There are many factors to consider when determining the best time to buy a house, like real estate market trends, seasonal changes, and your personal finances and goals. To help you plan the best time of year to buy a house, we gathered research on factors like home values, competition, median days on the market, and price reductions. Whether you’re an interested buyer or a real estate professional who wants to inform their clients about the market’s outlook, it’s essential to understand how these factors affect home purchases.
Please note: The real estate statistics in this article are based on national surveys and data throughout the U.S. Some data may differ based on your location throughout the country, impacting the real estate market trends, climate, and the best and worst times to buy a house.
Best Time to Buy a House: September to February
Based on 2022 and 2023 U.S. housing market data, the best time to buy real estate is from September through February, the fall to winter. We evaluated real estate inventory and activity during this season, seasonal changes in pricing, and the average time listings spent on the market. We also looked into the homebuyer competition that creates a downswing in the real estate market. These factors make an especially advantageous opportunity for buyers.
The Lowest Home Prices Are Typically in January
When someone asks the question, “When is the best time to buy a house?” there are multiple factors to consider. The first consideration is the average price of homes on the market. In general, median sales prices are more affordable between September and February, with January having the lowest median sale prices. For example, the median price of homes in January 2022 was $377,454, which grew to $432,812 in May 2022. In 2023, January’s median sale price was $382,523, and it peaked at $425,300 in June.
In addition, sellers who list in January are more likely to do so for a specific purpose or out of need, such as a death, divorce, or financial difficulties, which makes them more motivated to sell quickly. This can be assumed by their choice to sell their home when property values are at their lowest, and they risk spending more time on the market.
Higher Median Days on Market in January
Historically, the median number of days a home spends on the market rises between November and January, which suggests less competition for homebuyers. Homes were on the market for 59 and 72 days, respectively, in January 2022 and 2023. This is significantly more than the May 2022 median of 30 or the May 2023 median of 43 days.
The longer a home is on the market, the more opportunity buyers have to find and acquire the home they want. A higher number of days on the market also encourages sellers to be more receptive to negotiations on price, closing date, and other terms that can be favorable to buyers. Based on this data, January is the best month to buy a house for the lowest price and the least competition.
More Price Reductions in December
Once a home has been listed on the market for a while with no or very few offers, it’s common for homeowners or real estate agents to reduce the asking price. According to FRED Economic Data, December has the highest percentage of price reductions in every housing season.
In December 2022, the percentage of price reductions was -39.95%. On the other hand, between March and August 2022 and 2023, the percentages weren’t even in the negative.
Another common question from homebuyers is, “When do most houses go on the market?” In general, the highest number of homes are listed for sale between March and September. Therefore, homeowners who haven’t sold their house after this rush are often stuck with fewer options. This makes the period between November and February an excellent opportunity for buyers to pounce on a home that has been on the market longer than anticipated and secure it at a lower price.
Additionally, with fewer prospective buyers, sellers are more open to lowering their asking prices and being flexible in negotiations. So, while it may be one of the slowest times for real estate listings and inventory, it is a good time to buy a house for homebuyers.
Reasons why winter is the best time to buy in 2023 and 2024:
- January 2023: Lowest sale prices listed at $382,523
- January 2022 and 2023: Homes stayed on the market for 59 and 72 days, respectively
- December 2021 and 2022: Highest percentage of price reductions at 34.3% in 2021 and 39.95% in 2022
Worst Time to Buy a House: March to August
On the other hand, the worst month to buy a house is from March to August. Housing inventory begins to increase, which attracts a large number of homebuyers. As a result, home prices go up, more homes are sold above the listing price, and the competitive market creates the possibility of bidding wars.
Higher Listing Prices in May
In general, the spring homebuying season starts in March. As per U.S. Housing Market & Prices, the median sale price of homes increased from $386,919 in February to $400,560 in March 2023. In 2022, the sale price of homes increased every month between February and May, starting at $391,337 and increasing to $432,914.
The increasing sales price during the spring season indicates stiff competition among homebuyers who want more listing options and favorable weather. If you’re evaluating if it is a bad time to buy a house, consider the type of home you’re looking for, your competition, and your finances. This season could be an uphill battle for first-time homebuyers whose purchasing power and credit score may be weaker compared to more experienced homebuyers and real estate investors.
