What is the Best Time to Buy a House?

By: Danie Bortz | Published: April 18, 2019

Timing determines so much when you’re buying a house. Although the best time to buy a house is when you’re ready both financially and emotionally, there are other factors that can help you decide when to buy a house.

By timing your purchase just right, you can nab a great home that’s just right for you.

What Is the Best Month to Buy a House?

Let’s make this clear: There’s no such thing as a guaranteed “best month” to purchase a home. (C’mon, we never said this would be easy!)

While some conventional wisdom says there is a best time of year to buy a house — during spring home buying season (April to June) — there are pluses and minuses when it comes to what month you choose to purchase a home.

(Note: Realestate is local. Determining a best time utlimately depends on conditions in your local market.)

Here we’ve outlined some of the reasons different months can turn out to be the best time to buy a house for you:

January to March. Winter isn’t such a bad time to buy a house. Though there’s less inventory — meaning there are fewer homes for sale — there are fewer home buyers too, so you have less competition. That means there’s a lower likelihood of a bidding war, which can be a stressful experience for home buyers. Another benefit of buying a house during the cold-weather months: Home prices are typically the lowest they’ll be all year.

Still, there are drawbacks to buying a house between January and March. Inclement weather can also be a challenge, since snow or ice could make it difficult to drive around and view homes or do a thorough home inspection of some elements, such as a roof. 

April to June. Welcome to spring home buying season— the peak months for not only housing supply, but also the number of home buyers shopping for houses. Because most families want to move when the kids are out of school, there’s a big incentive to buy a house this time of year, since many home buyers need to allow 30 to 60 days for closing.

The warmer weather also makes open houses more enjoyable, landscaping easier to evaluate, and inspections more comprehensive.

Even though it’s generally regarded as the best time of year to buy a house, there are downsides to the spring market. For starters, you’ll face more competition from other home buyers —  meaning you have to move quickly when a great listing hits the market. Bidding wars are a lot more common, you tend to have less negotiating power, and home prices tend to tick up during spring.

July to September. If you can handle the heat (and a little competition), summer may be the one of the best times of year to buy. Now that the spring home buying craze is over, most home prices return to normal, allowing you to save some money. The sunniest time of the year also makes being outdoors and attending open houses more enjoyable.

The hot temperatures also give home buyers the opportunity to test how well a property’s air conditioning system holds up in warm weather, which is something they can’t usually test during other times of the year.

October to December. The main downside of buying a house in autumn is that there may not be as many homes for sale in the fall as there are in the spring. But it’s not like the market goes completely quiet.

Many home buyers consider fall the best time of year to buy a house because of price reductions. Because home sellers tend to list their homes in the spring, sellers whose houses haven’t sold yet may be motivated to find buyers, and prices start to reflect that.

When Is the Best Time in Your Life to Buy a House?

There’s no magical age or life stage at which you’ll know for sure exactly when to buy a house. There are, however, a few factors you’ll want to take into account.

Finances. How’s your credit score? Can you afford to take on a monthly mortgage payment? Do you have enough cash to pay for a down payment and closing costs? Sit down with a mortgage lender who can help you evaluate your finances.

You’ll also need to budget for home maintenance expenses. One rule of thumb says homeowners should set aside 1% to 3% of their home’s purchase price a year for home maintenance and repairs. So, if your home cost $400,000, you’d set aside at least $4,000 annually. (Doing preventative maintenance, however, can go a long way toward staving off expensive repairs.)

Stability. If you’re on solid ground financially, with a stable job to support you, buying a home can be a way to lower your monthly housing costs (real talk: Owning is often cheaper than renting in some cities), gain a valuable financial asset, and, if you itemize, reap some tax benefits.

If you’re ready to commit to a home and city (and your job) for a few years, you’re probably in a stable enough situation to be a homeowner.

Lifestyle: Owning a house allows you to develop a strong relationship with a local community. Buying a home should align with your life goals. If you’re starting a family soon, planting your roots in a kid-friendly neighborhood with a great school district is usually a good reason to buy a house. 

There’s also something to be said about the pride of owning a home and having a place you can call yours — one that you can customize to your heart’s desire.

Should You Buy or Rent?

To rent or to buy a home — it’s a common conundrum. Often this is the core financial decision potential home buyers wrestle with when deciding when to buy a house. To sort it out, start with your exit plan.

If you expect to be moving within the next couple of years, you probably should rent. Why? Because the general rule is it only makes sense to buy if you plan to stay in the home for at least two to three years.

Likewise, if you’re not ready to take on the maintenance responsibilities of being a homeowner, or aren’t ready to commit to a particular community right now, renting an apartment likely makes more sense than buying a home.

The local housing market is also a factor in the decision to buy or rent. In some cities, renting can be cheaper than owning, though price appreciation often brings wealth to buyers. Therefore, the financial benefits of owning a home and gaining equity over time is a better way to spend your money than forking it over to a landlord.

