Best & Worst Time to Buy a House: Month-by-Month Analysis

The United States housing market has rebounded from the 2008 crash. If you bought a property at the lowest point of the recession and still own it, your asset has likely appreciated by 25% or more. The housing market is predicted to decline in 2020, so what is the best month to buy a house?

To help you decide, we compiled historical national housing data from the Federal Reserve, Census Bureau, National Association of Realtors (NAR), and Zillow. We then determined the best and worst time to get a deal on a house. We also discuss other factors that buyers may want to consider when timing their purchase, such as the number of homes on the market.

Best & Worst Months to Buy a Home

The real estate experts we talked with said price was the main determinant when deciding what is the best month to buy a house. Buyers can refer to this table to see which months had the lowest prices and days on the market. While we used seasonally adjusted annual historical data, looking back showed similar trends for both the best month to buy a house and the best time of year to buy a house.

Historical Data on the Best and Worst Month to Buy a House

Month

Existing US Homes

Sales Seasonally-Adjusted Annual Rate

Median Sales
Price at Closing

Median Days on
Market

1. July 2018

5.39 million

$327,500

59

2. August 2018

5.35 million

$321,400

61

3. September 2018

5.18 million

$328,300

65

4. October 2018

5.22 million

$328,300

68

5. November 2018

5.1 million

$308,500

71

6. December 2018

5.0 million

$329,700

80

7. Janunary 2019

4.93 million

$305,400

87

8. February 2019

5.48 million

$320,800

83

9. March 2019

5.21 million

$310,600

65

10. April 2019

5.21 million

$337,200

58

11. May 2019

5.36 million

$303,500

54

12. June 2019

5.27 million

$310,400

50

Sources: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and U.S. Census Bureau

Best Month to Buy a Home: January

Our analysis shows that January is the best month to buy a home for price-sensitive shoppers. In January, median sales prices of homes are typically low, and properties have been on the market for around 90 days on average. Fewer people purchase homes in January, meaning less competition.

The longer a home is on the market, the more room buyers have to negotiate a lower price and potentially avoid a bidding war. Although home sales prices in January 2019 are not lower than in May 2019, fewer homes selling and properties sitting on the market for longer mean January is overall the better month to buy a home.

Worst Month to Buy a Home: April

The transition between spring and summer is the worst time to buy a home. Early spring, particularly in April, comes in at the bottom of our ranking. Houses closing in April sell quickly and with a lot of competition, driving up prices. With a lot of new inventory coming on the market, buyers don’t have a lot of room to negotiate on prices.

The short time on the market, more competition, steeper median sales prices, and a higher percentage of homes selling make April the worst month to buy a house. Overall, price-sensitive shoppers may do well to sit this month out.

Other Factors Than Price for Buyers to Consider

While many people consider price as their top priority when shopping for a home, some buyers are willing to spend more to get their ideal property. For those buyers, the amount of available housing inventory matters more.

Spring and summer months usually bring the highest numbers of new homes to the market. A shopper with more houses to choose from has a better chance of finding his or her ideal property in June and July when new listings peak with a total inventory of 1.92 million to 1.93 million homes for sale. However, don’t hesitate to make an offer if you find an ideal property since homes sell fastest at this time.

Inventory is the lowest by the end of the year. December is the time when most homes have already sold or sellers take them off the market during the holidays, planning to list them again in the spring. Total inventory drops to its lowest at 1.53 million, and new listings are also at the lowest point of the year. You might struggle to find your ideal property if you shop in December.

Historical Data: U.S. New Listings & Inventory

Month

New Listings

Total Inventory of Homes

Percent Monthly Inventory Increase

1. July 2018

313,000

1.92 million

Starting inventory

2. August 2018

322,000

1.91 million

0.52% decrease

3. September 2018

326,000

1.88 million

1.58% decrease

4. October 2018

335,000

1.85 million

1.6% decrease

5. November 2018

341,000

1.74 million

6.12% decrease

6. December 2018

348,000

1.53 million

12.84% decrease

7. January 2019

349,000

1.59 million

3.84% increase

8. February 2019

340,000

1.63 million

2.48% increase

9. March 2019

331,000

1.67 million

2.42% increase

10. April 2019

328,000

1.83 million

9.14% increase

11. May 2019

332,000

1.91 million

4.28% increase

12. June 2019

336,000

1.93 million

1.04% increase

Source: YCharts

Looking at the two tables, you may see a discrepancy in the U.S. existing home sales and the total inventory. Total inventory is based on a month-by-month analysis. U.S. existing home sales are based on a seasonally adjusted annual rate. Adjusted data makes neighboring months easier to compare and to see seasonal movements in the direction of the U.S. existing home sales.

For example, April 2019 existing U.S. home sales of 5.21 million is in comparison to April 2018 annual U.S. existing home sales, covering a 12 month period, but also providing a snapshot of a percentage of change. April 2018 had 5.43 million existing home sales, showing a 4.13% decrease in sales between the two months.

