When is the Best Time to Sell a Home?

By Andrew Mitchell | Selling Real Estate

It’s a question I get asked by many potential sellers when they are considering putting their home on the market. When is the best time to sell a home? The answer is not black and white, and while many think of Spring as the time to sell, there are some very good reasons to sell at other times of year.

And while there is no one right answer for all homes, a lot depends on the type of home, the condition of the home, the market, location, the weather and if the home is priced accurately for the market. But here are some general rules to think about when you are considering when the best time to put your home up for sale will be.

Read on to find why Spring might NOT be the best time to sell your home.

So When is the Best Time to Sell a Home?

Selling Your Home in Spring

Lots of Home Buyers in the Market

Most of the real estate transactions in the West Island, Vaudreuil and Montreal markets take place in the spring every year, its one of the busiest times for real estate brokers like myself. Many homes have either come on the market in late winter or early spring. Buyers are venturing out after a long winter and want to see what’s available in order to move in during the warmer summer months.

For first-time buyers and tenants, the July 1st deadline for leases to expire in Quebec make the spring one of the best-times for those buyers looking to move in summer. For condos, and lower-priced entry-level homes the spring is a great season to list your home for sale.

Fierce Competition Among Sellers

But Spring may not be the best time to sell a home for many homeowners. For higher-priced and larger homes that are not in the budget for most first-time buyers the spring presents somewhat of a challenge. First, there are many many more homes on the market in the spring, as a result competition is fierce.

In the Spring there may be more buyers, however those buyers will be checking out your competition (and there will be a lot of it), so your home must look its best and be priced competitively.

As the snow melts the for sale signs spring up around most neighborhoods. In the Spring there may be more buyers, however those buyers will be checking out your competition (and there will be a lot of it), so your home must look its best and be priced competitively.

And unfortunately in Quebec, early Spring is not when homes look their best. I’d argue that most look their worst as the sloppy snow melts to reveal the brown grass beneath. Yards and trees are bare and curb appeal goes way down in the early Spring.

More Visits More Preparation

After a long winter it may take longer to get your home ready to sell. The accumulation of stuff, boots, jackets and other things left in the house after a Winter spent indoors may require more work than getting a house ready to sell after a good spring cleaning.

Unfortunately the Spring brings out many lookers are out for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with the warmer weather just looking at open houses for fun

You may have to have the home ready to show more often in the spring, which means more cleaning, more preparation and all those visits still may not turn into an offer – there are just more buyers in the market looking. Unfortunately the Spring brings out many lookers are out for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with the warmer weather just looking at open houses for fun. Many visitors may not even be ready to buy a home or may only be considering that option in early Spring, if they have not put their own home up for sale.

If your home is move-in ready and not requiring many updates and priced correctly it can work out great, however you may find that you cannot get the same price for your home as you could in the less competitive fall and winter markets. It may be advisable to have your home staged before listing in the super competitive spring market.

Selling Your Home in Summer

Vacation Time

Summer is typically the quieter season in real estate sales in most Montreal area markets. Many home owners are on or planning to take vacations, and likewise for buyers. In Quebec the construction holidays take place usually the last weeks of July and early August, and not only are those in the construction industry away on vacation, many other workers take vacations at that time too. So the pool of potential buyers is will be smaller.

School Drives Many Buyers to Buy in Summer

However there is one thing that drives buyers out in the summer and that is the start of school. Most families with school aged children want to be settled in before the start of the school year in the fall. For larger homes that appeal to families and buyers looking to upgrade, the summer can be the perfect time to sell.

For many homes in desirable school zones the summer could be the best time of year to sell a home.

In the Summer there is way fewer competing homes on the market and the school year is a driving force for buyers to make a quicker decision on purchasing a home. For many homes in desirable school zones the summer could be the best time of year to sell a home.

Figure that most serious buyers who are ready to move will (or should if they are working with a competent real estate broker) start looking 2-4 months at the longest before they plan to move.

Figure that most buyers who are ready to move will (or should if they are working with a competent real estate broker) start looking 2-4 months at the longest before they plan to move. Anything shorter and the potential home may not be available to move into until too late and anything longer and the seller may not be willing to wait for 5-6 months before making their move. This makes the summer a great season for home sellers whose home will appeal mostly to young or larger families.

Homes Look Great in Summer

Homes generally present themselves best in the Summer. Trees, plants, flowers and lawn are all in full bloom in the summer and homes that might not have looked great in early Spring come alive with curb appeal in the summer. A home that might have been passed over in other seasons can drive back buyer attention with attractive landscaping and yard.

Vacation Properties Are Best in Summer

Of course for vacation properties, water-front and recreational homes in summer resort areas, this is perhaps the best-time of the year to sell. Potential buyers will have the opportunity to see the home in its best light and experience the water-front lifestyle at its best. The construction holidays bring huge number of potential buyers on vacation and looking for a vacation home or lifestyle change.

