The Best Time to Sell a House: A Comprehensive Guide

by | May 24, 2021 | Selling

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In real estate, timing is everything. When you’re selling your most important asset, it’s a good idea to think plan ahead based on both market and personal factors. If you have the luxury of choosing when to sell, you may be able to time the market to maximize your proceeds and minimize the time your home sits on the market. Generally speaking, listing data indicates that the best months to list your house for sale are February, March, and May.

Real Estate Market Conditions

The real estate market is complex, with a lot of different factors at play. Unlike many commodities, price and demand in the real estate market depends on a lot more than just supply.

Is your house in a desirable location? Have you done the work to maintain and improve it? Are the schools desirable? Is development in your city or neighborhood increasing property values? Every house is different, so your results may be different than your neighbors.

Remember, you only need one buyer for your home, so the quirks that may scare away some buyers will attract others. Ultimately, the best thing you can do to make the most of your sale is to work with an experienced agent who understands the complexities of the market.

When do homes sell for the highest price?

If you have total control over the timing of your sale, you likely have the luxury of maximizing price. Conventional wisdom says that the summer is the best time to sell your home, when there are the most buyers and it’s more convenient to move during warm weather.

However, the best timing to maximize your sale price may surprise you. Based on the 825 homes we have sold at Trelora since May 2020, the best time to maximize your sale price is May, followed closely by March. In our data, the average sale price is actually lowest in the heat of summer. The median home we’ve listed in May has ultimately sold for over $30,000 more than the median home listed in July or August.

Oddly enough, median prices in April are not as high as the month before or after. This speaks to the challenges of optimally timing the market. Many smart sellers list in April in order to try to maximize their proceeds, but because so many sellers list, inventory increases faster than the number of buyers, therefore decreasing the median sale price. If you want to sell for the highest price, your best bet is to list between January and June. Remember, typically May and March are your two safest bets. 

If you are unable to list in the first half of the year but still want to maximize your proceeds, check out the spike in median price in November, when there is a second peak in prices before year end.

When do homes sell fastest?

Time on market tells a similar story to pricing: spring is king. The single best month to list in terms of time on the market is February. Our listings have sold an average of 4 days faster when listed in February than any other month.

If you aren’t able to list in February, the rest of the spring is good too. March, April, May, and June all have below-average time on market, at least among our listings.

Homes tend to sell slowest in the late summer through early fall. A home listed in September or October will take an extra two weeks to sell compared to one listed in February. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re accommodating dozens of showings or even paying two mortgages, the cost of that time can be significant.

What’s the best day of the week to list my home?

Once you’ve decided the season is right to sell, it’s time to think about the best day of the week to list. At Trelora, we recommend listing on Wednesday or Thursday.

Most people buying and selling homes are busy during the week, so weekends are prime time for open houses and showings. Listing on Wednesday or Thursday gives buyers time to coordinate with their agent to schedule showings for the upcoming weekend. Going active too late in the week (Friday, Saturday, or Saturday) means many sellers won’t be able to see your home until the following weekend. Listing too early in the week (Monday or Tuesday) can inflate the all-important days-on-market for your house. If a house sits on the market too long, buyers can start to assume something is wrong with the house.

The data backs up this strategy. Homes listed on Wednesday sell for the highest price and in the shortest amount of time on average.

The day of the week you list can have a bigger impact that you might think. Our data shows that listing on a Tuesday extends time on market by a full week compared to listing a day later, from a 4-year average of 25 days to over 33 days. Less time on market means a faster close. It also means less time that you have to keep your house show-ready. This is especially challenging for sellers with pets and sellers with little kids. If you can control it, we strongly recommend listing on Wednesday or Thursday to minimize time on market.

How does the economy affect my home selling process?

The effects of macroeconomic conditions on your home sale can be hard to determine, and even harder to predict. But there are a few rules of thumb that may help you find a buyer:

  • Population growth: More people moving to a city means more potential buyers for your home.
  • Increasing home values: If home values are increasing, buyers are more likely to see buying a home as a sound investment. Zillow has a tool to help you evaluate how your city or neighborhood is faring here.
  • Low unemployment: A strong local job market means employers may need to relocate skilled workers in order to meet demand, meaning more people moving to your city.
  • Local development: That new coffee shop on the corner isn’t just a great place to get a latte, it’s also a sign that home values will increase in your neighborhood.
  • Limited new housing: If population growth is outpacing the rate of building, your home’s value will increase.
  • Low interest rates: When interest rates are low, buyers will have an easier time getting financing, so they’re more likely to buy.
  • Strong stock market: Many home buyers have investments in stocks and mutual funds. Increases in stocks can put them in a stronger position to put money down on a new home.
  • High rent: If the cost of renting is increasing, especially if it’s increasing faster than the cost of buying, more first-time buyers will choose to take the leap from renting to owning.

These factors will make it more competitive for buyers, which tends to increase your chances of a quick and profitable sale.

What are the worst times to sell?

The best season to sell may depend on a lot of factors, but there are a few weeks a year that it’s best to avoid.

