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Is Fall The Best Time To Buy A House?

fall house hunting
If you’re serious about buying a home, fall might be the perfect time of year to make it happen. But it has a particular set of challenges too.

There’s a reason people love the fall. After months of oppressive summer heat and humidity, autumn is the welcome relief: cool, crisp air and those colorful oft-changing landscapes. Anything pumpkin-flavored is a bonus too.

But it’s not just the cool weather and football season that you should be excited about. “House hunting in the fall can be very successful,” says Patty Brockman, a licensed real estate broker at Windermere Stellar Real Estate in Portland, OR.

Whether you’re looking at homes for sale in Santa Fe, NM, or New York, NY, autumn can prove to be a great time to buy. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its challenges, though. Here are the ways in which buying a home this season can reward you with big dividends or prove to be somewhat difficult.

Pro: Sellers are serious

As in, serious about selling their homes this time of year. “Even though there typically is less inventory, the people that put their homes on the market this time of year are more serious about selling — otherwise they would wait until spring,” explains Brockman. “Motivated sellers equals more flexibility during negotiations. There is often less competition from other buyers because families don’t like to move in the middle of a school year, people’s lives are caught up in sports and holidays, and generally, there is a cocooning effect that takes place as the days grow colder and shorter.” All of that means buyers are at a huge advantage when house hunting in the fall.

Pro: Inventory is low

So while sellers are likely to be more motivated to sell, when it comes to the amount of homes on the market, it’s slim pickin’s this time of year. However, the upside to low inventory is this: “Since the supply of listings shrinks this time of year, it’s easier to narrow down the list of your top properties,” says Justin Udy, a real estate agent with Century 21 Everest Realty Group in Midvale, UT.

Con: Foul weather

The same way snow and sleet and freezing rain can wreak havoc on your flight to the Caribbean for New Year’s, it can also seriously impede your desire to get out of the car — let alone get out of your sweatpants to go house hunting in the first place. “Who really wants to slosh around in the rain all day, looking at houses?” asks Brockman.

Con: Daylight waning

That whole “fall back” premise can be a little speed bump in the house-hunting process. “Buyers are faced with having to get out early from work to see properties or only look on weekends in order to fully ‘see’ a property,” says Brockman. “If it’s dark out, how can you get a thorough look at the exterior of the property? The neighborhood? Before making the decision to write an offer, you will have to see it in the daylight, so this can mean multiple trips to the same properties. In a competitive market, you could lose your window of opportunity.”

Pro: There’s less competition

While the bulk of buyers rushed to get into their homes before the first day of school, you’re in luck as a small minority of buyers looking to purchase a home in the fall. “This means you have more time to look and the time necessary to properly negotiate a great deal in terms of price and terms that fit your needs,” explains Udy. “This also means you’re not up against as many multiple-offer situations.”

Con: There’s more competition

While locales such as New England and the Midwest see a dip in real estate activity come fall, other parts of the country such as Florida and Arizona where “snowbirds” flock during the cold winter months see an increase in potential buyers.

“Differences in activity levels between seasons are very area-specific,” says Alin Zdroba, president and managing broker of Propertio Real Estate in Hollywood, FL. “I can attest that in south Florida, such differences do not exist. While families go into a frenzy during the summer months, when schools are out and preparing for a new school year, October through April is our high season. Out-of-towners, or what we fondly call ‘snowbirds,’ pack our roads, restaurants, shops, and keep us, the ones in the real estate brokerage business, extremely busy during these months.”

Pro: Move-in dates are (likely) flexible

You probably won’t want to move on the eve of a holiday — or the day after. Which means that instead of having to negotiate a 30-day close, sellers are more likely to work with you on a doable time frame, says Udy. “It makes it easier to negotiate delayed closings or extended occupancy dates. Most people do not want to move during the winter and the holidays and are more flexible with dates and deadlines.”

Pro: Negotiating is easier

When a seller is motivated to sell, they’re more likely to negotiate a bit more with a buyer. “A homeowner listing their home during the fall and winter months is more than likely a very motivated seller on a timeline,” says Ross Anthony, a real estate agent with Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego. “Listing a home and complying with showing times, open houses, and everything else that comes along with it can be stressful year-round but is even more amplified during the holidays. Buyers can capitalize on this urgency and use it to their advantage during negotiations.”

Do you think the fall is the best time to buy a house? Share your experiences in the comments below!