Should you sell a house in the winter? The answer may surprise you.
Not everyone has the luxury of choosing when they can sell their home. Life has a habit of getting in the way, and the three Ds — death, divorce and debt — mean there will always be a natural churn of properties for sale throughout the year. But if you’re not in a hurry and you’re able to plan ahead, what is the ideal time of year to sell?
We’ve done the Nested number-crunching and can reveal the best time of year to sell a home is… (drumroll)... the second half of the year. But hang on, isn’t the conventional wisdom that properties are easier to sell in the glorious spring and summer sunshine? Sure, your home will look more presentable when the daffodils are out, but the problem is you’ll face stiffer competition as a seller. Fortune favours the brave people who launch their properties in the autumn and winter months when the other sellers are hibernating.
We know what you’re thinking: isn’t the winter cold, miserable and no time to traipse the streets looking for maisonettes in Morden? Perhaps, but remember that Christmas is the immovable object that focuses minds on getting a deal done, so estate agents conduct more business in the second half of the year. September means the end of school holidays, those lazy summer days, and buyers suddenly have a new spring in their step.
However, the property market does tend to freeze for sellers in early January. Yes, buyers have made their New Years’ resolutions, but they’re busy doing their research and working off the Christmas turkey. Also, every seller and his dog puts their property on the market in January, often with unrealistic prices encouraged by excitable agents. The end of January is a great time to buy though, once sellers’ enthusiasm has dampened and the January sales come rolling in.
Of course, selling in the second half of the year doesn’t guarantee anything, but if you’re playing the percentages, these months are as good as any.
As George Orwell almost said, all properties are equal, but some properties are more equal than others. The best time of year to sell a home depends on what type of property it is.
First-time buyers and young couples often start their house-hunting amid the January sales, so take note if you’re selling a small flat or terraced house. The opposite is true if you’re selling a bungalow or retirement home, as older buyers are generally more active in the summer months. Finally, larger family homes are more likely to attract viewings outside of school holidays, so May and June are good months to mark in the diary.
True, there isn’t much seasonal variation across the UK if we’re guesstimating when the best time to sell a house is. But in terms of the average number of days it takes to go under offer, there are strong regional differences. If we look at Zoopla’s 2019 figures, properties in Scotland took 39 days on average to secure a sale, compared to 57 days in north-east England and 58 days in London.
So while the magical month of September could be a good time to list your London home, don’t be surprised if it’s Halloween by the time you accept a trick or treat.
Conventional wisdom dictates that properties should be listed earlier in the week. The consumer champions Which? revealed that homes advertised on a Monday achieve the fastest sale (on average, 176 days to completion) with Sunday the slowest (213 days). And while Rightmove once claimed that Friday at 4pm is the most popular time for estate agents to upload properties, they found that Tuesday at 9pm is when the highest volume of traffic happens.
In the end, there’s no right or wrong time to sell a property. You could wait around for months and never find a buyer, or your home could fly off the proverbial shelves within days. So, if circumstances force your hand and you have to sell at the ‘wrong’ time, don’t worry — all is not lost. Just dig that January snow from the garden, turn the heating up before viewings, and keep your fingers and toes crossed.
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