The spring homebuying season got off to a slow start this year with sales down 4.9 percent in March from the previous month. However, historically speaking, the peak selling period might be right around the corner.
According to a recent report by ATTOM Data Solutions that analyzed 28 million single-family homes over the course of eight years, there are certain months and even specific dates that offer the biggest premiums above market value for sellers. The top five dates to sell your home are still to come in May and June. On these dates, sellers make, on average, about 10.7 percent above market value.
Best dates for home sellers to snag top dollar:
May 24: 10.5 percent seller premium
May 31: 10.7 percent seller premium
June 20: 10.6 percent seller premium
June 21: 10.7 percent seller premium
June 28: 10.8 percent seller premium
(Source: ATTOM Data Solutions)
"Weather has a lot to do with the homebuying season. It all happens in cycles. Summer is popular because the kids are out of school and there's more time to shop for a house," says Chantal Von Wetter, sales consultant and real estate agent at Topanga Properties in California.
It's no surprise then that the worst dates for sellers happen in the colder months, closer to the holidays. October and December tied for last place, bringing sellers an average of just 3.3 percent above market value. However, in some markets, winter can be lucrative for sellers.
"Interestingly, different markets are hotter different times of the year. Ski towns sell more in winter. New York City is slow in the summer since people are at their country homes," says Martin Eiden, broker at the sports and entertainment division at Compass.
Should you wait for the off-season to buy?
During the height of buying season, people eager to get into a new home can expect to pay top dollar, says Von Wetter. More people are bidding on homes, so there's more competition. Her advice for thrifty homebuyers, who can afford to wait, is to keep a close eye on the market and watch for houses that aren't selling.
She points out that while people are preoccupied with the busy holiday season, house hunters should be looking at homes. Find a real estate agent who knows the market well and might be able to give you an inside tip on homeowners who want to sell before they list it.
Another strategy is to look for houses that linger on the market. Oftentimes, sellers will pull the listing, which might give you a chance to score a deal.
"If the house has gone on and off the market, people will usually take the home off the market during the holiday season, but you can potentially get it when it's not listed," Von Wetter points out.
When you compare the median sales price in June ($200,000) to the median price in December or October (both $188,000), waiting a few months could save you $12,000.
The downside is that waiting could also mean someone else gets your dream house and you must choose from less-desirable properties in terms of condition and location.
How to get your house ready for peak selling months
Real estate experts agree that a fresh coat of paint is essential before you put your house on the market. Choose a color that's neutral so that it appeals to a wide variety of buyers.
"Essentially, you want to do all things you were planning on doing the entire time you were in the house," says Von Wetter
This includes a deep cleaning and decluttering. The most common mistake home sellers make is that they leave too many personal belongings out.
"I had a seller leave every closet in the property so full that if you opened any closet to look inside everything fell out. Sellers must empty their closets," says Noemi Bitterman, a real estate agent at Warburg Realty. "Some personal photos are okay (one or two), but not 10 to 15 personal photographs on every possible surface. A property should look as neutral as possible when it's for sale. I recall one time seeing bathrobes hung behind every single door in an apartment, it was so distracting."
Sellers can also improve the look of their space without spending a fortune by changing their light bulbs to bright, white bulbs. Small replacements and new decor can also go a long way, says Bitterman.
"Make sure the blinds are clean or replace them. Buy some flowers or plants," she adds.
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