If you're thinking about putting your home on the market, it’s important to time your sale so you can sell quickly, and get the best price.
While there are some common market trends that are worth bearing in mind, finding the best time to sell is slightly more complicated than avoiding Christmas or the summer holidays.
In this section, we'll look at what other factors could impact the success of your sale, and how you can go about finding out more about the property market in your area.
Common wisdom says that spring and autumn are the best times of year to sell your home.
These months tend to be warmer, and don't coincide with any major holidays. This means that potential buyers have more time to look around homes, and any outdoor spaces are looking their best.
The best month to sell a house is May, closely followed by early October. May is right in the middle of the spring period, meaning it will be both green and warm, while October promises mild, crisp weather with no festive intrusions.
In contrast, summer and winter are generally considered the worst times to sell your house and the hardest times of the year to find a buyer.
Summertime sees many people going away, and it's harder for parents to go on lots of house viewings during the school holidays.
Winter on the other hand is dominated by saving for, and spending on, the festive season. The evenings are colder and darker so you’ll find fewer people are keen to spend the time looking around houses. However, those that do still come for viewings in winter are likely to be the most motivated to buy.
The slowest month to sell a house is December. Most buyers are preparing for Christmas in this period and are much less likely to consider moving.
Many estate agents also suggest putting your property on the market at New Year. However, there's divided opinion over whether this is actually a good time to sell your home.
On the one hand, the New Year is a natural time for many people to begin thinking about a 'fresh start', including making the decision to move house. On the other hand, because of this, there can be a lot of competition from other sellers also putting their properties on the market. This makes it easier to get a bit lost among the other properties coming to market.
The Advisory - an independent advice site for home owners - decided to put these theories to the test. They looked at the time it took for homes listed on property portals across Great Britain at different times of the year to go from listed to Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC).
Their results found that those putting their home on the market in March received and accepted an offer in the shortest amount of time (an average of 57 days on the market). The second best month was April with an average of 58 days on the market. However, those trying to sell in November were likely to be on the market for the longest average time (79 days).
This suggests that as a general rule, spring and autumn are much easier times of year to sell a house than summer or winter - particularly if you're after a fast sale.
However, the reality is a little more complicated…
For up to date information on how long it's currently taking to sell homes in your area, see our House Prices Tool.
Seasonal trends are far from being a hard and fast rule. The performance of the property market in 2020-2021, for example, provides plenty of evidence that suggests that seasonal patterns aren't reliable.
If you're thinking about selling your home, it's important to also consider what other things might impact your sale. Including:
Every so often, the government tries to stimulate the housing market by offering incentives or schemes that make it more affordable to buy homes. This is either to encourage more people to move, or to help a specific group (usually first time buyers) get onto the market.
A clear example of how these types of schemes and incentives can turbocharge the market is the Stamp Duty holiday which came into force in July 2020. This holiday offered a limited time opportunity to buy a property up to £500,000 without having to pay any stamp duty. This allowed buyers to make potential savings of up to £15,000. Inevitably, many people were keen to take up the offer, and data published by HMRC showed that almost 115,000 housing transactions took place in May 2021, nearly 140 per cent higher than in the same month the year before. The prospect of savings overrode the usual seasonal trends - and made it an excellent time for sellers to put their home on the market.
Taking a look at the general condition of the economy can provide an indication of whether people are going to be more or less willing than normal to buy property. If someone's financial future is unclear, they're less likely to consider taking on a large financial commitment like a mortgage. However, if interest rates are low, borrowing money becomes more affordable, and people will consider property to be an attainable investment.
For example, issues surrounding the safety of cladding on high rise buildings - in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, and subsequent fires such as that at New Providence Wharf - have made many potential buyers more cautious about buying flats in tall buildings. Some lenders have even added criteria to their products, which make it more difficult to borrow against a flat in a high rise building.
At a local level, news of infrastructure projects or injections of investment, can have an impact on the housing market. For example, homes along the proposed Crossrail route have increased in value much faster than other areas of London since the announcement of the project.
What should you consider before you decide whether to sell your house? Ask yourself the following questions and you should have a better idea whether it’s worth selling your house or waiting for a better time.
Although many news outlets will report on 'the property market as a whole, there's actually a huge amount of variation across the country.
