While it may be more convenient to buy a home in the summer before school starts, waiting until fall or winter can save you big dollars, a new NerdWallet study found.
To determine the most affordable time to buy, NerdWallet analyzed the past two years’ worth of listings and sales in the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas using data from Realtor.com. NerdWallet found that home sale prices — the amount a buyer actually pays — in the nation’s largest metro areas typically peak during the summer, dip in the fall and are lowest in winter, potentially saving off-peak buyers thousands of dollars.
Summer is typically the most expensive time to buy. In the majority of metro areas analyzed, home sale prices peak in June and July. Inventory is also highest those months, but so is competition.
Sale prices fall in autumn. Home listing prices don’t fall dramatically once summer ends — they only decrease less than half a percent in the fall. But sale prices take a noticeable dip. In the 50 metro areas, home sale prices dropped 2.96% on average — that’s a drop of $8,300 on the median home — from summer (June through August) to fall (September through November).
Home sale prices are usually lowest in winter. If you can wait a little longer to buy, hold off until January or February, when homes cost 8.45% less on average than in June through August. January had the cheapest sale prices in 29 of the 50 metro areas, and February had the cheapest prices in 19 areas.
Where prices drop the most
The degree of seasonal decreases in home sale prices varies across metro areas. In the analysis, the metro area of Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut, experienced the largest drop in price from summer to fall at 8.2%. The Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio, metro area had the second-largest drop at 8.0%, and the Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama, metro area came in third with a 7.6% drop in price from summer to fall.
“If your circumstances give you the freedom to be able to choose the best time to look to sign a contract on a new home, there’s no question that the market dynamics favor you the most to do that in the dead of winter, ideally in January or February, right before the activity starts to heat up,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com.
To see the most affordable time to buy a home in each metro area and view the full methodology, read the full report.
Builders ramped up construction of single-family homes, however
Fixes story to reflect the correct agency reporting the data.
Builders broke ground on the fewest new homes in a year and a half in September, another setback as the housing market struggles for sustainable momentum.
Housing starts ran at an annual 1.047 million pace, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was 9% lower than in August and 11.9% lower than a year ago. It was the slowest pace of starts since March 2015. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a 1.18 million pace.
The stumble in starts was slightly offset by a surge in building permits, which foreshadows a stronger pace of construction in the future. Permits were at a 1.23 million pace in August, a 6.3% monthly gain and the highest since November.
And single-family housing starts jumped 8.1% to an annual 783,000 pace, the highest in seven months. As builders shift their focus to single-family construction away from apartments, it signals more confidence in the market for owner-occupied homes and generates more economic activity. The U.S. now has the most single-family homes under construction since October 2008.
Starts for buildings with five or more units plunged 39%.
Trulia Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin, who smooths out the monthly volatility in the starts data by using a 12-month rolling total, wrote in a note Wednesday morning that starts are “up year-over-year, but the rate of increase is slowing.”
Like many housing analysts, McLaughlin is concerned that housing market inventory is too tight. “While housing starts continue to inch up to their pre-recession average, they’re only about 75% back to normal. Housing completions, which represent tangible new supply for homebuyers, is even lower at 67%. Though homebuilders continue their slow and steady charge, there is much room for growth headed into 2017.”
The Commerce Department’s figures are notoriously volatile and often revised heavily. August housing starts and permits, both initially reported as 1.14 million, were each revised up slightly to a 1.15 million rate. Some analysts suggested looking past the September numbers altogether.
“Nothing to see here, move along,” wrote Amherst Pierpont Securities Chief Economist Stephen Stanley wrote Wednesday. But Stanley also noted a continuing “dissonance” between anecdotal reports about the housing market and actual data.
Builder sentiment eased in October, an industry group reported Tuesday, but that was a step back from a ten-year high in September. Builders continue to complain about higher costs of labor and lots, even as demand for housing swells.
“Reports from Realtors suggest that the housing market is on fire in many parts of the country, with the biggest constraint on sales being the lack of attractive inventory on the market,” Stanley added.
“Likewise, builders are seeing solid demand for new homes, and their biggest complaint is an inability to find enough skilled job candidates to fill out their construction crews. It is a mystery that in an environment that sounds like it would be very positive for housing, activity fell in real terms at a nearly 8% annual clip in the second quarter and may have declined at close to a 6% pace in the third quarter.”
Not very long ago, it was fashionable to ask if millennials would ever crawl out of their parents’ basements and into a realtor’s office. Enthusiasm for that view, which had gained wide exposure by 2012, lost steam as mortgages got easier to come by and millennials kept insisting that no, actually, they do want to own a home.
A flurry of reports released yesterday should further dispel the notion that millennials are allergic to homeownership.
Half of U.S. homebuyers are under 36, Zillow reports, based on a survey of 13,000 respondents, and first-time buyers account for 47 percent of purchases. First-timers make up 52 percent of prospective buyers planning home purchases in 2017, according to the results of another survey, published today by Realtor.com. When the company conducted the same survey last year, it found that only 33 percent of prospective buyers were first-timers.
Millennials, it seems, are poised to take a bigger share of the U.S. housing market.
This is mostly a matter of basic math and common sense.
First-timers have always made up a large share of home purchases, and their median age has hovered around 33. Back in the days when serious people were afraid that young people, burdened with student debt and enamored of city living, had quit on homeownership, the oldest millennials simply hadn’t yet reached the age at which most Americans have historically bought their first homes.
Now, millennials are aging into the prime years for first-time homebuying, and evidence is mounting that they’re becoming the dominant force in the U.S. housing market.
