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The best — and worst — time of year to sell a house

Buyers looking at a home.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Over the past couple of years, the real estate market has been exceptionally hot for sellers. But even in a more typical market, timing is everything, and this is particularly true when selling a house. In fact, sellers can potentially net thousands of dollars more if they sell during the peak months of May, June, and July versus the two slowest months of the year, October and December, according to a 2021 report by ATTOM Data Solutions.

Best month to sell a house

Late spring — specifically, the month of May — is the best time to sell a house, netting a 13.4 percent seller premium, based on ATTOM’s analysis of single-family home and condo sales over the past 10 years.

Best (and worst) times of year to sell, by month

To determine the premium or discount sellers realized on a given day, ATTOM Data Solutions compared the median sales price for homes with a purchase closing on that day with the median automated valuation model (AVM) for those same properties at the time of sale. Here’s how each month of the year ranked for the best time to sell a house.

Month Median Sales Price Median AVM Seller Premium
Source: ATTOM Data Solutions
May $197,400 $174,000 13.4%
June $206,000 $184,500 11.7%
July $209,000 $188,000 11.2%
April $190,000 $174,000 9.2%
August $205,000 $188,246 8.9%
March $185,000 $170,340 8.6%
February $177,510 $164,000 8.2%
September $201,000 $187,000 7.5%
January $178,058 $167,000 6.6%
November $200,000 $188,000 6.4%
October $200,000 $188,979 5.8%
December $200,000 $189,000 5.8%

The highest-earning four months (April, May, June and July) saw nearly 15 million purchase transactions taking place during this period, according to ATTOM.

June barely beats July for second place, with an 11.7 percent seller premium, up slightly from July’s 11.2 percent. March and April usher in homebuying season with returns of 8.6 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. By September, seller premiums start tapering off, falling to 7.5 percent.

“In general, the best time to sell a house is the summer. Conversely, that’s usually the worst time to buy, due to high prices and more demand,” says Donovan Reynolds, a real estate agent with Redfin in Atlanta.

Seasonality is important

While all regions experience seasonality, it is more or less pronounced depending on where you are in the country.

For example, in the South and West — where temperatures are largely more moderate — there’s less discrepancy between the peak and slow seasons, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, there’s more contrast between summer and winter in the Midwest and Northeast.

These seasonal patterns can help give sellers an indication of what to expect throughout the year.

Spring and summer are the best seasons to sell

Typically, sellers list their homes in the spring and summer because the weather is good, especially for people in colder climates. In addition, families want to buy their next home before school starts, says Realtor Liede DeValdivielso, one half of The DeValdivielso Team with the Keyes Company in Coral Gables, Florida.

Daylight savings time might also play a part in why the warmer months stimulate buying activity.

“One of the reasons buyers are more eager to view properties during spring and summer may be due to the longer days,” says Marilyn Blume, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in New York City. “By getting more exposure for your listing through more traffic, you increase the chances to receive more offers.”

Homebuyers on a deadline — for example, those who want to buy a house in time for school to start — should make sure they’re in top shape to buy a home. That means they’ve checked their credit and debt-to-income ratio to ensure they’re in a strong position to get a mortgage preapproval. Otherwise, their efforts might be delayed.

“April is plenty of time to get a house before school starts, as long as your financing is in order,” DeValdivielso says. “The best thing to do is shop around for a loan before you start looking for a house. This will give you a good idea of what you can qualify for.”

Fall and winter are the worst seasons to sell

The decline in seller premiums typically begins in September, when the average premium drops to 7.5 percent — slightly more than half that of the peak in May. By then, many buyers with school-aged kids have likely found a home, so the sharp decline is no surprise.

Combine the new school year with the start of the busy holiday season, and homebuying goes on the back burner during the latter part of the year.

Just like in the warmer months, the weather also plays a factor in the winter months. As the days get dark earlier and temperatures drop, people tend to stay close to home. This means less foot traffic for sellers.

December is the worst month to sell

The worst month of the year to sell a house is December, which ties with October at a 5.8 percent seller premium, according to ATTOM. Homebuying activity typically comes to a near-standstill in December, when people tend to travel and are busy with holiday events.

More tips for sellers

Here are some more suggestions for sellers hoping to maximize their selling success:

  • Because real estate is local, speak with an experienced real estate agent in your market who understands sales trends. Real estate agents can give you neighborhood-specific sales information so you can make a strategic decision about when to sell.
  • Keep prep time in mind. Sellers should consider making key repairs and updates to their homes to maximize their return, but this can be a lengthy process. Even simple decluttering can be time-consuming, so plan accordingly and finish these projects before listing your home on the market.
  • When figuring out the best time to sell a house in your market, don’t forget that a difference of a few months can translate into thousands of dollars in either profit or loss. Work closely with your real estate agent so you can time it right and meet your goals.

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Written by
Natalie Campisi
Mortgage reporter
Natalie Campisi is a former mortgage reporter at Bankrate.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor