For most people, choosing when to put their home on the market is unlikely to be a tactical decision. More often, it comes down to personal or practical reasons.
But if a seller is able to be slightly flexible on those timings, property experts say there are some months where they have a better chance of finding a buyer, and securing a higher price.
Traditional wisdom says that spring and summer are the best times to sell, with winter months notoriously quiet for estate agents.
But spring and summer accounts for half the year. This is Money decided to drill into the data and find out which months have the most property buyers, as well as asking experts how much the date a home goes on the market really matters.
Rightmove says sellers in March are likely to be met with the highest number of buyers
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former Rics residential chairman, says: ‘Traditionally, it is the spring, particularly around Easter, which is the better time to sell.
‘Properties, particularly those with gardens and outside space, look better at that time of year.’
Looking at the data, March records the highest levels of demand per available property according to Rightmove – the UK’s largest property website.
This would mean sellers in March are likely to be met with the highest number of potential buyers.
Tim Bannister, director of property data at Rightmove says: ‘There is usually a wave of buyers in March through to spring, who are hoping to be in their new home by the end of summer, or are acting on a desire to move which has been growing since the start of the year.
‘This means that sellers coming to market at this time are often met with plenty of interest for their home, in many cases leading to a successful sale.’
Rightmove’s data team assessed the number of people enquiring about properties compared to the number of properties that were found to be available across months of the year over the past five years, excluding the period in 2020 when the property market essentially closed due to the pandemic.
Buyer competition per property is highest in March according to Rightmove’s data
The average demand per available property in March was found to be 2 per cent higher than the next best month, April; and 5 per cent higher than the third best month to sell, which is May.
On the ground, estate agents also suggest March is one of the best month’s to sell your property.
Robert Peel, an estate agent at Antony Roberts in Richmond, London, says: ‘March is a great time to market a property as the days are getting longer and the weather is improving, so properties generally show better.
March is a great time to market a property as the days are getting longer and the weather is improving, so properties generally show better
Estate agent Robert Peel
‘There is also increasing buyer activity from mid to late January, so by the time we get to spring, buyers have a better idea of what they are looking for and are more decisive.
‘Finally, a combination of having children out of the house and at school, and a keenness to move before the summer holidays, gives buyers time and motivation to agree a sale at this time.’
Estate agents suggest that April is also a good month to begin marketing a property.
Lucy Pendleton, property expert at estate agent James Pendleton, says: ‘With spring under way and gardens in bloom, those with outside space might want to circle April in their calendar as a key month to list their property.
‘As well as the chance to show off your home’s horticultural and al fresco appeal, the longer days will afford more time for viewings and allow potential buyers to see its brighter side, even if visiting after work.’
What about the summer months?
Rival property portal Zoopla’s data differs from Rightmove’s, suggesting that the summer may not be such a bad time to list a home, either.
Based on the last five years of Zoopla’s data, the highest number of properties went under offer in August.
It also found that June had the highest number of property enquiries via its online platform.
Similarly Propertymark, the membership body representing 17,500 property agents across the UK, has historically found August to be the busiest month in terms of buyer demand.
Al fresco appeal: With gardens in bloom, April is a good time to sell a home – but the summer months are also becoming more popular with buyers according to Propertymark
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of Propertymark says: ‘Our data shows that pre-pandemic, in 2018 and 2019, August saw far more people register with estate agents compared to other months.’
Over the past two years, buyer demand appears to have shifted even further away from the traditional spring season into the autumn and winter months.
However, this was likely as a result of summer 2020 being spent in lockdown, as well as the market-boosting effect of the stamp duty holiday.
Emerson adds: ‘In 2020 and 2021, November, which normally faces a lull, made for a record-breaking month.
‘Not only were the number of registered buyers highest in November, but in 2021, the average number of properties on the market plummeted to just 20 per branch which meant there was far less competition for people wanting to put their property on the market.’
‘This enabled people to sell their homes quickly and they were often met with bidding wars from buyers.
‘What used to be a historical lull on the run up to Christmas prevalent prior to the pandemic is now non-existent.’
The pandemic caused the property market to temporarily close between March and June 2020, whilst the start of the stamp duty holiday in July 2020 created a buying frenzy
However, whether this new trend remains, only time will tell. The stamp duty holiday which began in July 2020 and ended at the end of September 2021 may have temporarily altered habits.
The lack of properties available in November last year may have also been a consequence of the buying frenzy that had just preceded it.
Does timing your sale even matter?
You may be wondering why the timing of bringing your own property to market is so important.
After all, it may be that a good time to sell is also a bad time to buy.
Pendleton says: ‘If you’re buying and selling similar properties that are highly sought- after then it can be a bit of a zero-sum game.
‘But if you’re trading up or down, there could be an opportunity to come out ahead by tapping into these seasonal trends.’
There is also another factor to consider: the amount of time you want to spend trying to move home.
Nobody wants to list their property at a quieter time, only to be sitting in limbo for months on end waiting for it to sell.
Agents will often advise that the longer the advert remains festering on Rightmove or Zoopla, the less interest it is likely to attract.
Buyers deem the months of marketing as a clear sign there must be something wrong. Who wants to buy something that clearly nobody else does?
Whether this is a risk depends to an extent on how busy your local property market is, however,
A home in a highly sought-after area isn’t likely to have this problem, whereas one in a more off-the-beaten-track location or that might only appeal to a small section of buyers might be better to wait until peak selling season.
What is the worst month for selling property?
Based on the assumption that it is important to avoid your home stagnating on the property portals and going past its metaphorical ‘best before’ date, sellers may be wise to avoid the quieter months.
Most agents agree that December is the worst month to begin marketing a property.
‘The market usually goes quiet from the second week of December as attention turns to the holidays,’ says Peel.
‘Most of our work during this time is focused on progressing sales that have already been agreed in October and November, and getting new stock ready to launch in the new year.’
Buyers can deem months of marketing as a sign there must be something wrong with a home
Pendleton adds: ‘December offers too many distractions to be considered a selling sweet spot. There’s typically less urgency in the market in the run-up to Christmas.
The type of home you are selling also comes in to play, however. For example, if you are selling a family home and therefore relying on other families to buy it, August might be a month to avoid, due to the distractions of school holidays.
‘In the school summer holidays, buyers with children find themselves with little or no free time, and many are jetting off on annual leave,’ says Peel.
‘As a rule, a property will generate much more interest online when it is marketed outside of the school holidays as prospective buyers tend to have a bit more free time during the week.
‘Of course, not all buyers have children and so there is still market activity outside of term time, but the trend is still fairly strong.
‘Putting a property on the market during these quiet periods will often lead to a dampened response and a longer overall selling period due to not being able to fully capitalise on the crucial first few weeks of marketing.’
What other factors should you consider?
What month or season it is won’t necessarily be the determining factor in how easy it is to sell your home.
Some properties may be perfect to sell in summer and others might do better in winter.
When is the best selling season? The summer months drive demand according to Zoopla, with people often planning to ensure they’ve made their move before Christmas
For example, a top-floor flat without outdoor space may be more appealing to buyers in the winter, when having a garden or roof terrace may seem less important.
But a ground floor or basement flat with a garden will probably be more appealing in the summer months, when the garden could seal the deal.
‘Owners without gardens should aim for months when the urge to go outdoors is more subdued and outside space becomes less of a must-have,’ says Pendleton.
‘In particular, these owners should avoid the barbecue season between June and August like the plague — the smell of burgers in the air will only ruin your buyer’s appetite.
‘Owners of flats can find it easier to drive viewings once summer fades into October and November.’
Light levels in the home should also be taken into account.
Jeremy Leaf adds: ‘If you have a property which is not so attractive in good weather, from experience it is easier to sell in the gloomier months of the year such as October and November.
‘Buyers might find the property is fairly dark as there isn’t much light and assume that it will brighten up in the spring but they should not take that for granted.
‘They should check sun lighting patterns in those circumstances.’
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