Last month, the Urban Institute pointed out that mortgages to first-time homebuyers had recovered to 2001 levels, while repeat purchasers continue to do home renovations or wallow in the post-housing-crisis doldrums. (That analysis excludes cash buyers and includes boomerang buyers—foreclosure victims reentering the market—as first-timers.) Meanwhile, the credit bureau TransUnion reports that 60 percent of first-time homebuyers in the fourth quarter of 2015 were between the ages of 20 and 39.
So why did anyone believe young people were done with homeownership?
In the years following the global financial crisis, which began with easy credit, it was hard to qualify for mortgages. Millennials carry more student debt than older Americans, though it’s hard to say how much that keeps them from buying a home. American households are likelier to be found in rental housing than at any time in the past 50 years, and the trend away from homeownership has shown up among the young.
But millennials, despite all you read about what they like and hate and will buy and won’t buy, are people, and people in America have a long history of favoring the benefits conferred by homeownership—stability, price appreciation, and tax credits among them.
Their biggest roadblock to homeownership may not be personal preference or personal finance. According to a recent analysis by Fannie Mae economists, a bigger obstacle is single-family landlords, who have snapped up a massive slug of starter homes in recent years, turning millennial homebuyers’ likely targets into rental properties.
That may explain another finding from the Zillow survey: As a group, millennials have skipped past traditional starter homes, buying first homes that are about as large and as expensive as the homes purchased by members of older generations.
Millennials showed up in the housing market later than some people expected. Now they’re making up for lost time.
The decline in the U.S. homeownership rate has been well-documented over the last couple of years; in the second quarter, the rate fell to a 51-year low of 62.9 percent.
The homeownership rate is not declining for everyone, however. There is one group that is grabbing an increasingly higher share of the American Dream of homeownership.
According to Trulia, the gap is closing between the homeownership rate for immigrants (U.S. residents born outside the country) and the rate for domestic-born residents. The disparity in homeownership rate between immigrants and domestic-born U.S. residents peaked in 2001 at 20.7 percentage points between the two rates but has narrowed considerably since then (15.7 percentage points in 2015).
The homeownership rate of domestic-born U.S. residents has basically stayed flat over the last two decades while the rate for immigrants has increased during that same period, according to Trulia. In 1994, the homeownership rate for immigrants was 48.1 percent, compared with 66 percent for U.S.-born residents (a difference of about 17.9 percent). Both rates rose and then peaked during the bubble years, then started to fall; however, by 2015, the homeownership rate for U.S. residents in 2015 was basically the same as it had been in 1994, while the rate for foreign-born immigrants in 2015 (50.5 percent) was 2.3 percentage points higher than it was two decades earlier.
Homeownership has long been viewed as a key to economic prosperity and building wealth. The closing disparity between the two and the fact that the homeownership rate is higher for immigrants than it was two decades ago indicates that immigrants are building more wealth and contributing more to the economy, according to Trulia.
Immigrants are closing the gap because many of them are staying in the U.S. longer and building up a solid credit history and employment history, Trulia found. For instance, the homeownership rate among immigrants who have lived in the country for five years or less was much lower than that of immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 10 or more years in every state.
“This is likely due to the fact that immigrants who lived in the U.S. less than five years do not have adequate credit history in the U.S. to obtain a mortgage, which forces them to rent rather than own,” said Mark Uh, data scientist with Trulia. “Thus, those states with a greater proportion of foreign-born having lived in the U.S. for longer durations saw higher rates of homeownership.”
The housing market is past recovery and moving on with genuine strength. The future, in fact, looks bright enough for Veros Real Estate Solutions to call that residential market values will continue their overall upward trend over the next 12 months at the same pace they’ve been going, 3.5 percent.
Moreover, the trend upwards will be even more pronounced in the country’s top markets. The company’s most recent VeroFORECAST found that eight of the top 10 markets will be in Colorado, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon‒‒indeed, 15 of the top 25 forecast markets were confined to these four states, which Veros stated, is almost unprecedented. And these markets are expected to climb in the 10 percent range.
“In markets with this level of national appreciation it is most common to see a broad distribution of markets contributing to the rise,” says Eric Fox, vice president of statistical and economic modeling at Veros. “What is remarkable from where we stand today is the possible concentration risk when home price appreciation and market activity become highly clustered in only a few regional areas.”
Denver and Boulder led the forecast with a projected appreciation of nearly 11 percent.
But all top 10 markets are forecast to be in the 9-to-11 percent range. Fort Collins and Seattle are projected to each see appreciation above 10 percent, and Boise is just shy of 10 percent.
“These sizzling markets are characterized by strong market fundamentals (low unemployment rates, growing populations, and month’s supply of homes around 2.0 months or less),” Veros reported.
Still expected to appreciate, just not as quickly as they have, are markets in the Bay Area and oil-reliant Texas. Houston, for example, showed a forecast appreciation of 4.3 percent during last quarter’s update, but in the latest forecast, that number dropped to 2.4 percent, due to troubles in the oil sector.
The Bay Area, forecast in the 6 percent range, are down more than 1 percent from last quarter, likely due to home prices reaching a pinnacle and pushing buyers at the margins out of the market. South Florida markets (Miami, West Palm Beach, and Naples) are also showing forecasts down more than 1 percent from last quarter’s update. Market indicators pointing to shrinking foreign investors and vast crop of luxury condos in construction.
What’s important to keep in mind is that even the weakest markets, showing depreciation around 1 percent or 2 percent, “won’t perform that poorly,” Fox says. The report’s weakest market is expected to be Atlantic City, with a forecast 2.4 percent depreciation. Similar to the best-performing markets being confined to a small geographic area, this quarter’s report shows 20 of the 25 bottom performing markets are in New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, the Hudson Valley region of New York, and the oil-based economies of Texas and Oklahoma.
“This type of concentration is a highly unique phenomenon,” Fox said. “In the 13 years that VeroFORECAST has been accurately producing forecasts we have never seen such strong geographic polarization.”