If you’ve been thinking about jumping into the housing market, but have been waiting for just the right time, there’s some good news. Early spring can be a great time to start shopping for your first or next home.
There are several different times of year that work well for different kinds of real estate buyers, but for a home buyer, early spring is the best of all things. Not only is the weather beautiful, and the evenings bright enough to really get a good look at a potential home after work, you may get a jump on the listings in your market if you start looking the moment spring has sprung.
“Buying a home in early spring allows homebuyers to take advantage of more available options and potentially better prices,” says Samantha Reeves, executive broker at Veterans United Realty in Columbia, Missouri. “It’s in the buyer’s advantage to enter the market before it heats up to beat all of the competition that tends to surface during summer months. Less competition in the spring could mean more choices, flexibility and room for negotiation.”
Having lots of homes to choose between is great, but there’s an added benefit to early spring buying: You may get the best snapshot of the condition of your potential future home right now. With spring bringing heavy rains to a lot of areas of the country, and the weather neither too hot to test the heat system, nor too cold to test the air conditioner, early spring is a really informative time of year.
“This year buying in early spring has an interesting benefit,” says Jamie Camp, a real estate agent at The Agency in Los Angeles. “Since we have had record-breaking rainfall and extreme weather all over the US, homes have been put to the test. How is the condition of the roof? Did it leak? Did water pool around the house, creating issues? Did a tree that was questionable withstand the wind and rain? Are the windows sealed properly? Homeowners are having to fix and update all issues that arise or disclose them to buyers. Homes are being put to the test and buyers are able to move in and not have to wait for winter to find out the little issues that could come up.”
Every market and every season is a little bit different, but there are patterns that tend to repeat over and over again as the Earth moves around the sun. Humans are creatures of habit, and the overall real estate market reflects that.
A lot of people enter the market later in the spring and throughout the summer, hoping to have that big move settled by the time their kids go back into school, but the early spring market is when sellers start getting ready for the floodgates to open.
“Home prices can be a bit lower for buyers very early in the spring, but they tend to ramp up quickly as the weather warms,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com in Washington, D.C. “If a spring home purchase is a must, buying on the earlier side can help.
“Home shoppers will also face additional competition in spring as other buyers are out en masse, and that means offers generally need to be stronger in order to be successful. But shoppers in the spring will also be in the market when the number of homes are ramping up rapidly as sellers list homes for sale, and that can mean you're there when early season gems hit the market. In other words, you're likely to see a strong set of homes to choose from.”
If you’re ready to buy a house this year and are considering jumping into the spring market, there will be a lot of things to consider. As you look at homes, be working on a list of things you do and don’t want in your house. It’s OK to have preferences, even in a tough market, but that might mean finding your home in an unexpected place.
“Buyers are showing optimism right now, and I encourage them to keep that mindset as they explore their options,” says Kerry Melcher, head of real estate at Opendoor in Tempe, Arizona. “I’d also advise them to consider locations that perhaps they might not have in the past. As an example, take a look at the commute: minutes to and minutes from work, school, friends or family. This might open up entirely new areas of your market than you’ve seen before. If typical commutes are a nonissue, consider shopping for location using your passions: proximity to mountain biking or to a regional softball complex, the lake, or great park system for you and your kids and/or dog.”
Once you do find the right house, you’ll know it, but you’ve also got to be ready to make an offer right away. Looking in early spring, before other buyers show up, is helpful, but so is having your budget already figured out and a mortgage approval in hand.
“To buy in the early spring market, a buyer should be prepared to act quickly,” says Hale. “The market doesn't move quite as fast as it does in the later spring, but there are still a fair amount of other shoppers out in the market. In order to act quickly, a spring shopper should have a firm understanding of their monthly budget and how mortgage rates will affect their price point.
“Getting preapproved for a mortgage before starting to shop will enable a buyer to quickly submit an offer on a home that's right, and this can help the offer stand out, especially for a seller who is hoping to turn around and buy a home later in the year.”