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Time to Sell?

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Posted On: 11/30/2016

Question: We’re thinking of selling our home but are very concerned about timing. We know that large numbers of home sales take place in the summer, but does it matter if we sell at other times of the year when there might be fewer competing homes on the market?

Answer: In many markets summer is the time when home sales soar, in large measure because parents want to get their children established in a new neighborhood before the start of the next school year. That said, large numbers of sales take place year-round but there is evidence that selling in slow seasons can cost owners big money.

Prices generally are highest in summer, fall in autumn, are at their lowest in the winter and begin to rise in the spring. The differences can be substantial: A study of 50 cities by NerdWallet found that “home listing prices don’t fall dramatically once summer ends -- they only decrease less than half a percent in the fall. But sale prices take a noticeable dip. In the 50 metro areas, home sale prices dropped 2.96 percent on average – that’s a drop of $8,300 on the median home – from summer (June through August) to fall (September through November).”

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Why?

First, home listing prices and home selling prices are different. Buyers are more likely to have their way during periods when sale volumes slow even though asking prices are fairly level. Second, sellers can benefit by timing their sales and marketing.

However, such general trends may not apply everywhere. If the local tourist season is in the dead of winter because you live in a ski resort then home prices might peak during toward the end of the year. Ditto for southern shores when weary and cold northerners come to town seeking warmth.

Third, the NerdWallet study involved 50 cities but it is possible that result might be different in other locations.

If we accept that the price for one house can vary depending on when the home is offered it follows that owners should try to engineer their marketing to produce the best possible result. For instance, complete repairs and improvements before the home is placed on the market. Landscape so the property shows best during the hottest selling period. Work with a local broker to time your listing.

Of course, for buyers the view is different. Maybe you really want to buy in the off-season. If you have children in school, perhaps buy in the spring but delay closing as much as possible, say 60 days instead of 45. If your area is about to be hit with a blizzard, great – as safety permits that might be a terrific time to see houses.

Don’t forget the market is always in flux and there are always exceptions to the general rules. If you have to sell against the local calendar try to off-set a slower market by offering more buyer inducements such as a credit toward closing costs to reduce buyer cash needs. And if you have a truly unique house, the one everyone wants, then maybe timing won’t matter, you’ll have purchasers fighting for the property regardless of when you want to sell.

Peter G. Miller is author of "The Common-Sense Mortgage," (Kindle 2016). Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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