Conventional wisdom states that the very best time of year to sell a home is in the springtime -- but conventional wisdom doesn't apply to every home sale, or even every real estate market. If you're thinking about selling your home and you have some flexibility in terms of timing, then you'll want to carefully consider every season before you blindly decide to list your house in the spring just because some nationwide research indicates that spring is a good time to sell.
Although spring tends to be a popular time of year in general to list a home, the best timing for you is going to involve a number of factors and will also rely heavily on your real estate market. If you live in a region where summer is absurdly hot or humid, for example, then winter might make more sense -- especially in states like Arizona or Florida, where "snowbirds" come to visit or live in the winter months. Or if your home is in a winter resort town where skiing and other winter sports are popular, then winter might be the best time of year to list a property.
There are advantages and disadvantages to listing a home in any season, and they're going to differ slightly (or vastly) depending on where you live, but here are some general pros and cons to keep in mind when you're laying out a timeline for selling your house.
Advantages to selling in the spring
Your home might have better curb appeal
Between ultra-green grass and blooming flowers, the springtime can be especially kind to the curb appeal of your house, helping it look it's very best to potential buyers. And if you live in a climate with springtime showers, then you might not need to do much upkeep to keep that grass green and those flowers popping.
Homes will typically sell faster and for more money
In many markets, spring is the time of year when homes tend to fly off the shelves (so to speak) and sell for higher prices. This is a season when buyers with children are motivated to find a place and start the closing process so they can spend the summer getting settled, and even though there are usually more homes on the market in the springtime, there's a commensurate increase in buyers hoping to move, so some markets see more bidding wars and competition among buyers in the springtime.
Tax refunds are available to buyers
If buyers filed their taxes on time, then they will have those funds available in the springtime to play with -- whether they're using a tax return for a down payment or hoping to make some repair or renovations to the home they buy. That said, this can also work as a disadvantage if buyers in your market have to pay additional taxes instead of receiving a refund; they might not be as focused on home shopping when there are (big) bills to pay.
The weather is more conducive to looking at houses
After Daylight Savings starts, there's usually more time after work to go look at houses for buyers while the sun is still up, and warmer weather can also help inspire them to get out and shop for homes.
Moving is easier
Spring is one of the easier times of year to move a household, and buyers are definitely considering that when they figure out their own timelines for buying. Almost nobody wants to move when there is snow on the ground, so the more cooperative weather can be a benefit when the time comes to shlep boxes and furniture from one home to the next.
Buyers with kids can close after school lets out
Families who are hoping to buy tend to pick springtime as the best time to look at homes because they can get the closing process started in time to conclude just after the school year is over, which won't disrupt school for the kids and will also give them some time to get settled into their new abode before the school year starts anew.
More homes for sale in most markets means more people looking to buy
It's hard to say which came first -- the homes for sale or the buyers seeking a new place to live, but whatever the case, you'll tend to see more homes for sale and more buyers shopping in the springtime.
Disadvantages to selling in the spring
There's more competition
Increased housing inventory for sale can be both a blessing and a curse for sellers and buyers alike. Buyers who feel like they have a lot of choices might not be very interested in your house in particular -- especially if there are no standout features that make your home a must-see (or must-bid) item. Doing your best to play up any unique features of your home can help offset this disadvantage, but there might not be any!
Weather can be fickle
Depending on where you live, spring weather might not be all that gentle. Thunderstorms and heavy rain can put a literal damper on buyers' willingness to get out and look at homes for sale, and if you live in an area prone to hail, it can do a real number on your flowers (not to mention your roof).
Other events might make tours difficult
Spring tends to be a popular time of year for not only repairs and renovations, but also events clustered on a handful of weekends -- for example, Memorial Day cookouts or graduation parties. That can make it tough on sellers who are scheduling open houses and tours when the street parking is truncated by neighbors' activities.
Sellers with kids might have to move before school is out
With all the attention paid to buyers' needs, it's easy to overlook your own needs when it comes to moving after a home sale. If you have kids in school and your home happens to sell and close before the school year is out, that could mean a big, hairy session of moving your family out of your home while school is still in session -- and you'll have to figure out how you're going to facilitate the end of that school year for your kids, whether it means renting a house in the district while your kids finish up, or negotiating an early finish (and possibly some last-minute work for your kids) with teachers.
