For clients who are starting their house hunt in December or January, we recommend they focus and try to find a good house quickly. That strategy may save them between 5% to 10% on their purchase price. There is a caveat though. From 2013 through 2017, median house prices for sales closed between January and June are higher than median prices for comparable houses closed over the year as a whole. That is, the prices of homes closing from July to December actually dropped. This phenomenon brought the median prices down for the year when compared to January to June prices.
Average Price Increases
If we look at the average price increases for mid-sized homes from 2013 through 2017, for example, full year data shows an average price increase of 8.7% year on year. But if we drop the sales data from the second half of each year, comparing median prices only for the January/June period to the median prices for the prior year, that 8.7% increase turns into an average of 9.4%. This happens with small houses and with condos/townhomes as well. For small houses, full year median prices average a 9.4% increase from 2013 through 2017, while January to June prices show an 11.3% increase over the prior year.
For condos and townhomes, full year data show a 10.2% increase year on year, where the January to June increase comes in at 12.5%. Fall prices actually drop 2-4% over spring prices to produce these lower prices for the year as a whole, even though they are still substantially higher than prices for the prior year.
Real World Experience
While surprising, these data make sense to anyone who's been trying to buy a home in our area since 2013. In the spring, buyers in the lower half of our market are typically competing against 5-15 other offers any time they attempt to buy a listed home. In the fall, we typically have either no competition when we submit offers, or we're competing against 1 or 2 other buyers. This removes the pressure to submit offers that are 10K-25K over list price, and in some cases, even allows buyers successfully submit offers that are below the asking price. This also means that listing agents and sellers get less aggressive with their initial asking price. The outcome is a drop in market prices relative to spring pricing.