When Is the Best Time to Sell Your House?

Photo to accompany story about the best time to sell your home. Getty Images

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An old rule of thumb in real estate is to wait until the flowers start blooming to put a house on the market. 

There are sound reasons behind that. Spring is the time of the year when people are getting their tax refunds, the weather is ideal for going out to look at properties, and summer break is coming up for the kids, making a move easier.

But that’s not what has happened this year: the uptick in home sales is defying normal seasonality trends. 

Spurred by interest rates at record lows, home sales this fall far outpaced last year’s numbers, according to data from the National Association of Realtors showing that contract signings rose 20.2% in October over the past year.

Homes for sale are scarce, and with demand so strong, prices are high. That’s good news for sellers. 

“In 2020, because we have such a low inventory, we never really had a rush for spring and houses have been slow to come on the market,” says Miranda Biedenharn, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Alliance Realty in Dayton, Ohio. 

That means you don’t need to wait for the “best” time to sell your house. If you’re thinking about selling your home, go ahead and list it, says Biedenharn.

In the current market, you can expect your home to sell fairly quickly for the asking price, possibly above, and you’re more likely to receive multiple offers. 

“We have way more buyers than we have sellers at the moment,” says Carol Ann Reed, a real estate agent with Realty Group in Minnesota. “I have seen the traffic tick down a little bit in October and November, but not a lot. Right now, I would say to a seller, ‘put your house on the market,’ even with winter approaching.”

When Is the Best Time to Sell?

“Spring and summer are always hot times to sell,” Biedenharn says, but where you live and local market conditions also heavily influence the best time to list your house. Factors out of your control include local job growth, mortgage interest rates, tax incentives, and neighborhood inventory. 

All in all, the ideal time to put your house on the market can be really specific to your location. For example, winter tends to be the slowest season for home sales, but if your climate is warm year-round, your window for selling may extend to off-season months.

“I’m from Minnesota, so moving in February is not a good idea. The spring is really when the market gets moving, especially in the north,” says Reed. “But it’s not the same in every market.”

That’s why it’s helpful to work with a real estate agent who’s an expert in your local area and can help market your home to potential buyers, as well as price your home competitively. Almost nine out of 10 of sellers work with an agent to sell their homes, according to recent NAR data.

“There’s always motivated buyers out there, so whenever you’re ready is the best time,” says Biedenharn. 

Why Covid-19 Hasn’t Tanked the Housing Market

Seasonality isn’t the only element to keep in mind when deciding when’s the right time to sell your house. It’s also important to consider the current conditions of the market.

Experts including Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former adviser to the president of the Dallas Fed, predicted a housing crash earlier this year because of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and massive job losses across the nation. But the opposite happened.

U.S. home prices rose 7.8% from the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2020, the fastest year-over-year climb since 2006, according to a report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency

The increase has been spurred by several factors. People working at home due to the pandemic, foreseeing they would not return to offices, have sought larger home-office spaces, often by moving to bigger houses. Low mortgage rates have enticed people to buy, while the inventory of homes for sale has remained low. 

And this will likely be the case through 2021 as well, says Reed.

That means people looking to sell their house are going to have it good for some time, if the current conditions hold. According to a 2020 National Association of Realtors study, homes sold for an average of $66,000 more than the purchase price, up from $60,000 last year. 

“There are lots of buyers out there eagerly seeking a house that they haven’t been able to find one yet. At this point, sellers can sell all the way through the winter,” says Reed, “and the Federal Reserve has said they’re going to keep interest rates low, so I think the market is going to keep cooking like this for a while, at least for the next year.”