Is There a Best Time to Buy a House in California?
Early spring is traditionally the beginning of home shopping season in California. It’s often a period of optimism for would-be home buyers, since spring is when the highest number of homes for sale are newly listed. This is a great time for buyers most interested in finding the perfect home—but be aware that as a result, you’ll face the most competition. That means homes sell faster and for a higher premium than at any other point in the year. That optimism may turn to disappointment as spring turns to summer as fear of missing out on the newly listed homes leads many to pay more for a home than they otherwise may have wanted to.
This causes a bit of a problem. Should you purchase in the spring, when you have the largest number of choices? Or do you overlook selection in favor of less competition during other times of the year? Of course, not every new listing in spring will sell, you might be able to purchase for less than asking price. There’s almost as much overall for-sale inventory at the end of summer as there is during spring with the combination of new homes initially listed in summer and remaining unsold spring listings.
Pros and Cons of Spring Home Sales
If finding the most homes listed for sale in California all at once is what you’re looking for, spring is the time to shop and make an offer. March through May, one in four US homes listed sell above initial list price, which is higher than at any other point in the year. This pattern is consistent throughout the US market. Many real estate agents argue it’s better to buy a new home in the spring and summer when inventory is high, but there are benefits to waiting until the market dies down.
Competition that stresses buyers in spring returns to squeeze sellers in the summer. Concerned about back-to-school, colder temperatures, and holidays, factors that annually signal the end of the spring to summer home shopping season, sellers want to close the sale rather than re-listing and trying again next year. This leads many sellers to reduce asking prices in late summer and early fall in hopes of finally attracting a buyer.
Slower Times of the Year
The quietest time of year in the real estate market is mid-fall through mid-winter, with the four slowest months of the year in real estate being November through February. Between the colder temperatures and the holiday season, it’s easy to understand why this is the case. Buying or selling a home at this time can be difficult, yet real estate professionals are also more eager during the slower winter months. Being paid on commission, realtors and mortgage brokers are more dedicated to make each deal happen during this period of the year. They’ll also have more time and resources to spend on each individual sale.
The West Coast and the South don’t typically have harsh winters, so the winter months are a great time to buy a house in California. Housing inventory doesn’t drop in these locations like it can in other areas of the USA. Even though the decrease in listed homes is slight, it’s enough to motivate sellers to be more flexible on their prices, and will take offers seriously. Also, viewing homes is easier in these areas because no one is out in inches to feet of snow or freezing or below temperatures.
As the seasons change, so do real estate prices and inventory of listings to shop. You’ll need to decide what time is best for you. Should you avoid the seasonal flood of homebuyers, who can potentially price you out of your dream home with a bidding war—or wait until there’s a decrease in listings but you’re able to negotiate price easier and get a better deal? Work with your real estate agent and be patient—becoming a homeowner in California is a big step, and it may take months to find the right house for you and your family.