Data Sources

The five primary data sources we used for this article are median sales price, median days on market, existing U.S. home sales (seasonally adjusted annual rate), new listings, and total home inventory.

1. Median Sales Price

To measure monthly median sales price, we tracked the median sales price of homes for each month from July 2018 to June 2019. We relied on historical data provided by the Census Bureau. Because buyers are often price-sensitive, months with lower median selling prices received higher rankings in our study.

2. Median Days on Market

Months where homes take longer to sell received higher rankings because buyers have more room to negotiate and get a better deal at those times of the year. For this factor, we looked at the median days on market of listed homes for each month from available data between July 2018 and June 2019. We sourced data from the NAR.

3. Existing U.S. Home Sales (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate)

Months where a larger percentage of homes sold represented greater competition among buyers and received lower rankings in our list. We used seasonally adjusted annual data provided by Zillow, the leading real estate and rental marketplace. Zillow relied on listing and price data for the date-range of our research and revealed the percentages of homes selling per month for that 12-month period.

4. New Listings

New listings are the number of new homes that become available on the market each month. Here, we relied on data provided by Realtor.com, the official website of NAR. The site offers listings and vital real estate related data from more than 40 million users each month. For this metric, we used each month’s new listing count from July 2018 to June 2019.

5. Total Home Inventory

Total inventory is the number of new listings for the month plus the number of homes already listed for sale and on the market. We gathered data provided by the Federal Reserve and Yahoo Charts. We tracked each month’s home inventory from July 2018 to June 2019 to get the rankings for this metric.

How Our Findings Compare to Other Studies

Our rankings are close to the findings of other major studies on the best month to buy a house and the best time of year to buy a house. Studies showed late fall/early winter as the best time of year to buy a house, and the spring season as the worst time, and drew the same conclusions from examining closed sales, inventory, days on the market, and price.

Zillow Study

Analysis from Zillow tends to be consistent with the conclusions we’ve drawn above. They discovered that spring offers the widest selection of homes, but it is also the most competitive season. Properties sell faster and at a higher cost than any other time of year. They suggest that buyers should stay patient and consider making an offer toward the end of the summer because that’s when buyers will have more options and bargains.

We believe that the winter months are the best time to get a great price while summer offers more inventory and options. If price is the only consideration, July prices are higher. However, in terms of selections, July ranks second. So, if you’re looking for a compromise and price isn’t the only factor, perhaps July a good month to consider buying a house.

Realtor.com Study

Realtor.com, the official website of the NAR, also found that winter is the best time to purchase a home and a great season to spot the perfect property. They offer several points in support of their claim.

These three are relevant to our study:

  • Lower home prices: Realtor.com illustrates that winter is the best time to snag a deal.
  • Less competition: According to Realtor.com, winter is a good time to shop for a home as most summer buyers have purchased. The trade-off is there may not be as many properties from which to choose.
  • Worn-out home sellers: Realtor.com writes that sellers who still have their homes listed in the fall are most likely itching to sell. The longer the house stays on the market, the more room there is to negotiate.

Our findings aligned with Realtor.com that the best time of year to buy a house is winter. We determined the best month to buy a house (January) and the worst month (April) based on the median sale prices, existing home sales in the U.S., and the median days on the market.

Best Month to Buy a House, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this article, we have done our best to detail the best month to buy a house and the best time of year to buy a house. However, when looking to buy a new home, some questions are asked more frequently than others, and we have tried to address those here.

Will 2020 be a good year to buy a house?

Predictions show the economy is heading for another recession in 2020, including the housing market, making it a buyer’s market. Research conducted by Zillow shows that 2020 and beyond will be a great time to buy a home. For the past few years with lower housing inventory, buyers have paid top dollar for their homes.

Why do you use historical data to determine the best month to buy a house?

We rely on historical data because it’s available for our research. However, we also consider what economists are predicting for the best month to buy a house and the best time of year to buy a house. Exploring history, we’re able to see trends in home sales that typically are good for a year.

What other factors should I consider besides price when buying a house?

While price is usually top of mind for homebuyers, it’s important to consider current interest rates. Rates impact how much you will pay monthly and over the term of your mortgage. Lower rates bring higher savings to homebuyers. Even 0.5% can drastically save a buyer over a 30-year loan term and reduce monthly mortgage payments.

Should I wait until home prices go up to sell my house?

While it seems logical to wait for housing prices to increase to sell a house, remember that price increases are across the board, so the price of your next home will also increase. If you’re selling a home, it’s better to consider your budget, why you’re selling, and how much future financing will cost you.

Should I buy an owner-occupied multifamily home?

Multifamily ownership is a great way to leverage rental income to pay your housing expenses, build equity, and begin real estate investing. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t like living close to your neighbors, or you don’t want tenants knocking on your door when problems arise, owner-occupied investment property may not be right for you.

Bottom Line

Our rankings reveal that the best time of year to buy a house is at the end of the year and into the new year. These are the months with plenty of options, and you have better chances of getting a good deal. Meanwhile, April and early spring are the worst time to buy a house. Although listings are plentiful, prices and competition are much higher.

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