When Is the Best Time to Buy a Home?

The best time to buy a home is when the market is slow.

Feb 1, 2014 at 11:17AM


The best time to buy a home is when the market is slow. There are selling cycles within the year and over the long term. As of this writing, the final figures are not in but signs are that U.S. home sales last year were the best since 2008. In 2013, both home prices and mortgage interest rates started to rise, but it was still a seller's market because inventory was below normal. There is a cycle within the year too, and that is something savvy buyers can still exploit.

Real estate agents know that homes look best in spring when the flowers are blooming and the air is rich with the scent of promise. In fact, most US home sales occur between the months of April and July. Practical considerations are at work too. Most home buyers are families. The children can start a new school year in the fall, and naturally work their way into a group of fresh friends. It's easier to move that time of year when most states have weather no more severe than a rain storm.

Home sales & weather
When  conditions start to chill, home-buying slows. In the Snow Belt it's harder to get around to check out property. Homes don't look as good surrounded by dead landscaping and brown lawns. Some homes take on a ghostly tone ringed by naked trees sticking their spectral branches into the lowering sky. The number of home sales falls along with the leaves. Statistics are so skewed by the weather that the Census Bureau has come up with a formula called the X-11 Variant so that the financial markets don't panic when the precipitous drop off occurs. That's why you hear economists use the term "seasonally adjusted home sales ."

Both prices and inventory sag from November to January. According to the National Association of Realtors, 15 percent fewer homes are offered for sale in the winter compared to the summer. Sales drop to their lowest around the Winter solstice as both buyers and sellers are preoccupied with Christmas and Hanukkah. If you walk into real estate offices in winter you'll find more brokers eagerly attentive to your needs. It goes back to the law of supply and demand.You can save thousands of dollars on a home this time of year.

Timing deals with more than external factors, ultimately depends on you. Are you personally ready to take on a home? Speak with other family members and see if they are equipped to join you on your quest this time of year.

If you are financially and emotionally prepared, it makes sense to write a check list of what you need to assemble to get approval for a mortgage; order your credit reports; get your FICO score; assemble your pay stubs and bank statements; shop for the best mortgage rates; cobble together a down payment; meet with your choice of lender to learn where your monthly payments will fall, then pull out the real estate listings in your local Sunday paper with a deep cup of coffee and start the search. Happy house hunting.

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