Advantages to selling in the summer
The weather is on your side
Days reach their peak length in this hemisphere in the summertime, which means buyers are going to have even more daylight hours to squeeze in home tours after work or on weekends. And in many parts of the country, there might be less precipitation in the summer than other times of the year, which means there's less of a chance that your open house will get rained out.
School is out
If your house is particularly family-friendly, selling in the summer can be advantageous because buyers don't have to deal with picking kids up from school; it's usually a lot easier for them to schedule home tours (with kids in tow) in the summer months than most other times of the year.
Buyers with kids will want to close ASAP
Another perk of selling in the summertime -- especially in an area with a lauded school district -- is that buyers with kids are going to want to close before the school year starts, which incentivizes them to make decisions quickly and possibly pay more for the right home for their families.
You can use the spring market data to price your home
It's never easy to price your house for sale; the process is a balancing act between pricing the house low enough to entice the largest possible pool of buyers and close relatively quickly, but also high enough that you feel confident you didn't leave tens of thousands of dollars on the table when you set a price. Because the springtime tends to be such a popular time of year to list homes, when you list your house in the summertime, you can use information from those spring sales to come up with the best possible price.
Disadvantages to selling in the summer
Competition is still fierce
Springtime might be the most popular time of year in most markets, but summertime is still a pretty active time of year for home sales, and you'll be facing the challenges that come with heavy competition, especially if your house doesn't particularly stand out from its peers.
Buyers might take vacation time instead of looking for homes
A lot of people like to travel and visit relatives in the summertime, so summertime is a prime time of year for distractions from shopping for a house -- vacations can definitely interfere with home sales timelines for both buyers and sellers.
More homes for sale and later hours mean more lookie-loos
Have you ever met someone who makes a hobby out of visiting open houses with absolutely no intention of buying? The longer days and warmer weather combined with the number of homes for sale all mean that the lookie-loos in your area might be crowding your open house, giving you that particular false sense of hope that comes with lots of visits but zero offers.
The weather might not work in your favor
Although summer tends to be one of the nicer times of the year in many markets, in some areas, the heat can be downright prohibitive for home shopping and sales. In parts of the country where people travel to access warmer weather in the wintertime, for example, summers can be brutally hot, and you might not have the best luck listing your home in June, July, or August.
Kids are out of school and you'll have to handle them
If you've got kids, then summertime can be a tough time of year to list a house because your kids are most likely out of school, and keeping your house ready to show to prospective buyers might be especially challenging. Also, you probably won't want your kids rambling around your yard or in the pool, if you have one, leaving toys and games strewn everywhere, so wrangling your young ones around home showings could give you a mild to moderate headache.
It might be harder to find high-quality help
Real estate agents tend to be busy in the spring and summertime, and summer is also a prime season for home renovations and repairs. So if you're counting on hiring help to get your house into sales shape and you want to use a real estate agent, it could be more difficult to find qualified, high-quality help in the summer than during other times of the year.
You'll have to keep the yard looking pristine
Maintaining curb appeal can be more difficult in the summer than in the springtime -- you might need to water your lawn more frequently to keep that grass looking green, for example, and if you live in a region where that's not a factor, then mowing the lawn regularly might be an issue for you.
Advantages to selling in the autumn
Serious buyers will be eager to close a deal before the holidays
There aren't as many buyers in the autumn as you'll find in the spring or summertime, but the good news is that the buyers who are looking for homes in the autumn tend to be pretty serious about locking down a place to live as soon as possible, especially if the holidays are looming.
There's less competition for high-quality help
Both real estate agents and general contractors are usually not nearly as busy in the fall as they are in the summertime or even the springtime, so if you need a major renovation done or want to make sure your agent is spending plenty of time working your home sale, autumn might be a good option for you.
Fall foliage can enhance curb appeal
In some parts of the country, fall can be a magical time of year when the full beauty of the variety of foliage in your yard is on complete display. If you live in an area known for the fall colors, consider listing your home during the time of year when you might be seeing lots of tourists come through town to peek at the leaves.
Disadvantages to selling in the autumn
Families might not be able to buy if kids are in school
When your home is particularly appealing to families, fall can be a tough time of year to sell. Most families with school-aged children are not going to be interested in moving at the beginning of the school year, so those buyers are going to be eliminated from the pool of possibilities.
