House & Home

Spring home sales can be misleading

Spring is the absolute best time of the year to sell a house. Right?

Is there hard statistical evidence that listing your house in April, May or June — flowers blooming, birds chirping, lawns greened up after a tough winter — actually nets you a higher price or a shorter time from listing to sale? Not exactly.

A study of 1.1 million home listings between 2011 and 2013 in 19 major markets by the national realty brokerage firm Redfin found that, contrary to popular impressions, houses put on the market in winter — defined as Dec. 21 through March 21 — had a 9 percent greater probability of selling within 180 days and at a smaller discount to the initial list price than houses put on the market between March 22 and June 21. The advantage jumped to 10 percent over listings between June 22 and Sept. 20. Winter listers ultimately sold for prices 1.2 percentage points higher than homes listed during any other season.

Though there were geographic differences, researchers found that even in areas with harsh winters, there were statistical advantages for listers. In Chicago there was a 13 percent advantage in selling time for listings initiated in the late December through mid-March period compared with listings in the summer.

In Boston, the advantage was 14 percent. In Los Angeles and San Diego, even with their relatively mild winters, the advantage was still evident — 9 points and 11 points, respectively. In Seattle, it was 12 points.

Ellen Haberle, a Redfin economist, said sales agents in Boston and Chicago reported that the greatest effect of winter weather this year was not on buyers: They were scoping out available listings early on. Instead it was the owners who lagged, reluctant to list their homes because they didn’t want to shovel snow or start the interior spiffing-up needed to properly market their property.

So should the season influence whether — and precisely when — you list your house for sale? Sure. But other, more personal factors should get higher priority: Is your house ready to list and show? Have you interviewed multiple agents to get comparative market analyses on your home’s probable selling price range? Are you prepared to do what’s necessary to sell at maximum price, which may include staging the interior and completing fixes and improvements?

Answer those questions, and price realistically based on the market analyses you’ve received from professionals — which may include advice on timing — and you should have a good shot at a successful sale.

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