While it may be more convenient to buy a home in the summer before school starts, waiting until fall or winter can save you big dollars, a new NerdWallet study found.
To determine the most affordable time to buy, NerdWallet analyzed the past two years’ worth of listings and sales in the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas using data from Realtor.com. NerdWallet found that home sale prices — the amount a buyer actually pays — in the nation’s largest metro areas typically peak during the summer, dip in the fall and are lowest in winter, potentially saving off-peak buyers thousands of dollars.
Summer is typically the most expensive time to buy. In the majority of metro areas analyzed, home sale prices peak in June and July. Inventory is also highest those months, but so is competition.
Sale prices fall in autumn. Home listing prices don’t fall dramatically once summer ends — they only decrease less than half a percent in the fall. But sale prices take a noticeable dip. In the 50 metro areas, home sale prices dropped 2.96% on average — that’s a drop of $8,300 on the median home — from summer (June through August) to fall (September through November).
Home sale prices are usually lowest in winter. If you can wait a little longer to buy, hold off until January or February, when homes cost 8.45% less on average than in June through August. January had the cheapest sale prices in 29 of the 50 metro areas, and February had the cheapest prices in 19 areas.
The degree of seasonal decreases in home sale prices varies across metro areas. In our analysis, the metro area of Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut, experienced the largest drop in price from summer to fall at 8.2%. The Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio, metro area had the second-largest drop at 8.0%, and the Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama, metro area came in third with a 7.6% drop in price from summer to fall.
“If your circumstances give you the freedom to be able to choose the best time to look to sign a contract on a new home, there’s no question that the market dynamics favor you the most to do that in the dead of winter, ideally in January or February, right before the activity starts to heat up,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com.
Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Daniel Tonkovich is a data analyst at NerdWallet.