Knowing the right time to buy

Experts say the right time to buy a home is when you feel right about purchasing. That means being financially and emotionally ready, of course. And this could be the best time of year to buy a home and hit both of those goals.

But truth is, certain times of the year can be better for buying than others, based on the market. Many believe we’re heading into a friendly season for home shopping. That’s due to many factors.

A "perfect storm" of homebuying weather?

One is that colder weather may bring out fewer buyers competing with you for houses.

In addition, new research suggests buyer confidence is up. Current favorable conditions may make this an ideal time to hunt for a home and score a deal.

So explore your market. Take advantage of factors in your favor. And, when you’re ready, commit to buy. Your timing could be perfect.

Just the facts, ma'am

Findings from Fannie Mae’s 2017 Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) should give buyers cause for optimism:

  • The HPSI rose in September by 0.3 points to 88.3. It’s up 5.5 points versus one year earlier.
  • More Americans polled by Fannie Mae now say it is a good time to buy a home: 28 percent, up 10 percentage points.
  • More Americans say it’s a good time to sell a home: 38 percent, up two points, and just shy of the survey high of 39 percent.
  • Fewer feel that home prices will increase: 40 percent, down eight points.
  • More feel secure in the workplace: 75 percent say they’re not concerned about losing their job, up one point.

Deciphering the data

“The biggest driver for the increase in the HPSI is the rebound in the good time to buy sentiment,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, in a prepared statement. This was especially true of renters surveyed.

"Perceptions of easing inventory helped boost the net share saying that now is a good time to buy,” Duncan added. He said this corresponds with less bullish home price appreciation sentiment during the month.

Mark Lee Levine, professor at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, University of Denver, isn’t surprised by Fannie Mae’s findings.

“Things have been positive in our country. The stock market is up. Job security is strong. Unemployment is down. And mortgage interest rates continue to be low. When things are positive around them, people tend to have a positive reaction,” says Levine.

Mark Stapp, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at Arizona State University, agrees. “We’ve now got enough distance away from the last recession,” says Stapp.

“Increased buyer sentiment emanates from people feeling secure. That makes them feel confident. And that makes them more willing to make a big decision like buy a home.”

Best time of year to buy a home? 'Tis the season

Levine says now’s a better time to buy in many locations, pricing wise, than just a few months ago. That’s because the winter usually results in lower prices than is true with a summer purchase.

“As we get closer to the end of the year, the weather gets colder in many areas. As a result, you’ll see less competition from other buyers in key markets,” says Levine.

“Plus, many families have already purchased to get their kids settled in before the start of the school year. Others will wait until next spring to start looking.”

 “The best month to buy can vary by location,” says Baker. “But many factors can change with economic or other conditions. And that can change the best month or day to purchase a home over time.”

Fall and winter can cause sellers to pull the plug

Stapp cautions that late fall and early winter can actually be a pullback time for sellers.

“Many agents advise their clients not to list their homes for sale until the spring. So you may have less housing supply to choose from right now,” says Stapp.

Still, he says, "If you’re ready to pull the trigger, there’s no better time than the present to buy a home.”  “You’ll be getting a head start on other buyers who tend to wait until after the holidays to start looking.”

How we feel about buying is important

Levine says purchase sentiment and buyer confidence matter.

“If you feel like your job prospects are positive, you’re getting wage increases, the economy is in a good place, and interest rates are low, that can boost your morale and interest to buy,” he says.

Positive sentiment is a big part of the decision-making process for shoppers.

“Buyers need to feel good,” says Stapp. “Owning a home is an emotional decision. A lot of times you’re willing to make the financial commitment because of your emotions. So yes, these metrics matter.”

Taking action

You may have the winter wardrobe and the will to house hunt in the colder months. But are you truly prepared? Follow these tips:

  • Take stock of your life. Is your job secure? Will you have to relocate anytime soon? Do you have plans to marry or raise a family? Are you comfortable in your chosen area? Do you have enough set aside for a down payment? Can you afford monthly mortgage payments? These and other questions must be answered before you jump into the market as a buyer.
  • Get prequalified for a loan. Talk with a skilled mortgage professional. “Know what your limitations are, what you can afford and what you qualify for,” says Stapp. Contact a local Wallick & Volk Loan Originator to get prequalified.
  • Choose a trusted real estate agent. This person should have experience in the areas you’re targeting and be able to answer all your questions. A good agent will help you know when the time is right and how to score the best bargain.
  • Shop the area, not just the home. “Think carefully about the neighborhood you want to be in, not just the house. You can change the latter, not the former,” says Stapp.
  • Prepare to stay put for a while. “Assuming you are not doing a flip, you should normally not buy a house if you think you won’t live in it for at least a couple years,” Levine says.