same features that make spring a great season are still in place: Gardens look fabulous and touring homes is easy in warm weather. But now that the market’s been open for a while, expect some changes.

What you can expect:

Inventory: Still high – often as high as spring – and plenty of new listings will pop up each week.

Pricing: Overpriced homes will come down a bit, or languish on the market. Sellers start to get serious about selling their homes, so homes new to the market are seldom wildly overpriced. That said, there still aren’t many deals to be found.

Competition: Competition really starts to heat up. People prefer to move in the summer and those with kids often like to get into their new home before the school year starts. Expect more bidding wars and higher offers.

FALL

Once football season is in full swing, the kids are back in school and the leaves are beginning to turn, the traditional real estate season comes to a close.

What you can expect:

Inventory: Expect inventory to dwindle. Few new listings will come on the market.

Pricing: The few listings that do pop up will be priced to sell. In other words, you’ll start to find some deals. Some people whose homes had been on the market all summer may begin to cut their asking price.

Competition: As the inventory dwindles, there will be fewer browsers on the market, but the people looking will be serious, so expect competition for fairly priced homes.

WINTER

Traditionally, the time between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl is a no-fly zone for real estate transactions. Families are often traveling for the holidays, Sundays feature high-stakes football games that keep people from going to open houses and, in colder climates, there’s snow to contend with. That said, if you’re able to home shop in the winter, you’ll have an opportunity to find value with less competition.

What you can expect:

Inventory: Limited, but those who put their homes on the market most likely need to sell.

Pricing: Homes listed in the winter are generally priced lower than in the spring or summer. People who are selling in the winter need to sell – and they usually don’t want to spend time haggling about final prices. Instead, they price at a good value and expect only serious offers.

Competition: Here’s where you have a huge advantage. Home shopping in December can be a pain – and it will keep much of your competition away. So you may be the first to see some of the deals that come on the market, and you’ll likely have fewer offers to compete with if you do find the home of your dreams.

So, in summary, while spring, summer and the beginning of fall can blend together a bit, the winter buying and selling season is distinctly different. In the winter, you may not see the type of inventory you’d like (and this might be a problem for first-time buyers), but you’ll find more deals with less competition.

One potential solution for first-time buyers is to start your search at the tail end of summer, when inventory is still fairly high. Get a lay of the land, but don’t get serious for a few months. Once October, November and December hit – that’s when you’ll be able to find the true deals.

Brian Cargerman is a real estate agent with Redfin, a national real estate brokerage. An avid golfer and a lover of all things Chicago, Cargerman grew up in the city’s northern suburbs. Cargerman is a battle-tested negotiator with 10 years of real estate experience. He offers a wealth of knowledge and superior customer service to his clients.

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Comments (2)

  1. Blooming Sky

    This article is right on the money. Seasonality is a big player when it comes to inventory and price points. This hits close to home for any buyer starting their search in New York City.

    Reply