More Homes Sold Above List Price in May
Along with the trend of increasing listing prices, more properties are sold over the list price from March to August than at any other time of year. For example, 59.1% of homes sold above the asking price in May 2022, but only 21.3% in January 2023.
In May 2023, the percentage increased to 37.4%. Although this is a lower percentage than in 2022, it matches the state of the real estate market and shows that May is not the best time to buy a home for the lowest possible price.
Between March and August, buyers are most likely to spend significantly more money than they plan. This is because home prices are higher during this time and are also being sold over the asking amount. For buyers who are already pushing their financial boundaries to buy a home, this season has the most challenging market and may be the worst time to buy a house.
Higher Moving Frequency in June
According to research from Moving Labor, summer is the most common season for Americans to move. In fact, 80% of all moves happen between April and September. Because of this peak season, booking time with moving companies is more difficult, and costs are higher than in the winter and autumn months. January and December boast the lowest moving rates at 3%, while June recorded the highest moving rate at 13%.
Here is a breakdown of moving frequency by month:
The combination of high home prices, high inventory, moving frequency, and homes being sold over the asking price contribute to an active and competitive real estate market between March and August. Although these are usually the busiest months for real estate agents, it is considerably more challenging for homebuyers to find the right home at the right price during this period.
If you aren’t sure how your local market is trending, check out Zillow Research. As the most visited real estate listing website in the U.S., Zillow has a pulse on the latest trends and listings hitting the real estate market. In addition to helping you find affordable properties in your area and the agents who represent them, the platform offers weekly market reports and an interactive home value index tool for visualizing trends.
Housing Market Data by Month
According to the Redfin Housing Market report, the 2023 real estate market has slowed down from 2022’s surge in inventory and home prices. During the spring of 2022, median sale prices increased by 10% to 15% year-over-year.
In contrast, the spring of 2023 market had a negative growth of 0.8% to 4.2%. However, the seasonal trends remained strong, with median sale prices increasing from $382,523 in January 2023 to $425,300 in June 2023.
Even with slow year-over-year growth in the real estate market, real estate statistics consistently show that the best time of the year to buy a house is during the colder months, between September and February. During this time, home sale prices have decreased, median days on the market are higher, and price reductions are more common.
On the other hand, the spring and summer seasons are the worst time to buy a house as housing inventory starts to rise and many buyers start looking for new homes. This causes home prices to rise, more homes to be sold above the listing price, and bidding wars to start.
Take a look at the table below to observe the housing market trends from 2022 to 2023 to see when houses go on the market and what causes the best and worst times to buy a house:
Best & Worst Times to Buy a House
Number of Homes for Sale (in Millions)
Number of Homes Sold
Median Days on Market
Best Months to Buy a House
Best Months to Buy a House
Worst Months to Buy a House
Other Key Housing Market Indicators for Buyers
To gain a complete understanding of the current real estate market and determine the best time to buy a house for yourself, there are additional factors you should be familiar with. Aside from seasonality, the following indicators will dictate your buying power and provide insight into whether you should move forward with a purchase:
- Local housing affordability
- Interest rates
- Median days on the market
- Housing inventory
- Time of year
- Market type
- Rental market trends
To read more about these indicators and see how they affected the market in 2022 and 2023, check out our article, 8 Most Crucial Housing Market Indicators for Buying & Selling.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Mortgage rates are influenced by a multitude of factors, like inflation, government policies, housing inventory, and global events. This makes them difficult to accurately predict. However, predictions from the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Home Builders, and other research publications predict mortgage rates to decline to about 6% by the end of 2024.
Our research reveals that the cheapest and best time of year to buy a house is generally from September to February. Although these winter months typically see fewer homes for sale, home prices are more affordable, homes spend more time on the market, and there are more price reductions.
The cheapest month to buy a house varies slightly each year and based on location, but December and January consistently have the highest price reductions and the lowest average sale prices, respectively. These factors allow buyers to get the best deal and face the smallest amount of competition, making it the best time of year to buy a house.
Based on seasonal trends and recent real estate market data, the best time of the year to buy a house is from September through February. This period boasts low home prices, higher median days on the market, more price reductions, and low demand—creating a less competitive market for homebuyers.
On the other hand, the worst time of year to buy a house is during the spring season up to early summer, when housing inventory is high, driving the demand and home prices up. Aside from seasonality, other economic factors, such as mortgage rates, may also affect your ability to buy a home.