This is probably my No. 1 question that I get from all my clients – whether there is a perfect time to sell your house or a perfect time to buy in Austin.
I’m going to divide this topic into two blogs – this one is just going to focus on this question from the seller perspective.
The short answer is, unfortunately, unsatisfying: “It depends.” It depends on your home, its condition, your neighborhood, your personal financial circumstances and whether your timeline is flexible, and the market.
But here are some general guidelines for sellers IF you have the ability to pick and choose the time of year you want to sell.
Austin’s busy season is March-July
In the Austin market generally, the months in which we typically record the most number of sales and see the most amount of activity is between March and July. It’s a bell curve that looks like this:
Please note that the chart above reflects closed sales. So the January sales are really reflective of the number of homes that went under contract in December. Anecdotally, I notice buyer activity starts to pick up in January and hits a crescendo late June/early July before tapering off.
The reason we see so many sales in March through July is because buyers tend to be interested in looking this time of year. It’s when a lot of leases end. And parents like to time moves between school years. And I’ve found generally people moving here from elsewhere like to time their moves for summer. Nearly every out-of-state client I have had wants to move here over the summer for various reasons, despite my best efforts to convince them that our hellacious summers aren’t great for moving.
This spring buyer frenzy is a well-established trend that has been going on for decades and is known to sellers and their real estate agents. As a result, many sellers often wait all year to sell their homes in the spring to try and time it so they get multiple offers and drive up the price.
This strategy of waiting to list your home until that March-July time period makes sense for many segments of our market, particularly neighborhoods that attract a lot of families and have popular schools. I have seen homes pulled off the market in the fall that didn’t sell that sold quickly for the same asking price in the spring, with minimal changes.
I know what you’re thinking: Great, case closed. Sell my house in March-July. No need to read further!
Not so fast, buddy.
I understand that not everyone can perfectly time the sale of their home because of personal circumstances or job transfers and that is OK.
I don’t want to give the impression that listing your home any other time of the year is a disaster. It isn’t – Austin is still very much a seller’s market. All it means is that off-peak season your home might take longer to sell and you are less likely to experience multiple offers. And by “longer” I just mean that instead of selling the first weekend it’s on the market, it might take a month. Believe it or not, in other markets, homes ROUTINELY take two months to sell, and that’s considered good. We’ve been very spoiled in Austin.
And know that there are definitely certain neighborhoods and types of homes in which your home will sell virtually any time of year if priced competitively, or segments of our market that are just not seasonal.
The number of closed sales in downtown condos last year looks like this:
This graph is not the same bell curve you see in the other chart, and there isn’t as big of a difference between spring and fall. This is partly a reflection of lower inventory but also a reflection of the type of buyers purchasing downtown. These are sometimes second and third homes for people and they are not as concerned about things like school schedules when buying.
Downtown condos also typically take longer to sell than a single-family home as well, so timing the sale of your home for the exact right time of year isn’t as important. The median days on market for a downtown Austin condo is 54, according to Austin Board of Realtors MLS data.
If your property is a true fixer-upper, especially if it is in a relatively central location and priced well, it will sell quickly any time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, a random Wednesday afternoon in January, it simply doesn’t matter. Investors are looking 365/24/7 for properties to flip and similarly, developers are always looking for land to build homes on.
A great example of this is a Brentwood fixer-upper (see below), which was listed at $488,925 a few days after Thanksgiving in 2018. It went under contract the day it was listed and sold two days after Christmas. Particularly with central locations, there are always buyers circling.
If you own a fixer-upper, are you going to get more offers in the spring when both lots of regular buyers and investors are shopping? It’s definitely possible. But listing at other times of the year shouldn’t dramatically affect the time it takes you to sell or the price you get for your property. So if you aren’t able to time your sale for March-July, don’t sweat it.
Really popular neighborhoods
If your home is in a popular, centrally located neighborhood, and is priced competitively, it is going to sell. Any time of year. Period.
Here’s a good example of what I mean. This house on Nickerson (pictured below) is in Travis Heights and it oozes charm with wood floors and arched doorways. It’s walking distance to all the appealing shops and restaurants on SoCo. It appeals to both regular buyers AND investors.
It was put on the market in early January – not exactly the most sizzling time to sell generally in Austin – for $695,000. And it went under contract in two days and closed before the end of the month. I can’t disclose what it sold for, but let’s just say the sellers were probably very happy.
Oh, and one more thing
The biggest wrinkle in the whole “when to sell” decision has to do with your personal circumstances and whether you are also trying to buy in Austin around the time you’re trying to sell. Because a good time to sell is often a terrible time to buy. So sometimes you have to pick what’s more important to you: getting top dollar for your home, or buying at a favorable time when you won’t have to deal with multiple offers. I’ll get into this more in an upcoming blog post about when is a good time to buy. Stay tuned…