Curve

December is the best month to buy a home for less

Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor

In this article:

Many people think a time like March, April or May is the best month to buy a home. But new data show that seven of the 10 best days of the year to purchase a house fall in December. That’s because:

  • Some of the best deals and discounts can be had toward the end of the year.
  • Colder December weather means fewer home shoppers to compete with.
  • Many shoppers are busy planning and celebrating the holidays, too.

With the right planning and a little luck, you can find a great bargain on a home regardless of the date on the calendar. But there’s no time like the present, and some of the best deals can be claimed right now, research suggests.

The best month to buy a home? It’s December

A new report by ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed 18 million single-family home and condo sales over the past five years. It reveals that there are 10 days of the year when it’s best to close on a home purchase. That’s because the following 10 dates offer discounts, on average, below estimated market value:

  • December 1—0.5 percent discount ($1,000 savings)
  • December 4—1.0 percent discount ($1,823 savings)
  • December 7—1.0 percent discount ($2,000 savings)
  • December 8—0.1 percent discount ($149 savings)
  • December 21—0.6 percent discount ($1,223 savings)
  • December 26—1.3 percent discount ($2,500 savings)
  • December 29—0.7 percent discount ($1,320 savings)
  • February 9—0.3 percent discount ($500 savings)
  • October 12—0.5 percent discount ($1,000 savings)
  • November 9—0.3 percent discount ($666 savings)

The states seeing the largest discounts below full market value were: Ohio (-8.8 percent in January); Michigan (-7.9 percent in February); Nebraska (-7.3 percent in December); Tennessee (-6.8 percent in December); and Delaware (-6.5 percent in December).

In addition, the metro markets racking up the biggest discounts under full market value were: Dayton (-13.1 percent in January); Detroit (-12.8 percent in February); Cleveland (-12.0 percent in January); Honolulu (-10.3 percent in June); and Milwaukee (-9.3 percent in December).

Reading between the research

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president for ATTOM Data Solutions, was taken aback by some of these findings.

“I found it surprising that December days were so dominant on this list. I would have expected the days to be spread out a bit more,” he says. “But this concentration in December indicates there really is a clear best season in which to buy a home—that’s the holiday season.”

Here’s another thing he found curious: these top 10 dates were the only days out of 362 total they analyzed where buyers were able to purchase below market value on average.

“This illustrates that we truly have been in a market more favorable to sellers than buyers,” he says.

Say the market was more balanced. In this case, buyers would be able to purchase under market value, on average, roughly half the days on the 12-month calendar.

Why December is the best month to buy a home

There are several reasons why the best month to buy a home is also the last month of the year.

“It’s a time of the year when many buyers go into hibernation,” says Blomquist. “This provides an advantage to buyers who remain active.”

Related: How to choose the right closing date

Also, “Many prospective buyers are busy with holiday-related activities at this time of year. And weather may play into this. The cold and snow may be an impediment for shoppers in colder-weather markets.”

Blomquist notes that buyers seeking to save the most possible money should aim for a day-after-Christmas closing. That’s because it’s the best single day to buy, per ATTOM Data Solutions’ data. But that means you’d likely have to begin your home search around Halloween and make an offer around Thanksgiving.

“If you’re willing to begin your home search around the time when stores are setting up Christmas decorations, you’ll have less competition. Plus, you’ll probably work with more motivated sellers. This can  give you the upper hand in price negotiations.”

A change of seasons and savings

Two years ago, ATTOM Data Solutions released a similar study. It reported that February and March ranked as the first and third best months to claim the biggest discounts. So why did the best month to buy a home shift early in the year to later on the calendar?

Related: Best day of the week to lock in your mortgage

“This indicates that more prospective buyers are getting an earlier jump on their home search,” says Blomquist. “Instead of waiting until the spring to start looking, they’re starting their search closer to the beginning of the year. Technology may be enabling this earlier searching. And the competitive housing market is likely motivating shoppers to get started sooner.”

Keep this list in perspective

However, don’t sweat it if you aren’t able to perfectly time your home purchase.

“This list should not be the primary motivator for shoppers to buy or not,” says Blomquist. “Buyers should be looking primarily at their job, financial and life circumstances to decide whether or not to purchase.”

Even if you can’t close on one of the 10 days listed above, you can still get a great deal on a home, with the right strategy.

Related: Buying a home (When can I get my keys and move in?)

“We are starting to see signs that the market is shifting away from being so highly favorable to sellers. It’s becoming a bit more favorable to buyers,” he says. “Sales and home price appreciation are slowing as inventories are rising. That combination indicates that buyers have more negotiating power.”

If that trend continues into next spring, Blomquist predicts it will be the best spring buying season in many years.

Tips to score the best deal

Want to increase your odds of landing a home buying bargain? Blomquist suggests these tips:

  • Be patient yet ready to pounce if an opportunity arises
  • Line up your team of experts who can help you make a well-timed purchase. The most important of these are a real estate agent and mortgage lender
  • Get pre-qualified through your lender. “This way, you know exactly how much you can afford. Thus, you can make a solid offer when the time comes around,” he says
  • Be willing to walk away from a bad deal or a bidding war

Your ability to grab a great deal on your next home purchase is highly-dependent on your local market, and on who has the power — buyer or seller. But buying in December does get you a better price in many locations.

Verify your new rate (Dec 11th, 2018)