Is it really better to list a home in the spring?
If home sellers are worried that listing their house in the winter will leave them out in the cold, they can take heart. An analysis by Redfin of housing data for 7 million homes listed across 23 metros from 2012 through August 2016 shows some benefits to listing in the winter.
Even if all real estate is local, many consider spring and summer as popular times for the housing market, with families who want to move between school years and the potentially sunnier weather encouraging some to house hunt. But does that mean a homeowner could more quickly fetch a higher price from eager bidders?
The national real estate brokerage tallied how many homes went under contract within 30 days and how often they sold for more than their list price to see if any of the four seasons came out on top. The company found that spring has a slight edge for sellers, “but just barely.”
“Spring offered the highest likelihood of selling above list price and of selling within 30 days, but winter, the supposed slow season for real estate, was a close second,” says the Redfin report.
Qiang Cai, a Fannie Mae senior economist, pointed out that Redfin’s report is unique in a few ways. First, the Redfin report analyzes home sales and prices from the “time of list” perspective, which can provide new insights on the dynamics of housing market. Since the more common housing statistics like home sales and prices are recorded by the “time of sale” instead.
Second, the 23 metropolitan areas Redfin used show a disproportionately high number of coastal areas and California cities, which might not be representative of the entire U.S. housing market.
The time lag between the listing and sale of a home and the geographically concentrated sample of metropolitan areas Redfin used might explain why Redfin finds winter the second best season for listing (after spring).
While national level housing statistics show the first quarter (January, February, and March) is always the lowest quarter for sales volume and price appreciation, the second quarter is the highest. It’s likely a significant portion of homes listed in the winter (first quarter) sell in the second quarter, Cai says.
In Redfin’s analysis, 18.7 percent of the spring listings were above asking price, followed by winter’s 17.5 percent. And 48 percent of homes listed in the spring sold within 30 days, compared to the 46.2 percent of homes listed in the winter.
One of the benefits for sellers with a winter listing is less competition, according to Redfin, which noted that the highest percentage of all the homes it analyzed were listed in the spring at 32.6 percent, followed by summer (26.7 percent), winter (23.7 percent), then fall (17 percent).
A 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economics Research suggests that warm weather may have a positive impact on the signing of a home sales contract if the home has a swimming pool and central air. The authors of that study hypothesize that those features add higher value to the home if it goes under contract in the summer, compared to the winter.
Read more: How weather affects home buying and selling
“Typically, sellers assume snow and inclement weather in January and February are major barriers to winter home shopping,” Redfin’s report states. “However, while winter storms can cause a delay or two, most cities known for snow also have effective plowing systems and residents who are comfortable tromping around in winter boots.”