There’s no shortage of advice online about the best time to list, and it all goes something like this: The majority of home sales occur when the weather heats up, and homes sold during this time of year tend to attract high prices. Conventional wisdom tells us it’s best to list early in the year. That way, you’re sure to benefit from the June peak in sales, and the premium pricing during the summer months as well. List too late, we’re warned, and you could miss this warm weather bump.
At first blush, this conventional wisdom seems particularly wise. After all, there’s one thing that all homeowners looking to sell have in common — they want to do so as quickly as possible, and for as much money as possible. Listing early, in theory, means more buyers looking to buy, and therefore a better chance of closing faster and for a good price.
But when you stop and think about it, this advice is rather imprecise — almost unhelpfully so. “Early in the year” could mean January 1, or April 30, or any date in between.
Until recently, there was simply no way to crunch the numbers to determine the most advantageous moment for homeowners to put their property on the market. This isn’t because economists hadn’t figured out the right method of analysis. Rather, economists hadn’t had access to all the relevant data.
- When are buyers looking to buy?
- When are sellers looking to sell?
- When are these listings and sales taking place?
- Did the sale under-perform or over-perform?
For the first time, the answers to all these questions exist in the same place, readily available to consumers, and we can finally answer that simple question on every home seller’s mind, the one that no one has been able to precisely answer until now:
When exactly should I list?
When prospective buyers start contacting agents, it is a clear indication they are getting serious about house-hunting. Sure enough, analyzing The Cascade Team, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and other real estate sites web traffic, we can see that spike in agent inquiries translate into actual home sales. Typically after the normal April spike in agent contacts, sales reach their highest levels nationwide just nine weeks later, at the end of June.
And in the greater Seattle area we are experiencing exactly such a spike in contacts and traffic now! In fact web traffic has spiked over 300% just on The Cascade Team alone as Sellers prepare to sell and buyers becomes even more desperate with the current lack of inventory.
Currently home sellers and buyers are complaining equally about the current market’s low inventory. Sellers are frustrated when they cannot find another home to match their current needs, or when a home goes off market so fast that the option of a contingent sale is not even considered and for Buyers that mood has escalated into a panic as other buyers up the ante – at times to a level that even causes real estate professionals to shake their heads.
The conventional wisdom that sellers should list early in the year is spot-on. But what does “early” mean? Is there such a thing as too early? Is there a sweet spot for listing your home so that it has the best chance of selling fast and for more money? Is there a measurable impact if you list before or after the peak?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Our analysis shows that listing too early or too late does result in more time on the market and a lower sale price. There is a sweet spot when sellers should list, and hitting it can pay off to the tune of thousands of dollars.
But the data gives us more than just an interesting picture of supply and demand. It also tells us how long it takes every single listing to sell, how the sale price of each listing compares to the estimated home value at the time it was listed, and what kind of homes are on the market at any given time. That means we can pinpoint not just the season, but also the exact weeks when it’s most opportune for sellers to list their homes.
Our analysis of the data shows that homes listing in the last weeks of March will sell the fastest and for the most money! These “magic weeks” come just before the peak in agent contacts and just after the peak in newly listed homes. Our analysis showed that these high-performing, late-March and early April listings didn’t get lost in the sea of other new listings. Just the opposite; “Sellers that have come to market ahead of the traditional spring market are reaping the benefits of less competition [from others who are selling] and a highly competitive buyer pool.”
Home sellers are benefitting from the perfect storm of market conditions, but as the ongoing low inventory levels and precipitous drop in pending sales indicate, there simply are not enough homes to meet the demand of buyers. All of this is pushing up home prices faster than anywhere else in the country and will continue to do so if we don’t see more homes come on the market this spring.
Therefore selling a home is a seller's market is far different from selling a home in a buyer's market. If you are wondering about our current market, then let me assure you: It is indeed a fabulous time to sell! Not only will your "days on market" be remarkably fewer in a sellers’ market, but you might receive multiple offers, which could drive up the sales price.
It's generally a good idea to take advantage of pent-up demand because it's the demand that drives competition. The larger number of buyers for your home ought to increase the odds you'll make more money. Some homes, especially those referred to as unique homes, meaning homes that can be difficult to sell in any real estate market, will generally stand a better chance of selling in a seller's market as well.
While you can’t perfectly predict these moments of opportunity, you can detect them. At the beginning of the home sales season, keep your eye on new listings in the neighborhood where you’re selling your home. Monitor them as they ramp up and, most importantly, take note when they begin to slow down.