The best time to buy a house depends on a lot of moving parts. Home prices, mortgage rates, your financial situation, economic conditions, and the inventory of homes on the market all factor into the equation when you’re trying to time your house hunt.
For example, while you’ll likely get the best bang for your buck if you close on a home in the fall or winter months, you might have a tougher time finding decent options during those seasons. The busier spring and summer months tend to offer more variety of homes for sale, but you’ll likely pay top dollar and face tougher competition.
When is the best time of year to buy a house?
The best time of year to buy a house depends heavily on your local housing market. However, recent research shows that buyers see the deepest price discounts, nationally, when they close in October and December.
Other factors that influence the best time of year to buy a home include the number of homes available and buyer demand, which both change with the seasons, affecting home prices. More buyers are more active in the spring, because families want to close on the purchase and move before school resumes.
With fewer people looking for houses in the fall and winter, though, there’s less competition. And that means you may snag a lower price or find sellers who are more willing to negotiate on other terms.
In a departure from past years, fall and, specifically, October, may be the best time to buy a house. Homebuyers who close on a home purchase in October see the lowest home-price premiums than the spring — 2.9% in October versus 11.5% in May, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate research firm. ATTOM’s analysis included 33 million single-family home and condo sales from 2013 to 2020.
By the time the leaves change and fall sets in, sellers who had hoped to sell during the busy spring and summer seasons may become more motivated to negotiate and close before the holidays. As a result, homebuyers may notice more price reductions on existing homes for sale, and they may have more success making a lower offer.
Winter is traditionally considered the slowest season for homebuying. People are busy celebrating the holidays, and colder, snowy weather in some parts of the country make home viewings more challenging. And because buyer traffic is lower in the winter, some sellers take their properties off the market and wait until the spring to ensure they’ll get a higher net price for their homes.
While there may be fewer homes to choose from during this season, there are also fewer buyers to compete with in the winter. And that means lower prices.
ATTOM found that closing days in December had the lowest price premiums of the year. If you happen to find a home you love in the winter and don’t mind house-hunting during the holidays, you might realize major savings at the closing table.
April showers bring May flowers as well as the frenzied spring homebuying season. Sellers know there’s more buying activity in the spring, so that’s when they put their homes on the market en masse. In 2021, the number of homes for sale in the United States went from 302,000 in January to 317,000 in April to 347,000 in June, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Higher inventory provides a greater selection of homes to buy.
From a pricing standpoint, you’ll tend to pay the highest price premiums in the spring, especially if you close in the month of May. Expect stiff competition from other buyers in the spring, potentially resulting in bidding wars and offers going well above asking price. Plus, homes tend to sell fastest in the spring, so you’ll have to act more quickly when you find “the one.”
If you want your family to be settled in your new home before fall semester starts, spring is the best season to buy a house. That gives you plenty of time to shop for a home, apply for a mortgage, close the deal, and move before your kids return to school.
By summer, the homebuying season typically slows a little but, depending on local market conditions, buyer demand may still be strong. Buyers who have an eye on the school calendar may have already signed contracts, so fewer people may be in the buying pool.
With lower numbers of homes available for sale across many parts of the country, sellers still command high prices in the summertime. After the month of May, June and July closings have the next-highest price premiums at 9% and 8.8%, respectively, according to ATTOM’s research.
During the summer, you can also see the home’s outdoor spaces in full bloom and assess how good the drainage is after a summer storm. With daylight lingering into the evening, you may also be able to do more house hunting after work rather than taking time off.
When is the best time to buy a house in this economy?
Several economic factors indicate when it’s a good time to buy a house. These factors include the supply of homes and what interest rates are doing.
Housing prices follow the law of supply and demand. When fewer homes are available, prices go up. If more homes are for sale than there are interested buyers, it’s a buyer’s market. With a large housing supply, sellers are more likely to accept an offer below asking price or provide other concessions to the buyer, such as helping with closing costs.
One important economic factor influencing the best time to buy a house is interest rates. If you buy a home when mortgage interest rates are low, you’ll save money compared to buying when rates are much higher. Those savings are reflected in your monthly payment and in the overall amount you pay for your mortgage.
Say you’re buying a $300,000 home with 20% down and taking out a $240,000 mortgage for 30 years. Your monthly payment would be $1,379 at a 3% interest rate, including an average amount for taxes and insurance. The payment would go up to $1,512 a month at 4% and $1,655 a month at 5%, again including average tax and insurance payments.
Over 30 years, the homeowner with the 5% mortgage rate would pay $99,360 more in interest than the owner with the 3% loan.
Is it the right time for me to buy a house?
Low interest rates or a plentiful supply of houses can make the housing market look tempting, but your personal situation also impacts whether it’s the right time to buy a house. Your finances, work situation, and lifestyle all affect when you should start looking for a house.
Buying a house is a big financial move, so make sure to get your finances in order before you start house hunting. That includes:
- Checking your credit score. You’ll get a better mortgage rate with a higher credit score, so it makes sense to try to improve it before you buy a house. You can check your credit score once each year at no cost by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Building up your savings. In addition to a down payment, you’ll need money to pay closing costs, moving costs, and possibly to buy new furniture or make home improvements.
Consider whether your job is stable. If you might be transferred soon or plan to apply for a job in a different place, buying now might not be a good idea. It takes time for a house to appreciate enough in value for you to recoup the costs of buying and selling a home.
Decide if homeownership suits your lifestyle. Are you willing to invest the time and money needed for home upkeep? Some people prefer to rent so they don’t have those responsibilities or extra expenses.
Ultimately, only you can decide when is the best time for you to buy a house. While seasonal and economic factors can affect home prices, you’ll have to decide when it’s the right move for you and your family.
If you’re ready to buy a home, talk to a local Finance of America Mortgage Advisor today to start the mortgage process.