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Timing Your Sale

While the overall health of the market has the greatest impact on your sale, the date you put it on the market can also be important. The real estate marketing calendar generally has two distinct peaks and valleys created by ebbs and flows of activity in your local real estate market. You can use the predictability of these cycles to your advantage.

First peak season: spring flowers and For Sale signs bloom

Depending on where you live, the longer and stronger of the two annual peak seasons begins somewhere between late January and early March. If you're still digging out from under ten feet of snow on March 1st, your market may take a little longer to heat up.

February through May is normally the most active selling time for residential real estate. Families with children want to get their purchase or sale out of the way by late spring so moving won't disrupt the kids' schooling for the next academic year. Other people buy or sell early in the year for tax purposes, or to avoid interference with their summer vacation.

The first peak season is usually the best time to put your house on the market. High sale prices result from spirited buyer competition. Because more buyers are in the market now than at any other time of the year, your best chance of getting a fast, top-dollar sale is during the first season.

First valley: summer doldrums

Memorial Day usually marks the beginning of the first valley. Sales activity usually slows during June, July, and August. Buyers, sellers, and agents often take summer vacations, which reduces the market activity. Many folks spend their weekends having fun in the sun rather than looking at houses.

This season is an okay time to put your property on the market, but not the best. Houses ordinarily take somewhat longer to sell in the summer due to a lower level of buyer activity. Unless you have to sell now (or if property values are declining), wait until the fall to put your house on the market. You're likely to get a higher price after people return from vacation.

Second peak season: autumn leaves and houses of every color

Labor Day usually starts the second peak season. This peak normally rolls through September, October, and into November. People who sell during late autumn tend to be strongly motivated. Some bought new homes in the spring before selling their old ones. Now they're slashing their asking prices.

Others are calendar-year taxpayers who sold houses earlier in the year and want to buy their new home before December 31st so they can pay tax-deductible expenses (such as the loan origination fee, mortgage interest, and property taxes) prior to the end of the year to reduce the impact of federal and state income tax. Either way, these folks are under pressure to sell.

Unless prices are rapidly increasing in your area, wait until activity slows in mid-November and then buy your next home at a discount price. You get the best of both worlds -- "sell high and buy low."

Death valley: real estate activity hibernates until spring

The second peak season usually drops dead a week or so before Thanksgiving. With the exception of a few, mostly desperate, sellers and bargain-hunting or relocating buyers who stay in the market until the bitter end of December, residential real estate sales activity ordinarily slows significantly by mid-November.

This real estate Death Valley is generally the worst time of year to sell a house. Even our brilliant pricing techniques may not be able to save you from getting your financial bones picked clean by bargain-hunting vultures if you're forced to sell at this time of the year. Don't put your house on the market during Death Valley days unless you have absolutely no other alternative.