If you’re thinking about buying a house sometime soon, you probably have in mind a specific time of the year that you think is more favorable for your wallet.
In this article, money expert Clark Howard has some advice that offers a twist on the traditional timing of when to buy a house.
What Is the Best Time To Buy a House?
Clark says the colder months — starting in the fall and through the winter — are when things could heat up for you if you’re buying a home.
An analysis from Attom Data Solutions, a real estate data firm, says, “Buyers who close in October will get the best deal compared to the spring buying season. While the premium is still above market value, homebuyers are only dealing with a 3.3% premium, as opposed to the month of May, when homebuyers are experiencing a 10.5% premium.”
In addition to the findings from Attom, Clark’s recommendation on when to buy and sell real estate comes from what he’s been seeing in the U.S. housing market in recent years.
Status Report: Wild Housing Market Continues
The March 2023 market report from Zillow indicates that new real estate listings continue to slow down. “There were 22.3% fewer new listings than last March, and 20.2% fewer than March 2020, when the pandemic began to disrupt the housing market,” the report states.
Clark says because the ultra-low interest rates in the early 2000s are no longer available for potential homebuyers, it has made it that much more expensive to take out a mortgage today.
Sellers: “People are on sellers’ strike now because of the wave of low-interest rates we’ve had for years,” Clark says. “People can’t afford to move.”
“So sellers aren’t moving on, except people who have a situation where they have to move. But the number of homes available is more limited,” he says.
Buyers: “Buyers are much more careful buying now because so many cannot afford what the payment’s going to be, so the housing market is kind of in a freeze with the activity,” he says.
The result is a housing market that is unlike any we’ve seen in recent decades. “It is a very, very odd cycle,” Clark says.
Best Time To Buy a Home: How Things Used To Be
“In a lot of the country, the greatest interest in buying homes is in the heart of spring because it usually involves school-aged kids,” Clark says. “School-aged kids are changing schools or they’re going from elementary to middle, or middle to high school or the family’s becoming empty nesters, whatever it is, we’ve traditionally had this spring-selling season bubble, and it leads to more activity, more demand, higher prices.”
Because the current housing market has turned tradition on its head, Clark wants you to change your strategy regarding when to buy a house.
Best Time To Buy a Home: How Things Are Now
In agreement with the data from Attom, Clark says that the fall and winter months can be rewarding for real estate activity.
“The smartest time to be a buyer is when the market is dead, dead, dead: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, that cycle,” Clark says. “The holiday season. November, December.”
Additionally, with the exception of perennially hot local markets like Arizona and South Florida, “home prices and activity of sales are much, much, much, much lower around the country in January and February than the rest of the year,” Clark says.
“If you look at the modern housing cycle [that] started in 1950 in the United States, we’ve never seen anything like this,” Clark says of the current real estate market.
Even still, Clark likes your chances of buying a home if the seller is motivated, which typically happens when there’s a “people problem situation,” like a divorce or the death of a loved one.
Another way of increasing your chances of finding a good deal in this crazy market is by house shopping during the holiday season. Since there are so few buyers during this time period, you will find some very motivated sellers.
And, motivated sellers mean good deals for buyers. A little patience could save you big.
Want more insight into how to save on real estate? Read our in-depth guide on how to buy a home.