You'll have to keep up with the foliage
Fall colors are beautiful, no doubt -- but they also don't last forever. In a matter of weeks, trees are bare and lawns are littered with leaves, so you've got a relatively small window of time when your home will be on peak autumnal display before it all starts to go downhill.
Once more, the weather
The autumn can be a mild time of year in some climates, but in other areas, snow might already be falling, and shorter, grayer days aren't always conducive to buyers getting out and shopping for homes.
Advantages to selling in the winter
Holiday lights can make your house shine
Almost nothing makes a house feel like home in the same way that perfectly placed holiday lights can accomplish. Hang some tasteful lights outside the house and you can perk up your curb appeal noticeably. (Obviously, this might not work as well in January or February.)
Snow can mask landscaping imperfections
Your mileage will vary according to how much snow you tend to get in the winter months, but if you have a patchy lawn or other landscaping eyesores that you want to hide, there's almost a no better way to mask them than by blanketing everything in a pristine swath of pure snow.
Serious buyers only!
There are fewer buyers in the wintertime than in the spring and summer -- or even the fall -- but those buyers tend to be seriously motivated to complete sales, especially if they're hoping to start a new job or beat the competition that emerges in the springtime.
Lower competition from other homes
With fewer homes on the market, your house has a better chance of standing out from the crowds, so listing in the wintertime can give you an edge if it tends to be a slower time of year in your area and if there aren't that many suitable houses available for the buyers who are incentivized to move right away.
Real estate agents will hustle for you
Lots of real estate agents experience their slowest time of year in the winter, and that means they'll have more time to spend marketing your house, and they might be more motivated to close a sale before the end of the year so they can add it to their annual roster of accomplishments.
Disadvantages to selling in the winter
The holidays can interfere
Whether or not you celebrate winter holidays, the fact remains that a lot of people to celebrate them, and that might be a big disadvantage; buyers will be distracted by the holidays and might not have as much time to devote to shopping for a house.
Fewer daylight hours and possible inclement weather
There's a lot less daylight in the wintertime than in the summer in most parts of the country, and if your area experiences snow, then these can be considerable deterrents to getting buyers out and about to see your home in particular. Plus, it'll be up to you to keep those driveways and outside pathways clear of snow if that's a factor in your market.
The moving process can be tough
Winter is arguably the very worst time of year to pack up and move a household from one property to another, between the holidays and the weather, and buyers who don't absolutely have to find a house right away will probably be more inclined to wait until spring as a result.
Renovations or repairs might be difficult
If your house requires a renovation in one room or even just a few smaller repairs, it can be difficult to book them in the wintertime, when it might be harder for contractors to physically travel to your home, transporting tools and materials with them.
Other factors to consider
Besides seasonality, there are a number of other factors you'll want to take into account before you decide when to list your house.
How is job growth?
It's better to list your home when jobs are growing in your market than when they tend to be declining. If a big company is opening an office close to your house, or a major employer just shut its doors, both of those events can have a big impact on how long your home could linger on the market and how much you might be able to get for the place.
What are mortgage rates doing?
After years of mortgage rates at near-historic lows, buyers are paying more attention when mortgage rates are rising (or falling). Depending on what mortgage rates are doing, this could be an advantage or disadvantage to you -- rising rates might prevent buyers from considering shopping right now, but they could also spur buyers to lock in their sale before rates get even higher, and falling rates can have similar either-or effects on buyer motivation.
Are your finances in order?
Just like buyers, sellers will want to make sure that they're in good financial shape before entering a home sales transaction. Will you be able to buy (or rent) a place after your house sells? Are you caught up on property taxes? It may be wise to make sure your financial picture looks as good as possible before listing, even if it means you might need to skip the "ideal" sales season in your area.
Is life throwing curveballs at you?
Divorce, death, job loss -- life isn't always full of good news, and sometimes an unforeseen event could mean that you need to get out of your house as quickly as possible. There's no shame in having to sell quickly, but it can definitely affect your ability to choose which season you want to list your home.
How quickly do you want (or need) to sell?
Maybe you've got all the time in the world to wait for the perfect offer to come along, or maybe you really need to make sure you're in your new home by a certain date. Whatever the case, your own timeline is just as important as any buyer's timeline, and if you know you're going to need to sell quickly, you should time your sale and price your home accordingly.