One of the most common questions in real estate is “when is the best time to sell?” The correct answer is, or at least should be “it depends.”
The point being that on a case by case basis the correct answer can be quite different; a seller’s individual circumstances, motivation, and objectives all impact what the best outcome looks like for them. Therefore a properly designed selling strategy includes a review of how timing can help accomplish that outcome.
That said, at a macro level there are some very interesting and time honoured patterns to the market that can provide a fairly reliable starting point for this timing discussion.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the best time to sell is when nobody else is selling. This suggests then that November and December are the best months to list your home for sale. Over the past 10 years, these months averaged less than half the number of new listings than what the rest of the year averaged, meaning there is less competition. A good thing, right?
Well while this might work if you’re the only coffee shop in a town full of early morning commuters, it doesn’t necessarily translate to real estate.
There is obviously lots going on during the late part of the year that doesn’t involve shopping for homes. This is why traditionally the number of homes getting listed during these months is significantly lower - why bother if buyers aren’t buying. All that happens is you sit on the market getting stale. Plus with seasonal celebrations and gatherings it’s way harder to keep your home in a state of show-readiness (people and clutter-free) on the off-chance that a buyer wants to take a look.
However after a couple of months of winter hibernation (and Christmas shopping bill payments) there is a very distinct uptick in the real estate market. People return to being buyers and sellers in greater numbers than any other time of the year. Historically in EG, the period of March, April, and May has a significantly higher average monthly sales than the other 9 months of the year. (The only recent exception being 2020 when “something else” was monopolizing everybody’s attention in the early part of the year.)
So why do the Spring months attract so much activity compared to the rest of the year? It’s a combination of factors, some related to real estate and some not.
The changing of the seasons (and weather) may have something to do with it. With the snow melting, the flowers blooming, and the days feeling a little longer, people generally feel more excited to get out of the house, enjoy the sunshine, and become more active doing whatever it is they want or need to do. In a lot of cases this includes house shopping.
This weather change also makes it easier for both buyers and sellers. While a nice soft blanket of fresh powdery snow may be pretty, it actually just makes it more difficult for sellers and buyers: sellers have to spend more time and effort keeping driveways and pathways cleared and the area inside doors clean from the stuff dragged in on boots.
Furthermore, in our climate properties are much more aesthetically pleasing after the snow melts and the trees and plants return to their vibrant lush states. Not only that but it’s much easier for homeowners to repair or replace exterior elements of their homes so everything is at it’s shiny best for prospective buyers. And it’s amazing how much bigger driveways look once the snow piles disappear.
For sellers it’s all about curb appeal and first impressions, and they obviously benefit from being able to put their best foot forward.
Also, buyers benefit too. Snow covers outdoor areas and features making it difficult for buyers to truly get a feel for the home and property. Is the deck or patio in good repair? Are the roof shingles in good shape? And particularly relevant in rural areas like a lot of EG: getting access to things like wells and septic tank clean outs is hugely important. And obviously it’s preferable for buyers to see a pool actually up and running properly, instead of simply relying on the seller’s assurances.
For buyers, it’s all about purchasing with much more confidence because there’s far less chance of hidden surprises.
Another common, perhaps even significant, consideration for both buyers and sellers is their kids and the school year. A lot of families do not want to disrupt the school year by relocating part of the way through. Therefore the summer months become the most desirable time to move; kids can finish up the current year as is and then be settled in time to begin the new school year in September.
These families will therefore want to buy and/or sell during the March-April-May time frame since typically there is 2-3 months between when the deal is signed and moving day.
In short, there are a bunch of reasons for why both buyers and sellers are attracted to the Spring market. The historical EG sales results demonstrate that more competition, ie. more choice for buyers, does not necessarily translate to a disadvantage for sellers. If anything it shows that Spring is a good time for everybody who is active in the market meaning, in general, good outcomes can be achieved for all.