The Best Time of Year to Sell a Property

If you are plan­ning to put a prop­erty on the mar­ket soon, you obvi­ously want to give your­self a fight­ing chance of obtain­ing the best pos­si­ble price.  Tim­ing is impor­tant when sell­ing prop­erty, but is it quite as impor­tant as many would have you believe?

Tra­di­tion­ally, the best time to sell a house is between Jan­u­ary and July.  This is because buy­ers feel gen­er­ally opti­mistic because of the approach of spring and sum­mer.  Houses can look very attrac­tive when the gar­dens are in full bloom, and poten­tial buy­ers tend to spend more time out­doors and so tend to ‘notice’ prop­er­ties for sale.  Make sure that your prop­erty is listed for sale by April to take advan­tage of this.

The sum­mer hol­i­day sea­son then slows things down.  This is because buy­ers are more con­cerned with hol­i­days and look­ing after chil­dren who are off school.  Sales that are already going through dur­ing this time will also be more likely to ‘drag’.  Mem­bers of staff of Estate Agents, Solic­i­tors and mort­gage com­pa­nies are likely to be off work at some point dur­ing this period.  Your case is unlikely to be looked at dur­ing their absence.

Sep­tem­ber then typ­i­cally dis­plays a small surge as buy­ers start think­ing about spend­ing Christ­mas and New Year in a new home.  This ‘blip’ will tail off around Octo­ber as buy­ers know that the pur­chase is unlikely to be com­pleted by Christmas.

Although this mar­ket behav­iour is gen­er­ally typ­i­cal, will it really have an effect on the property’s value?  Obvi­ously more poten­tial buy­ers will result in a more com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tion; this has the effect of sup­port­ing a strong price.  The fact of it is that there are cer­tainly more buy­ers around at cer­tain times of the year, but like­wise there are always peo­ple who are look­ing to buy regard­less of the time of year.

An asso­ciate of mine indulges in what is known in the U.S. as ‘flip­ping’ homes.  This is sim­ply buy­ing a scruffy prop­erty at a dis­count and liv­ing in it while the prop­erty is lightly ren­o­vated in prepa­ra­tion for sell­ing on again.  He placed it on the mar­ket in Novem­ber and received very lit­tle inter­est.  He waited patiently through Decem­ber with sim­i­larly scarce view­ings.  How­ever, lit­er­ally 4 days after New Year, the mar­ket went (his words) ‘bal­lis­tic’.   The deal was done in a mat­ter of weeks.

Hous­ing is cur­rently in short sup­ply; sub­se­quently many buy­ers are resigned to wait­ing many months or even a year or two for the ‘right’ prop­erty to come along.  As long as you know the type of buyer you wish to appeal to, you might be able to mar­ket the prop­erty accord­ingly to good effect.

There is also a the­ory that sug­gests com­pletely con­tra­dict­ing the con­ven­tional approach.  When bet­ter (in the­ory) to sell a prop­erty than when there’s hardly any com­pe­ti­tion?  Also, win­ter buy­ers are less likely to be flaky and pull out of the sale.

There are many who believe that the sea­sonal cycle of the res­i­den­tial prop­erty mar­ket is vital to main­tain its health (which seems very log­i­cal to me).  And that house prices will tend to fluc­tu­ate between about +3% and –1% of the aver­age accord­ing to the sea­son.  On the web­site www.houseprices.uk.net, his­tor­i­cal data is pro­vided to strengthen this concept:

“House prices vary sea­son­ally between –2% and +1% in a way that reflects sea­sonal changes in demand – it leads to a sharp dip at Christ­mas and the New Year with a broad peak dur­ing June-July.

This can make it dif­fi­cult to inter­pret the monthly changes in house prices in terms of either trends or irreg­u­lar volatil­ity, so it is stan­dard prac­tice to report house prices sea­son­ally adjusted, or SA. The cor­rec­tion shown is the % change added to the NSA prices to get the SA ones. The level of sea­sonal adjust­ment is an excel­lent indi­ca­tor of the annual ‘breath­ing’ cycle of the hous­ing mar­ket, and hence its health.”

