If you’ve been paying attention to the housing market, you know prices have been rising for the past few years. And that’s not going to change anytime soon. Considering how much homeownership costs these days, it pays to know the best time to buy a house to get the best possible deal.
And yes, there’s the best time to buy just about anything—including a house. Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make, so just like you would want to wait for the best time to buy furniture, a washer, and dryer, or a new TV, you should know when the best time to buy a house is before you start searching for your new home.
Why trust Reader’s Digest? When it comes to saving money, we don’t mess around. So we went straight to the experts to find out the ideal time to shop for a home. In this market, every little bit of savings helps.
How much do houses typically cost in 2022?
The housing market has continually gotten more expensive over the past decade, with the median home price increasing by nearly 30%. Housing prices have jumped 14.8% in the last year alone.
Housing prices vary by state, but you’re looking at rising costs across the nation. Data from the U.S. Census and the National Association of Realtors shows that in 2022, the median sale price for a previously occupied home is $407,600. The median price of a newly constructed house is $449,000.
The housing market is starting to cool slightly, but don’t expect the price of houses to go down anytime soon, if at all. Supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global inflation have made construction materials more expensive, driving up the average cost to build a house by 20% in the past year. Experts believe that the rise in home prices will slow considerably, but it’ll be because fewer people will be able to afford a house.
What are the factors affecting home prices?
Nationally, there are two main factors that have caused home prices to rise: low supply and high demand. The construction of new homes significantly slowed down after the 2008 housing market crash, and it continued to lag while demand steadily increased. The pandemic made things worse: Construction materials became harder to get and more costly.
On a local level, the following factors affect the price of a home:
- Size of the house and lot
- Age and condition
- Value of similar houses in the neighborhood
- Modern appliances and conveniences
- Construction upgrades and updates
When is the best time to buy a house?
Ask any real estate or finance professional when is the best time to buy a house, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: the moment you can afford one. That’s the case whether you’re buying your first home or moving into house number six.
“There’s a little joke about this. There are actually two great times to buy a house: One is 20 years ago, and one is today,” says Simon Glenn, a Nexa mortgage broker based in Georgetown, South Carolina. “Where I live, a house purchased for $150K in the year 2000 sells for over $550K. When you buy a house, you’re buying yourself a lot more than just a place to live and should do so as soon as you’re financially able.”
Of course, you’ll also want to take into consideration whether you’re ready to settle down, if your job is relatively stable and whether you want to take on all of the care that comes with homeownership.
Best months to buy a house
Most sellers put their homes on the market in the spring and summer, meaning there’s lots of available inventory and plenty of competition from other homebuyers. If having a wide selection of houses to choose from is most important to you, then you may want to start your search in March or April. But here’s a little real estate secret: If you’re looking for a deal, wait until fall to start house hunting.
“Sellers that still have houses on the market in mid-October are looking to sell before the end of the year so they don’t have to take the property into the following year, tax-wise,” says Baltimore-based real estate agent Jennifer Marsh. “Traditionally, the market slows down at the end of the year because of the coming holidays. I always school my buyers that they could get a bargain waiting until the end of the year because most sellers just want to sell their house.”
Best time of the month to buy a house
“The end of the month is the best time to buy, as there could be closing cost incentives in place for buyers in the event that properties are still not sold,” says Marsh. “In the past few years, houses were selling in days. Now, due to the market adjustment, it’s more like two to three weeks, which is still excellent but can give buyers a bit of an edge if they time it right.”
Best days of the week to buy a house
With most people working Monday through Friday, it should come as no surprise that house hunters flock to showings on the last day of the week and on the weekend. In fact, if your ultimate shopping goal is to avoid crowds—whether you’re buying small appliances or a new home—weekdays will be your best friend.
“I like working with clients earlier in the week,” says Marsh. “Weekends are always jam-packed with open houses and scheduled showings, but on weekdays, there are few distractions, and I can give homebuyers a lot more personal attention.”
Ways to save when buying a house
Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a couple of things to consider, especially if you’re hoping to get the best deal possible.
1. Determine your budget
Unless you’re purchasing your house in cash, consult with a mortgage professional to help you paint a full financial picture and figure out how much home you can afford. It’s a step you’ll need to take before you even begin house hunting.
“A mortgage loan officer will help you unpack your goals and financial history [and] determine your actual income, assets, and liabilities to frame a budget and maximum purchase amount you can qualify for based on your credit history and debt-to-income ratio,” says Glenn. Bonus: They can define any tricky real estate terms for you.
Don’t forget to take into consideration those things you’ll end up paying for before you even buy the house, like an appraisal fee, escrow fee, and more.
2. Work with local lenders
Marsh suggests working with local lenders, not only because they’re well versed in state tax rates and laws but also because they may be able to save you a lot of money.
“Local lenders also know about lender programs that can help with the buying process,” she says. “Every state, and many local governments, have homeownership and home buying assistance programs that can help you with financing, down payments, credit building, and more. And definitely shop for a mortgage. Local lenders and smaller banks are eager to do business with you, and you can leverage their competitiveness to your advantage.”
The home buying process is complex, so don’t worry if you feel like you don’t have it all figured out quite yet. Keep reading for common questions about the best time to buy a house.
1. Is 2022 a good year to buy a house?
Houses are investments that continually grow in value, so yes, 2022 is a good year to buy a home. Even though interest rates are going up, hyperinflated housing prices are beginning to level out. By buying now and refinancing later, when interest rates are lower and housing values have increased, you’ll likely save money in the long run.
As real estate experts will tell you, the best time to buy a house is when you’re financially able. Waiting for a “better” time can leave you missing out, and that’s a costly home-buying mistake to make.
2. Is it better to buy a house at the beginning or end of the year?
Both the beginning and end of the year are considered the offseason, so you’re likely to find deals at either time.
3. What credit score is best to buy a house?
Usually, you need a credit score of at least 650 to qualify for a mortgage, but the higher your score, the better. Borrowers with credit scores over 740 get the best mortgage rates and lending terms. Don’t make any large purchases or open a new line of credit in the six months before meeting with a mortgage officer; these things can be seen as red flags to lenders.
Help for house hunters
Paying attention to the best times of year for homebuying can help you shave money off the price of a new home, but real estate experts say you shouldn’t get hung up on the best time to buy a house. Instead, let your financial situation guide you. If you can afford a home and are ready to put down roots, it’s a good time to buy, they say.
The savings don’t stop here. Keep finding out how to save on the stuff you love by learning the best time to buy a mattress, patio furniture, and even fine jewelry.