Ever wonder what the best time of year to buy a house is? Most houses are purchased in the spring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the “best time.”
Looking for homes in winter can have big advantages, especially considering that the right time to buy a home really comes down to you.
“Homebuying generally calms down a bit as the holiday season and school years start again, and builders are often trying to close out their year with the remaining inventory,” says Catt Fleetwood, a branch sales manager with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in Wake Forest, N.C. (Fairway owns Home.com). “That can mean more incentives for buyers as well as good pricing.”
What's in this Article?
Spring is a popular time to buy a house for many reasons. Families with children, for instance, want to get established in a new house and new school district before the school year begins in the fall.
Many people feel that spring is the best time to see houses and yards, because the yards are showing their landscaping and blooms more advantageously than in autumn or winter. There’s even an argument that more daylight allows easier and more convenient viewing for buyers.
But the best time of year to buy a house is when you’re ready.
“The best time to buy a home is when circumstances dictate. A baby on the way, an upcoming marriage, a divorce, or other life changing event can often trigger the need for a new home, and this trumps unpredictable seasonal fluctuations of the market,” says Michael Shapot, a real estate broker with Keller-Williams NYC in New York.
Purchasing a home is a very individual decision. You may have been waiting to save up for a down payment, and now you have it. Or you may have been working toward a salary range that would let you afford a house, and now you’re there.
You may be shelling out each month for rent, and analyzing your cost-effectiveness with a rent versus buy calculator has revealed how much you can save every month if you make the move into homeownership. After all, a monthly savings of $300 if you buy in December rather than the following August puts $2,400 back in your pocket.
Finally, a promotion or pending marriage may result in certainty that you’ll be staying in an area, when you weren’t sure you were ready to put down roots before.
If you’re ready to buy a home in January, there’s no compelling reason to wait until the spring. In fact, buying during the winter months can put you at an advantage.
“This is where deals can be found. During the winter there are less homes on the market – but there are also less people looking to buy,” says Garett Seney, a mortgage advisor with Fairway in south Boston. “This means less competition, greater ability to negotiate, and more time to look at properties before they go under agreement.”
And in 2022, buying sooner could help insulate you from the worst effects of inflation and rising interest rates.
As interest rates rise, you may qualify for a smaller loan than you might now. That can put your dream home out of reach, particularly if housing prices continue to increase as predicted.
For the past several years, there’s been intense competition in many markets during the spring and summer months, driven largely by two factors. The first is the relatively low housing stock available. The second is that interest rates have been at historically low levels, driving more buyers into the market and also prompting current homeowners to refinance their current loans rather than selling.
These factors, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to more widely spread remote work arrangements and augmenting savings in many households, created bidding wars in many markets that sent prices skyward.
Looking ahead to 2022, housing stock is still in relatively short supply. Surveys show that most real estate professionals believe double-digit price increases are likely to continue. Plus, while interest rates are likely to start moving upward, those increases aren’t likely to dampen demand. Rates will still be low by historical standards, just not the rock-bottom level homebuyers enjoyed in 2021 and 2020.
All that is to say that by buying in winter, you may avoid certain pitfalls that are likely to crop up later in the year.
1) The wintry weather is your friend
Hitting the pavement to look at houses can be frustrating in the spring and summer just because that’s when everyone else is looking, too. But “traditionally, the pool of homebuyers shopping for homes during the winter is much smaller. People tend to get busy with the holidays and don’t want to tour homes in bad weather,” says Beatrice de Jong, a real estate broker with Opendoor in California. From the length of lines at open houses to chatting with prospective sellers or neighbors, less competition makes things easier
2) You’re less likely to encounter bidding wars
It’s no secret that many areas of the country have seen huge bidding wars, where people offer above asking prices and even (in some markets) all cash to sweeten the seller’s deal. The less competition, the less likely bidding wars are.
“You may be able to get the home that you love at a better value when you purchase during winter months,” says Joe Pessolano, a branch sales manager with Fairway in Garner, N.C. “In recent months, many homes have had multiple offers and buyers have been bidding above asking price just to win the bidding war. This is less common during the winter.”
3) You’re more likely to encounter motivated sellers
Most sellers list their homes in the spring and summer because they know it’s prime homebuying time around the U.S. Since selling in the fall and winter is more unusual, sellers who do may be more likely to be motivated by a specific event (a new job, downsizing in retirement, upsizing for a growing family). The more motivated they are, the higher the possibility that you can negotiate with them for a better deal
4) You may be more likely to find houses just coming on the market
Sometimes, real estate professionals may have been approached by prospective sellers who intend to put their house on the market in the spring. If you’re looking in the fall and winter, and your real estate agent or broker knows of a house likely to be listed in a few months, they may be able to show you the house right away instead of waiting
5) You’ll get a more realistic sense of any problems with the house
If the roof or basement leaks during inclement weather, you may not see that during the summer, depending on the climate where you are. But looking in the winter provides “a chance to get a clear idea of how water affects a home. During the wetter months, basements and attics may show issues that otherwise wouldn’t have been apparent,” observes Trey Van Tuyl, a Florida real estate agent and owner of Discover Homes Miami
6) You’ll have a more realistic view of the house and grounds
One of the reasons spring and summer are popular is the theory that houses, yards, and gardens look much better then, giving prospective buyers a more complete picture. After all, if the garden has daffodils, you won’t see them in December. But isn’t it better to see the grounds dreary and the house in winter light rather than radiant summer sun? That way, you have a much more realistic sense of the house and grounds. You’ll know what they look like six months out of the year, so you won’t face disappointment later on
Best time of year to buy a house FAQs
There is more competition in the spring and summer since that’s the most popular time of year to buy a house, and generally more competition tends to send prices upward. Prices are also expected generally to rise next year. So you may be able to get a house in the fall or winter for less than you’d pay the following spring.
The best time to buy a house is when your personal circumstances are favorable to do so. That said, interest rates are expected to rise throughout 2022, though fairly modestly. Buyers who wait until late 2022 to buy a home may face higher interest rates and higher home prices, as those are also expected to continue to climb. Generally speaking, however, interest rates will likely be fairly low and the benefits of homeownership will still outweigh price and rate concerns.
Home prices are expected to rise about 6% in 2022, averaging predictions from 8 housing authorities. However, forecasts vary widely. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts a 2.8% decrease while Goldman Sachs predicts home prices to jump 16%. Other organizations are in the middle somewhere. But most housing experts predict a moderate-to-strong home value increase for 2022.
The best time to purchase a house is when you are ready. Less competition and other factors can make fall and winter a great time to buy a house. So if you’re financially ready to buy a home, there’s no time like the present to get preapproved and start looking for your new home.
*Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which has not been reviewed by underwriting. If you have submitted verifying documentation, you have done so voluntarily. Final loan approval is subject to a full underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.