Location and house type have a big impact on how easy it is to sell. For example, you'll often find more demand for properties in areas within commuting distance of big cities, than homes in very rural areas. You'll also find very few buyers actively looking to purchase a 10-bedroom mansion, a lighthouse, or a houseboat, so your property type will always factor into this. Make sure you look for comparable properties when you're examining the market.
Having a sense of how much demand you can expect for properties like yours will generally give you a better sense of whether the market is doing well - and whether now is the best time to sell.
For more information on local market conditions, check out our free House Prices Tool.
Do flats sell easier than houses?
In recent years, flats have proven more difficult to sell than houses. In an article published in March 2021, Zoopla reported that flats were selling at least 3 weeks behind houses.
This isn’t always the case. Flats in big cities like London tend to sell quicker than houses because people are more likely to settle for cheaper accommodation.
However, because most flats are leasehold properties, they are usually more difficult to sell in the long run, especially if their lease is short. Also, flats are less likely to grow in value whereas the value of houses tends to rise over time.
Not all homesellers are looking to purchase another property. But, if you are selling in order to finance a move, you'll need to consider whether the market is good for buying as well as for selling. While those just selling might rejoice at high house prices and lots of buyer demand, if you're selling and buying at the same time, this type of market can make the onward purchase much more stressful and expensive.
There are many reasons for selling: a new job, upsizing, downsizing, releasing equity. If you're in a hurry to move, you may decide it's less important to wait for the market to be 'just right', and more important that you sell quickly.
Selling a house isn't just a case of putting it online and hoping for the best. A lot of work goes into preparing and promoting it.
Even if you put your property on the market at the best possible moment, you won't feel the full benefit if you don't have the best team supporting you. Good photos, and strong online adverts will ensure your property stands out from the crowd, and encourage buyers to look round.
A well-prepared estate agent who can provide all the information a potential buyer might need, will present your home in a much better light than an agent who doesn't know basic information. For more information on the attributes that make a reliable estate agent, our guide article has it all.
For more information on finding the right estate agent, check out our guide, 'How to choose an estate agent'.
If you’re thinking about selling your house imminently, here are the primary considerations you need to make before you start.
How's the property market looking? The best time to sell is when there’s lots of buyers actively looking, but not enough sellers to satisfy them. Buyer competition reduces the amount of time you spend on the market, and drives up prices.
If you're thinking about selling your home now, there are a number of ways you can research what's going on in the market:
House prices increase when there's a lot of competition or demand for homes. Prices go down when there are fewer buyers than sellers. If house prices are consistently growing in your area, that's a good indicator that there are lots of potential buyers.
For more information on local market conditions, check out our free House Prices Tool.
Property portals, like Zoopla and Rightmove often research buyer demand by looking at how many people are searching for property on their sites. Take this information with a pinch of salt - although it does correlate with the number of people searching, it also includes a lot of 'window shoppers' just surfing property portals for inspiration, or fantasy shopping.
Property portals are, however, a good place to see how many other sellers in your area are currently on the market. Take a look to see how many properties like yours are currently available, and how long they've been on the market. If properties have been on the market for several months, it's likely they're not currently in high demand.
When interest rates are low, borrowing becomes more affordable, and saving becomes less profitable. This in turn makes it more appealing for people to take out a mortgage, and buy property. Low interest rates are also a reflection of the general confidence mortgage lenders (many of whom are big banks) have in the economy.
The knock on effect of this is that house prices tend to increase when interest rates are low, because there's greater demand in the market. This is particularly positive if you’re trying to sell your home. More buyers entering the market means you’re more likely to sell your home quickly and for a higher price.
A local estate agent can be a great source of information about the state of the property market. If you're considering selling in the near future, we'd recommend booking a free valuation with a few local agencies, and asking for their honest view about whether it's the right time to be going on the market. The best estate agents will be able to back up their answer with stats and data about the market - and properties they have recently sold.
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When you start thinking about putting your home on the market, it’s worth taking the wider property market and economy into account. However, trying to figure out whether market conditions are perfect shouldn't be the only thing you take into consideration.
The best time to sell your house is the time that fits best with your future plans. There will always be times when the market fluctuates, for better or worse, but attempting to game the market on such a long timescale transaction is rarely worth it.
If you’re not able to time your sale to coincide with a market peak, do not worry. People need to move house all the time, for reasons that don't fit with market trends: work, family, or finances. It may be a little harder to sell, but in the long run, the best estate agents will help you sell quickly at any time of the year.
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