Ulti­mately, much depends on your prop­erty. If it is in a sought after loca­tion, you should have no prob­lem sell­ing at a rea­son­able ask­ing price regard­less of the time of year or mar­ket con­di­tions. Then again, if there are strong rea­sons that may put buy­ers off the prop­erty, these are likely to be valid objec­tions regard­less of demand level. But it does no harm to max­imise your chances of success.

There is much you can do to increase the like­li­hood of a prompt prop­erty sale.   A well-kept gar­den, path­way and fence, plus a freshly painted front door are imme­di­ately appeal­ing, whereas a scruffy out­door space with a lit­ter bin out­side the front door may turn many prospec­tive buy­ers away.

It is impor­tant to reduce ‘clut­ter’ in the house and present a clean prop­erty.  Nat­ural colours and lamps (rather than bright, stark over­head lights) are very effec­tive at mak­ing the prop­erty feel ‘wel­com­ing’.   All minor main­te­nance jobs should be com­pleted.  The indi­vid­ual rooms should be ‘defined’ prop­erly.  This means that it should be obvi­ous that the room has a spe­cific purpose.

The rules to stick to when sell­ing prop­erty are:

  1.   Put the prop­erty on sale at a real­is­tic price
    Most prop­erty own­ers have an idea of what their houses or flats would fetch on the open mar­ket.  How­ever, be aware that the ask­ing price and the actual sale price are very often dif­fer­ent sums.
  2. Put the prop­erty on sale at the right price.
    If the prop­erty is placed on sale at too high a price, many poten­tial pur­chasers won’t even con­sider it because they assume that the price will not be reduced by a great deal.  Also, many peo­ple sim­ply feel uncom­fort­able nego­ti­at­ing a big reduc­tion in price.  If the prop­erty goes up for sale at too low a price, then finan­cially you’ll lose out.
  3.    Try to avoid being in a chain.
    The longer the chain of ven­dors and pur­chasers, the more likely some­thing will go wrong.  This might be a seller with­draw­ing a prop­erty higher up the chain or even some­thing hap­pen­ing fur­ther down the chain.  Either way, things will nor­mally grind to a standstill.
  4.    Choose your estate agent care­fully.
    There is sel­dom a rea­son why you should have to pay more than 1% of the sell­ing price for the estate agents fees.  Try to avoid a period of exclu­siv­ity that seems too long, you should be able to give a week’s notice in writ­ing to end the con­trac­tual period.  Speak to the agent about the area your prop­erty is in.  They should know it like the back of their hand.  If they don’t, then it does not bode well.
  5.   Make sure the prop­erty is well pre­sented.
    A well-painted front door and a tidy gar­den go a long way to ensur­ing the prop­erty makes a good ini­tial impression.
  6. Adopt a pro-active approach to sell­ing the prop­erty.
    Make sure that you know exactly what type of pur­chaser the prop­erty should appeal to.  If it is a fam­ily home, carry out some research into local schools and trans­port.
    Make reg­u­lar con­tact with your estate agent, remem­ber they are work­ing on your behalf and should always be act­ing in your best inter­est.  Feed­back from view­ings can be a very valu­able source of infor­ma­tion.  There might be some­thing putting off buy­ers that are quite eas­ily rectified.

Trans­ac­tions can fall through at any time, so your prop­erty should be mar­keted right up until a fairly advanced stage of the deal.  If it falls through and mar­ket­ing has ended, you will have to start all over again.

  1. Try to exchange con­tracts as soon as pos­si­ble
    This is the point where both par­ties are legally bound to adhere to the trans­ac­tion.  When the con­tracts are exchanged, both par­ties are committed.

Ulti­mately, no one really knows what the prop­erty mar­ket is going to do.  If you hang on for what you think might be a good sea­son to sell, the mar­ket could have dried up even more.

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