June 21 marked the first day of summer. But to Realtors, only one season matters: home-buying season, which occurs annually from March to September. Seasonality presents important implications for buyers and sellers, and is naturally most pronounced in markets with seasonal change. But other factors like the school year and expiring leases have a lot to do with home-buying season as well.
"Most buyers don't want to move in the middle of a snowstorm, and most sellers realize their house will show better when buyers can see the beautiful flowers, the landscaped lawn," says Matt Phipps, a Realtor at Phipps Real Estate in Warwick, R.I. "A new roof will show really well from a curb-appeal standpoint in spring or summer compared with having snow covering it." Online home search data supports observable evidence of seasonality. Nationally, online real estate searches pick up in January, peak in March and April, dip in May, peak again in June and July, then slow to a low in December, according to home search and information website Trulia.com in San Francisco. Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko says search activity swings with the seasons in every state. "If it's too cold or wet to check out open houses, people search less online. In general, people search more online when it's warm and dry outside," he says.
School calendars and winter holidays are also factors. Parents of young children typically prefer to relocate during the summer. Likewise, sellers typically don't choose to list their homes between Thanksgiving and New Year's, unless they have a pressing need to move at that specific time, Phipps says.
Apartment leases that expire during the spring or summer also contribute to seasonality, says Justin Lopatin, vice president of mortgage lending at PERL Mortgage in Chicago. "Typically, people are ready to move because a previous lease is ending, and they want to time it up," Lopatin says. "Renters need to make a decision: Am I renewing? Am I moving or am I buying? People are revisiting their housing scenario."
Use seasonality to your advantage
Homebuyers can use seasonality to their advantage by looking for a home during the home-buying season to get a larger, more realistic picture of the homes for sale. "Builders don't want to finish a property in December," Lopatin says. "They want to finish it and get it ready to sell in April, May or June so they're marketing to the masses."