Right before a major holiday like Christmas tends not to be the best time to list, since many potential buyers are traveling and spending time with family, not watching the market. This is part of the reason that homes listed in December tend to sell for less. On the flip side, you will have less competition as most sellers wait, but as a matter of convenience it’s best to avoid these weeks if you can.

Before you list, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the weather forecast. Unseasonable cold, rain, and snow all tend to reduce the number of showings as buyers choose to stay home rather than brave the elements. These weather anomalies can also impact how your home looks to those buyers who do show up — most homes look best in sunny weather, especially if your yard or view is a selling point.

When do you need to move?

It may seem obvious, but thinking through the timing of when you want to move, and (just as importantly) when you absolutely need to move can help you decide when to list. Even in a strong seller’s market like our backyard in Denver, you may need to budget more time than you think.

  • Getting ready: Get your ducks in a row before you list. Finish your list of home improvement projects, remove clutter, and get your home photo and showing-ready. The best agents can get you on the market within a week, but it’s stressful to be in a hurry. Plan ahead if you can.
  • List your house: This timing depends on market conditions, local competition, how well your agent prices and markets your home, and a number of other factors. It’s wise to think through best and worst-case scenarios. If you go under contract in the first week, are you prepared to move just 30 days after listing? Conversely, if your home sits on the market for weeks or even months, do you have the flexibility to be patient?
  • Under contract: The time between a mutually accepted contract and closing can vary based on the buyer’s financing and the third parties you choose for things like title, inspection, and appraisal. Most homes close within 30-45 days of going under contract: our average listing closes 37 days after going under contract.
  • Contingencies: It’s important to plan for contingencies. Even if your home goes Under Contract quickly, there is a reasonable possibility of the deal falling through. It may even be in your interest to let a deal fall through depending on what you learn during inspection and appraisal and whether the buyers’ asks are reasonable. Having a contract fall through can be a major setback, often costing several weeks. Hopefully, it won’t happen to you, but it’s a good idea to think through how your timing would work if it did.

Selling by Season: Pros and Cons

Spring/Summer

Pros

  • Sale prices are highest in the spring, so you’re likely to maximize your earnings.
  • Homes spend fewer days on the market, increasing your chances of a quick close.
  • Interested buyers are out in full force, increasing competition on your home.
  • Homes show well in warm weather with lots of sun and lush plant life.
  • Late Spring through Summer is the easiest time for most people to move due to school vacation and weather.

Cons

  • Spring is the most competitive time to buy, so if you are buying your next home you may have trouble.
  • Weather can be unpredictable, making it hard to know the best week to list.
  • If landscaping isn’t a strength of your home, you may need to spend more time and money to increase your curb appeal.
  • Prices tend to decrease in the summer after a peak in spring. However, this can vary if you are in a sellers market.

Fall/Winter

Pros

  • Many of the homes still on the market are the less-appealing ones that were listed in the summer. Thus it’s easier for your home to stand out.
  • Inventory tends to be lowest in the winter, meaning fewer homes to choose from. Lower supply can heighten demand for your home.
  • If you need to sell before the end of the year, it may be better to sell in the fall (especially November) than in the winter.
  • If your yard isn’t a selling point, you may actually benefit from snow cover leaving the yard to buyers’ imagination.

Cons

  • Average time on the market is highest in September and October. On average, it will take two weeks more to sell in the fall than in the Spring.
  • Prices tend to be lower in the fall than in the spring and summer, with fewer buyers and less competition.
  • Fall is a busy time for many families, especially those with kids, and they may not be as eager to move.
  • Holiday travel reduces the number of days when buyers are out in full force.
  • Cold and wet weather can hide some of your home’s strengths and make it harder to keep your home show-ready.

Is now a good time to sell your house?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Ultimately, there’s no one answer for every person, every home, or every neighborhood. But if you’re reading this in 2021 chances are very good that the answer is yes: now is a good time to sell your home.

More and more people are moving to desirable cities for job opportunities and higher quality of life. In the markets we serve (Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Raleigh, Phoenix, St. Louis and Charleston), demand for housing is at an all time high. Interest rates are very low by historical standards, which means it’s easy for buyers to borrow money to afford homes. Plus, inventory is low, meaning fewer homes for buyers to fight for.

If you aren’t sure whether it’s a good time to sell, Trelora’s agents are happy to help. Sign up for our mailing list to get monthly updates on the state of your market, including inventory levels, and median home prices.

Or, reach out to a Trelora agent to find out the best time to sell your home and we’ll help make sure you get the best offer for you!

Brady Miller, CFA is Chief Executive Officer at Trelora, Inc. Brady joined Trelora in August, 2018 as Chief Financial Officer. He moved into his current role later that year and is responsible for all daily operations and growth of the broader real estate business. Prior to joining Trelora, Brady was Chief Financial Officer of Leeds West Groups which is one of the largest, and fastest growing automotive retailers in America. Brady managed their real estate portfolio, financing, human resources, and accounting. He earned a Charted from the CFA Institute in 2016 and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder where he majored in Finance and Real Estate.

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