Selling Your Home in the Fall

Less Competition From Other Sellers in the Fall

As a professional real estate broker, the fall has always been a great season for sellers who want to put their homes on the market. Especially for homes that require some TLC as we say, there is a very good reason for that.

In the fall there is much less competition from other homes on the market as many have bought already in Spring and moved in Summer. The homes that have sat on the market all Summer and not sold are not necessarily going to in the Fall either. Often times there is a good reason, whether its condition or the price.

If you can have a home that is staged well, priced accurately and in ready to move in condition, you will attract the best potential buyers in the Fall with so few competitive homes up for sale.

If you can have a home that is staged well, priced accurately and in ready to move in condition, you will attract the best potential buyers in the Fall with so few competitive homes up for sale. The other listings that have been sitting unsold will help to sell your well-presented, well-priced home.

Serious Motivated Buyers in the Fall

Those buyers that are in the market looking to purchase are for the most part very serious and motivated to buy. So with fewer homes on the market in the fall, those homes that need some updating and some minor renovations are not in competition with equally priced and fully-renovated homes. As most families are getting settled into the school year and the return from summer holidays, there is less temptation to put the home on the market in fall, but I think that’s a big opportunity lost.

Fewer Tire-Kickers in the Fall

With my buyers looking in the fall, they tend to make decisions quicker, view fewer homes (as there are fewer up for sale to see) before making an offer and generally are more motivated to get moved in before the snow and winter comes. The added bonus is that with fewer tire-kickers out looking for fun, there is less preparing the home for many wasted visits. Those buyers that are looking will be more serious.

Selling Your Home in Winter

New Year New Home

In my experience January, February, March and April are when many homes come on the market. Many home owners are looking at the new year and want to make a move in the Spring to be settled in for the summer months. It’s the time for a fresh start for many home sellers and buyers, so psychologically there is an optimism that drives many home sales at this time of year.

Homes for Sale in Winter hide a lot more

Homes for in the winter hide a lot more

Homes in Winter Hide a Lot More

For buyers, buying a home in Winter can be a concern as home inspectors will not go on roofs in Winter and foundation issues can also be hidden under the snow.

So you will often see the for sale signs spring up towards the end of the winter months. There are some advantages to listing your home during the winter months. Yards and landscaping are not seen for the most part, so there is no need to continue manicuring a perfect lawn (especially if the lawn doesn’t look good even in summer) as the buyers will not see it during their visit. For buyers, buying a home in Winter can be a concern as home inspectors will not go on roofs in Winter and foundation issues can also be hidden under the snow.

Keeping Walkways Clear in Winter for Every Visit

Homes can however show more poorly in the winter when snowbanks are piling up and dirty salt and road snow has been piled in front of the home. Maintaining a clean, ice-free walkway and driveway for your buyers to access your home becomes a very important task before any visit.

The Winter is a Great Time for Buyers in a Hot Market

In a hot sellers market where the best homes are being sold quickly, as a buyer it sometimes makes sense to venture out in the snow to be the first in the door, or risk losing the home to another more adventurous buyer. As a silly side-note, if you are house shopping in the winter with your broker, get a pair of slip-on or zip-up boots, or overshoes, it will make taking them off a lot easier especially if you are seeing many homes that day. You might notice most real estate brokers never wear shoes or boots with laces or buckles, we are in and out of too many homes.

Great Time for Ski Resort Homes

It goes without saying if you have a resort property on a ski-hill or in the areas where winter-sports and activities are booming, this is the only time of year to sell. Don’t wait until spring when the tourists are all gone and the skiers are no longer around.

Finally perhaps the most important factor is not the seasons or time of year when its best to sell. It really should be based on your timeline and your desire to move. A good real estate broker can sell your home in any season, any time of year and save you time, hassle and money while ensuring you can move forward with your plans with peace of mind.

Prices and the real estate market as a whole are swayed by the seasons.

Be sure that your real estate broker shows you the inventory and historical data for the number of homes in your area that have sold at various times of year. Prices and the real estate market as a whole are swayed by the seasons.

If you are considering a move, or would like a comprehensive, accurate and honest evaluation of your home in today’s market, I invite you to contact me to discuss your plans.

Andrew Mitchell signature

An earlier version of this article I wrote appeared in the Montreal Times newspaper. 

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About the Author

I'm Andrew Mitchell, Chartered Real Estate Broker and Owner of Vistacor Realty Group. I help buyers, sellers and investors in the West Island, Montreal and Vaudreuil-Soulanges areas buy and sell homes. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights and relevant real estate market updates. Contact me with any questions. Follow me on twitter here.