The conventional wisdom in real estate is that you should list a home early in the year to help it sell faster and at a higher price.
But just how early are we talking?
There’s no real consensus among real estate agents. Some of you probably advise sellers to list almost as soon as they put up their new calendar. Or maybe you tell them that it’s best to wait until the first weeks of spring. Some of you might even push it all the way to May, when summer’s just around the corner.
So, when it the perfect time to put a house on the market? And is it all just folksy wisdom or is there some real data behind it?
According to research by Zillow, it’s the realtors who advise holding off until late spring who are right.
Based on their data, homes that sell in the first half of May do the best. On average, they sell 18.5 days sooner and for about 1% higher (which can make a huge difference in areas with high housing prices).
So, in general, the stuff you hear about “listing earlier = better” is wrong. Sellers have better results putting their house for sale around mid-year.
Okay, so the data shows that an early May sale tends to be the best. But why is that?
It’s hard to tell for sure, but there are at least five factors that seem to have some influence.
The biggest effect seems to come from the weather. Unless they’re in a hurry, most people would rather avoid house hunting during the winter.
And who can blame them? Driving from listing to listing is trickier and more dangerous with snow and ice on the roads, and the colder temperatures make everyone want to stay indoors. But once the thick coats and heavy scarves finally come off, people are ready to start looking for homes again.
And there’s also the move itself. Many homebuyers would rather not move in the dead of winter or even in the first weeks of spring. Because they prefer moving when the weather is nice, they’ll aim to finalize a purchase closer to the end of the spring season.
Think about your own house. When does it look its best? If you wanted to charge someone an extra $4,000 for it, when would you show it to them?
When it’s half-buried in snow and when all the leaves have fallen off the trees in the backyard?
Or would you show them the house in late spring, when the sun is shining, the flower beds are blooming, and everything looks vibrant?
It’s easier to make a house look great in May, which means it’s more likely to sell and sell quickly.
Moves can be tough on kids. They’re leaving behind their friends and moving to a place that’s a lot less familiar.
To make it easier on them, many parents want to move when their kids are out of school. That way, they can start the school year with everyone else instead of being thrown in during the middle of the semester.
Earlier in the year, we’re all still recovering from the holidays. And not just from the heavy meals and pastries we ate – our bank accounts are still a bit drained from all the travel and gift-giving expenses.
Come May, many people’s finances don’t look so tight. Combine that with a tax refund and you’ve got a lot of buyers who might be comfortable spending a little more to get the house they want.
The market heats up in the spring and listings multiply quickly. With so many houses going on the market all at once, some homeowners try to game the system by listing during the winter or other off-peak months.
It’s true, there won’t be as many homes on the market during those months. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have an easier time selling or that you’ll get a good price on your home. There’s a simple reason for that: house listings might shrink, but the pool of homebuyers shrinks even more.
There are a whole lot of houses going up for sale in the spring, but because so many people do their house-hunting during that season, demand usually outpaces supply. All those buyers flooding the market at once makes housing seem scarce even if lots of homes are being put up for sale. That’s good news for sellers because it drives prices up and makes buyers act fast.
So, we know that it’s usually best to put a house up in early May. But on what day of the week should it get listed?
Buyers will want to see the home on a Saturday but listing on Saturday isn’t the best option. That’s because most people want to plan ahead, not look at listing on the same morning they’re going to see them.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give buyers a whole lot of time. Posting a listing on Friday gives buyers enough time to find it.
And this isn’t just guesswork; it’s backed up by the numbers. According to an analysis by Redfin, homes listed on Fridays are toured 19% more often and sell at a better price, too.
So, on average, homes that are listed on a Friday in early May sell faster and at a higher price.
But there’s a big caveat here: that nationwide average might not mean much in your local market.
I mentioned above that this was mostly driven by the weather, and that’s the key here. The weather patterns in your area will determine when people are interested in buying – not the calendar.
If you’re in Texas, for instance, winter might not be much of a deterrent for homebuyers. In fact, research by HomeLight found that mild-all-year-round San Diego doesn’t even have a significant peak season for sales – price and speed doesn’t change much month by month.
So, selling in May is a good rule of thumb, but be ready to bend or break it. Study your local market and look for trends. And if you don’t have enough data readily available, at least keep an eye on the weather.