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Timing isn't everything when selling a house, but it can make a huge difference in how fast and at what price your home sells.
Here are things to consider when deciding how to time a home sale.
The best time of year to sell a house
The traditional homebuying season begins in late spring and runs through the summer in most parts of the country. As temperatures rise, listings and sales heat up. That means in most areas you'll face more competition with other home sellers in the summer, but more prospective buyers will be out there shopping.
In typical years, homes generally sell for the highest prices in June and July and the lowest prices in January and February, according to a NerdWallet analysis of market trends in 50 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. The analysis looked at 2015 through 2019 data from Realtor.com.
There are exceptions, though, so it's important to understand your local market. For example, NerdWallet's analysis found that six metro areas bucked the trend of when home prices peaked. Home sale prices were highest in:
May in San Jose, California.
November in Raleigh, North Carolina.
December in Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, and Riverside, California.
Prices saw the steepest rise from the cheapest to the most expensive months in the most populous of the metros analyzed. Sale prices jumped 9% from January to June, on average, nationwide, according to NerdWallet's analysis, but leapt 13%, on average, in the largest metros.
Homes also sell quickest in the summer. NerdWallet found that homes spent an average of 76 days on the market in lowest-priced months, compared with 51 days in the most expensive months.
Is it a good time to sell a house now?
Yes, it's a great time to sell a house. Here are two big reasons why:
It's a seller's market
Homes sell faster and at higher prices when there are more buyers than homes for sale — known as a seller's market. This is the case across the country right now.
Of the existing homes sold in September 2021, 86% were on the market for less than a month, according to the National Association of Realtors. The typical time on the market was just 17 days, unchanged from the previous month and down from 21 days in September 2020, the association said.
The median existing home price was $352,800 in September, 13.3% higher than September 2020.
The downside, though, is you'll be on the other side of the deal if you want to purchase a home to replace the one you're selling. Finding an affordable home to buy is challenging now, due to rising prices and low inventory.
Low mortgage rates can help make homebuying more affordable. As a seller, that can benefit you in two ways:
Low rates may enable more people to buy, which could increase the pool of home shoppers interested in your property.
If you plan to buy another home, low mortgage rates will give you more buying power.
Although rates have started creeping up a bit, they are still low. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.03% in October, according to rates provided to NerdWallet by Zillow.
Is this the right time for you to sell a house?
The market and the time of year aren't the only things to consider when timing the sale of a house. You'll also want to factor in your finances and living situation as well as the condition and value of your current home.
» MORE: How to sell your house
Your home equity
Your equity is the market value of your home minus the balance on your home loan and any second mortgages. So if your property’s worth $250,000, and you owe a balance of $200,000, you have $50,000 in equity.
Ideally the property will sell for enough to pay off your mortgage and any related selling costs, and provide some cash to put toward moving and buying another home.
If you have little or no equity, it might be better to wait until your home increases in value, you pay down the mortgage, or both.
The cost of selling a house and moving
Although ideally it will result in a profit, selling a home costs money:
If you sell your house for a lot more than what’s owed on the mortgage, you may have plenty of money to pay these expenses from the sale proceeds. But if you think you'll come up short, it might be better to wait and save up before putting the house on the market. And you might also build equity as you pay down your mortgage.
Your home's condition
Take a fresh look at your house, and tackle any repair or sprucing-up projects before listing it. A real estate agent may be able to recommend value-adding updates based on what they know about your local market.
Here are some general guidelines:
Do what needs to be done to ensure the home is functional and in good repair.
Tackle any small projects that will increase curb appeal or provide a good return on investment when you sell the house.
Avoid taking on big projects just to make the house look the way you always wanted it to. You probably won't recoup all the costs of an expensive remodel when you sell, and the buyer might not share your taste.
Your life situation
Changing life circumstances may signal it's a good time to sell. Expanding your family could prompt the need for more space, or becoming an empty-nester might make a smaller home appealing. Or maybe you want to be closer to friends and family.
If your home and neighborhood no longer fit your needs, the time may be right to sell and find a place that complements your lifestyle and goals.