Like the answer to so many questions, it depends.
Generally speaking (very generally!), one of the broad ways we can categorize real estate markets is 1. Seasonal towns and 2. Non-Seasonal towns. By that, we mean, towns that attract a lot of visitors at a particular time of year versus those that either don’t attract many visitors at all or attract them year round.
For example, Phoenix is a “seasonal” town. Canadian snowbirds flock to the area during the winter and spring months, and baseball fans converge on the town for spring training games during March. Once the searing summer temperatures kick in, those who can get out of town, do.
Lake Tahoe, on the other hand, is a “non-seasonal” town. Hosting skiers in the winter; folks escaping the heat in the summer; and gamblers and entertainment seekers all the time, Lake Tahoe is popular throughout the year.
Then there are hundreds of towns that aren’t on many tourists’ lists. These non-seasonal communities do not see much fluctuation in population.
The best time to buy depends on which type of market you are buying in.
In a vacation market, the best time to buy is a month or so after the end of the season.
For instance, if you want to buy in Phoenix, you’ll be competing against fewer buyers in June when temperatures are topping 100 degrees, than you would be in April when the town is jamming.
Sellers know there are fewer buyers interested in purchasing in the off season and, more important, it’s a long time before the next season. So, if you’re in the market for a home at the beginning of the “slow” time, you are in the most advantageous position to negotiate more favorable terms.
In a non-seasonal market, the best time to buy is likely mid-October. That’s because people are distracted by the long string of holidays (Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Day.) As a result, you benefit from…
- Fewer competing buyers. It’s more likely your offer will be the only one on the table and less likely that you will find yourself in a bidding war.
- Anxious sellers. Sellers know the odds of receiving an offer this time of year are not as high, so when one is presented – even if it’s not as attractive as they were hoping for, sellers are more likely to give it due consideration.
- Moving companies are in their “slow time” of year, which means you may be able to negotiate savings that may not be available at busier times of the year.
The benefits of off-peak and holiday periods may not be as significant when purchasing in a “hot” market, where low inventories can push buyers to purchase at times they may have been less open to in other years.
However, if you have the flexibility, you may find your willingness to be in the market when most people are not will give you a bit of leverage when you negotiate on your next home.