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Nation’s Housing

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Is spring the time to list a home?

By Kenneth Harney
Kenneth Harney
Kenneth Harney, who lives in Washington, D.C., writes an award-winning column on housing and real estate.

It’s common knowledge verging on holy writ in real estate: Spring is the absolute best time of the year to sell a house.

Right?

But is there hard statistical evidence that listing your house in April, May or June – flowers blooming, birds chirping, lawns greened up after a tough winter – actually nets you a higher price or a shorter time from listing to sale?

Yes, but it’s not as clear as you might imagine. Reviews of realty industry and academic studies suggest that while sales totals generally are highest in May and June, they are actually reflecting listings, contracts and buyer searches that occur earlier in the year.

A study of 1.1 million home listings between 2011 and 2013 in 19 major markets by the national realty brokerage firm Redfin found that, contrary to popular impressions, houses put on the market in winter – Dec. 21 through March 21 – had a 9 percentage point greater probability of selling within 180 days and at a smaller discount to the initial list price than houses put on the market during the spring months (March 22-June 21). The advantage jumped to 10 percentage points over summer listings (June 22-Sept. 20). Winter listers ultimately sold for prices 1.2 percentage points higher than homes listed during any other season.

A study conducted by online real estate site Trulia in 2012 found that while prices on closed sales peak in May and total sales peak in June, there geographic differences. Prices peak in the South states in March and April, with the exception of Florida, where the high point is May. California, Virginia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts prices also hit their statistical peak in May. But it’s later – June to August – in Oregon, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington and West Virginia.

Should the season influence whether you list your house? Sure. But other factors should get higher priority: Is your house ready to show? Have you interviewed multiple agents to get comparative market analyses on your home’s probable selling price range? Are you prepared to do what’s necessary to sell at maximum price, which may include staging the interior and completing improvements?

Answer those questions and price realistically, and you should have a good shot at a successful sale.

kenharney@earthlink.net
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