Investing vs. Living

The best time to buy a house for the first time is generally when you’re ready to live there long term. Long term, real estate can be a lucrative path towards financial success, particularly if you can nab a low interest rate in the right housing market.

But a lot of factors go into whether buying an investment property is the right move for you, including how much risk you can tolerate and the local economy.

Generally, it’s smart to consider your first home purchase all about you. It’s about investing in a place you can make your own and live your life day to day. 

The moral? There’s nothing quite like home ownership. While not everyone is ready for it, if you’ve determined the best time to buy a house is right now, it can be the beginning of the most satisfying journey of your life.

5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Home

By: HouseLogic | Published: January 8, 2020

Home buying seems simple enough: Find a house you like that’s close to work or school, tell someone you want to buy it, and move in. 

But there’s more to it than that. You’ll have to find and get approved by a lender who will let you borrow a few hundred thousand dollars, lock in a mortgage rate, figure out how much house you can afford, put in an offer that will entice the seller, get an inspection and an appraisal, pay closing costs and sign a whole bunch of paperwork. 

Phew! We need a break just thinking about all the questions to ask when buying a house.

Your real estate agent can help you understand the process. But if you don’t ask questions or get your agent to clarify something you don’t understand, they’re not going to know you’re confused. And you won’t learn anything. 

“There are no such things as stupid questions,” says REALTOR® Ryan Fitzgerald in Raleigh, N.C. “If you have a question, ask it, no matter how foolish it sounds in your own head.” 

Don’t be afraid. Ask away. You’re making one of the biggest financial transactions of your life, so it’s a good idea to tap into your agent’s expertise.

Here are some questions to ask a real estate agent when buying a house. 

1. How Many Clients Have You Helped Purchase Homes?

Before you pick a real estate professional, ask them how many clients they’ve worked with to find a home. Your real estate agent is supposed to be an expert, so one with a lot of experience will be a big help to a newbie home buyer like you. 

That’s not to say a newly licensed agent can’t be a good one. But agents learn on the job. The more sales they’ve completed, and the more people they’ve helped buy a home, the more wisdom they have to share with you. 

2. How Old Is The HVAC, Water Heater, And Roof Of This Home?

It’s easy to be dazzled by 12-foot ceilings, crown molding, and other aesthetic features, but you need to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the house. We’re talking the unsexy stuff like the HVAC system, water heater, roof, electrical system, and plumbing.

“Knowing the age and condition of the major items will help you gauge how much your home could potentially cost once you move in,” Fitzgerald says. “The older the home, the more likely you are to have higher maintenance costs.” 

These items could have more impact on a home’s value than quartz countertops or hardwood floors, because it’s expensive when they malfunction. A leaking hot water heater can do thousands of dollars of damage. And replacing an aging HVAC system can start at more than $5,000, putting it in the major expense category. 

3. What If The Home Inspection Reveals Major Issues?

We won’t lie: The home inspection is one of the most nerve-wracking days of the homebuying process. It’s when you find out about every wart on the place you fell in love with at the showing. 

Most of the time the inspection goes as expected. But if you aren’t expecting a major issue and the inspector discovers something awful like a rusting sewer main or walls full of termites, it can be panic attack time.

Breathe. “What should I do when the inspector has bad news?” is one of the most common questions to ask when buying a house. Talk to your agent. 

Your agent can calm you down so you can plan your next move, whether it’s “Let’s kiss this money pit of a house goodbye” or “Let’s negotiate with the seller and get those repairs done so you can close on time.” 

4. What Happens If The Appraisal Comes Back Low? 

In competitive markets where there are more buyers than sellers, it’s possible to end up in a bidding war over a house. This can drive the sales price higher than the appraised value of the home. Lenders balk when the price is higher than the value, and this can jam up the deal.

Ask your agent what you should do if the appraisal comes in low. An experienced agent will have been in the situation before and have good advice. You’ll have a couple of options, including ordering a second appraisal, covering the difference in cash, or walking away from the deal. 

No matter what happens, keep your cool. Just because the appraisal is low doesn’t mean the deal will fall through. 

“When things don’t go as expected, it’s important to remain level-headed. You never want to allow your emotions to be too up or too down when buying a home,” Fitzgerald says. 

5. What Do We Need To Do To Prepare For Closing?

Closing day is essentially the transfer of ownership, but it’s not just a formality. It needs to go well. This is when you sign the final paperwork and get the keys to the house.

One of the most important questions to ask a real estate agent is exactly what you need to bring for the big day. You’ll probably need your ID, a check for the closing costs, and proof of homeowner’s insurance. 

Asking in advance will keep you organized and help your first big real estate transaction run smoothly. You don’t want to get there and realize you forgot a key piece of paperwork that keeps the deal from closing. Fewer things are as disappointing than not going home from a closing with keys to your new house.

So ask questions. Knowledge is power, so there are no silly questions to ask when buying a house.