What to know about buying or selling a home in the spring
Spring is the busiest time of the year for both home buyers and sellers. Once the long winter finally arrives, families start looking for a home, visiting properties that are finally thawed after months of bad weather. Once you’ve searched for the perfect home, there are a few things to keep in mind during this time of year.
“Spring has always been the busiest time of year,” says Sherry Hines, co-broker at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes. “Many families have the urge to make changes to coincide with the school year, and summer is often full of holidays, travel, and children’s activities. Of course, it’s also fun to be outside seeing greener homes, warmer temperatures, flowers blooming, and longer days.” .
We spoke with the experts to get their tips for homebuyers and sellers during this busy time of year for the housing market.
Prepare for a competitive market
Since spring is the most popular time of year for buying and selling homes, you should prepare to enter a highly competitive market at this time of year.
“The biggest differentiating factor in the past few years around the spring market has been the intense competition,” Heinz says. “We’re already seeing an increase in multiple offers, and buyers are already waiving inspections and evaluations in an effort to ‘win’. Competition had cooled off a bit last fall over the winter, but all signs point to potentially fiercer competition than last spring.”
Since the market will be flooded with fellow buyers, Hines suggests that you plan to see homes soon after they hit the market. This way you can tour a property you’re interested in and be prepared to make a competitive offer early – hopefully before many other potential buyers see it. Hines says that means being prepared to make split decisions, too.
“Low inventory in the past few years has reduced the average days on the market,” she says. “Homes that don’t sell within 7 to 10 days are either very expensive or have an unaddressed issue. With the competition picking up and moving into the spring market, homes sell in a matter of hours sometimes.”
This may mean that you will have to make an offer immediately, or it may mean a longer house hunting period, as properties around you are being bought up quickly.
“Home searches can vary from a few days to several months,” says Hines. “There are many factors, depending on price range, location, competition, and inventory.”
Be prepared for a long trip if you find that properties in your area are selling quickly, but don’t hit the hunt just because spring is a busy time of year. With the way the housing market has fared in recent years, it’s not certain that the competition will go away once the seasons change.
“I don’t advise buyers to wait for things to change. I’ve had clients make that choice and regret it,” Heinz says. “Personally, I don’t see our market changing much anytime soon.”
Check out the property
If the idea of swooping in on a property makes you pause, keep in mind that you can still make an offer and do an inspection before closing the deal.
Buyers should pay special attention to a home’s exterior, says David Steckel, home expert at homecare platform Thumbtack, as water problems can crop up at this time of year.
“It’s important to do a thorough property check before you buy,” says Steckel. “Have a professional inspect the home before you buy and be sure to look for water damage, roof damage, drainage problems, foundation issues, and pest damage. It’s important to catch them early, as these repairs can be costly and affect the condition of your home over time.”
Of course, most of these potential issues should come up in a professional home inspection. And while some aspects of the property may be more noticeable or obvious in the spring versus the winter, for example, you want to make sure that the person you hire does a thorough inspection no matter what time of year it is.
“While there may be snow on a roof during an inspection, your dealer should always advocate for a final roof inspection with appropriate ramifications if roof damage appears, even if it is after the traditional due diligence/inspection period,” Christopher Sternholm, President Trelora Real Estate employees. “Certified home inspectors will be there to provide expertise on what you should be looking for no matter the season.”
How to prepare to sell
If you sell your home in the spring, Steckel suggests improving your outdoor spaces. Potential buyers will consider hosting summer cookouts and pool parties this time of year—calling on your home’s great outdoor features to help your menu shine. If your outdoor space is lackluster, do what you can to spruce it up and bring out its potential.
“Homeowners can begin by enhancing their curb appeal, such as painting the exterior of their home, renovating the landscaping, and completing exterior repairs to the porch, deck, garage door, siding, and fence,” he says.
While organizing your home, Steckel suggests deep-cleaning your grill and porch furniture so everything looks spick-and-span.
“Handling any repairs needed before putting your home up for sale will pay off. Be sure to fix leaky faucets, replace broken windows, and repair any damaged floors or walls,” he says.
Zillow released a report last year detailing which spring projects generate the best returns for sellers, if you’re having trouble prioritizing where to start.
Your real estate agent will also spend time getting to know your property so they can market it appropriately, says Scott Harris of Brown Harris Stephens.
“It helps create avatars of who we expect our target buyers to be,” he explains. “It’s not about the space or the latest kitchen appliances, but how you send messages that explain the property is interesting to the kinds of buyers you want to attract.”
If you’re ready to sell, Harris says, don’t delay. The spring market may be hotter than the winter market, but that shouldn’t affect your relocation plans.
“There is always a reason to wait. I usually say you can have reasons or results,” he says. “You lose 100% of the games you lose.”
Why you might want to skip the spring market
Not ready to buy or sell just in time for this spring season? Don’t stress.
Brandon Snow, CEO of Ally Home, says that while there may be a lot of inventory on the market each spring, that doesn’t mean you’re missing out on the best time of year to buy or sell.
“While buying homes in the spring has its benefits, buying a home during the fall and winter months can have a host of advantages—including less competition and a faster closing time,” he says.
Snow says the best time to buy is often September or October.
“This is when inventory is still relatively high, but prices are moderate, especially for entry-level homes,” he says. “For sellers, their homes may have been on the market all summer with no luck, and they may be eager to make a deal.”
Once the fall is over, the stock may drop, but the sellers will be more eager to make a deal.
“You’ll likely have a smaller crop of homes to choose from, but sellers may be more incentivized to make a move for tax-exempt reasons at the end of the year,” Snow says.
However, statistics show that you will likely pay more for a home in the future if you wait.
“Prices have gone up (year over year) for the better part of the last 10 years,” says Sternholm. “Often I see buyers say they’re going to wait longer to buy, but the result over the past decade has been that they’ve only paid a higher price than when they first started looking.”