Friday, February 13, 2015

March is Good for Listings!

Originally posted on this blog, Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Listing a Home in March Works
In most real estate markets there is a sales curve that peaks in the summer months and bottoms out in the dead dark of winter. I believe that this cycle is as mental as it is anything else. People tend to be less active in the winter, especially in northern latitudes with cold and miserable weather. It is no surprise that e-commerce performs well in the winter and bricks and mortar retail does not with the notable exception of December holidays.

Information data and chart sourced from RMLS

Our real estate market locally has a modest sales spike in the summer months of roughly 10% above the annual monthly average and about 10% under in the middle of winter. That represents a total swing of roughly 20%. In some markets where winter weather is truly brutal, I would imagine the spread is significantly greater and in sunny SoCal it is probably a flatter curve. The chart above shows this annual trend with a notable exception in 2010 where the fall off came early. The 2013 curve was a more dramatic seasonal curve than the statistical average I compiled since 2001.  The 2011 curve is very typical when compared to most of the years since 2001. The 2013 curve is more like one I would expect to see in severe winter climates like the upper Midwest.

I think the best way to wrap your arms around this is to break the home buyers into two very broad classes. Those highly motivated to buy with external pressure and those buying because they can. So the first group is motivated by things such as a job transfer, loss of job, a new baby on the way, divorce, etc. This is external pressure and that makes someone willing to trudge through a foot of snow in the cold misery of January to look at houses or deal with the inconvenience of listing at a time they would rather stay indoors and visit with family.

The latter category is someone with a new job with higher income and maybe they think, "Hey, we can finally afford that dream house on five acres". Or perhaps they are empty-nesters looking to downsize. These buyers and sellers are much more likely to list or start the buying process when it is convenient. They are less likely to brave the wild elements of January looking at houses.

Anther reason there is a spike in sales in the summer is that families with school age children prefer to move over summer vacation when the kids are out school. This is especially true if the children will be changing schools after the move.

In a real estate market like this one; the biggest driver has been lack of inventory in that under median price range. When inventory increases that will relieve some of the pressure and could stabilize prices. If a seller has a home that is a little less than ideal; this is the time to list. This market is driven right now by move in ready, clean condition, updated properties. If a listing is a little outside those ideal parameters, the best way to sell it is in a market with less competition. As more listings come on the market toward May, the house can lose value and or position against superior properties that become available. March is a great way to tap into the "spring fever" of home buying a little ahead of the market. This is the time to get that slightly out of favor listing in front of buyers before a wave of potentially more desirable properties arrive on the scene.

If a seller has that perfect updated, move in ready median priced listing, then sometimes waiting till April can be a smart move so as to tap the increase in buyers actively looking that occurs in mid to late spring. Of course one way to get it both ways is to list in March at a slightly high price, gauge activity, get feedback and either sell at a high price or build a strategy based on the feedback and activity in March and April to position the listing ideally for May and June.

March Madness is amazing for college basketball and can be equally so for real estate.

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