The best months to buy a house
By Camilla Cornell
When it comes to buying your first home, the biggest factor in timing your purchase should really be whether you’re ready to handle the financial and physical responsibility of being a homeowner. But there are other considerations that could have an impact on the number of properties you can choose from and your ability to wrangle a better deal.
The ‘busy-ness’ factor
The months leading up to the winter holidays (November and December) are typically an ideal time to seek out a bargain, says Nikki Mayers, a real estate expert with Sutton Group-West Coast Realty in North Vancouver. Why? There are simply fewer buyers at open houses, and that means less competition for properties. “Before the holidays, people are caught up in social activities,” she says. March Break, January and February, and peak summer holiday season can also be good times to shop, adds Morgan Dunlop, a sales representative with Real Estate Homeward in Toronto. “Think of all the people who are away with their kids for holidays,” she says.
Another reason winter months are off-season for home sales is simply because buyers are more apt to shop around when they don’t have to brave the snow and sleet, says Victor Godhino, managing partner with Kismet Wealth Group in Toronto. That can mean less competition from other buyers and hence greater potential to snag a bargain.
Sellers may also be more motivated (read: open to negotiation) in winter, adds Nikki Mayers. “Sometimes people sell their homes during the winter months because they don’t have time to wait for the spring market,” she says. “Maybe they’ve had a job transfer or someone has passed away.”
On the downside, you may have fewer properties to choose from, since many sellers wait until spring to list. And, as Godhino points out, in a truly hot market (like Toronto), the weather may have scant impact on pricing. “There’s been no real down season in the last couple of years,” he says. “It has been very, very hot all season round.”
Exactly when spring occurs varies across the country, as well as from one year to the next. In Vancouver, it can begin in March, says Mayers. In Edmonton, it might not begin until May. Wherever you live, spring is widely regarded as peak home-selling season because the weather is more pleasant and sellers believe their houses show better with the snow gone.
The upside of waiting until spring to look for a house, then, is that you’ll have maximum choice of properties. The downside: the number of buyers rises, too, and that means greater competition — particularly from families who want to get their kids enrolled in a new school for spring.