Your Burning Questions About the Fall 2018 Real Estate Market

By Kristi Waterworth

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Even though it’s been a while since I was an active Realtor, I do still keep an eye on the market because I am both a homeowner and a future home buyer. It’s good to know what’s going on when you’re making such a large purchase, but it’s not for everyone. That’s why I’m here to distribute tips and hints and bits and pieces that hopefully help you better understand the whirlwind that is buying a home.

In the summer, the market is kind of like a dust devil, all dirty and stab-y when you get too close, but in the fall, the market turns into something else. Have you ever seen the wind grab a leaf or six and send them spinning in a way that almost looks like dancing? To me, that’s the fall market, pretty much everywhere. It’s more relaxed, it’s not in as big of a rush and that’s the way it should be.

The Big Ask: Should I Get Out of the Market Now?

 

You didn’t come here to talk about wind and leaves, I know. What you want is someone to tell you what to do about not achieving that long-sought real estate transaction before summer was over. First, understand that it’s no one’s fault. The market is feisty and will burn you if you’re not careful.

A lot of people end their home search or pull their home off the market when September comes. I understand their reasoning. For many of those folks, their kids are back in school and they don’t have the mental or physical bandwidth to entertain moving at all, let alone the possibility of switching school districts.

To be safe, they remove the temptation. They just stop. But not everyone has kids, you understand, and not everyone has kids that are in school. There are plenty of empty nesters looking to downsize, childless couples looking to upsize and single people who just want something different.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the slowest sales month in the last 12 for existing homes was January, followed closely by February. It also just so happens that the lowest average prices for existing homes during that time were also in January and February, respectively.

What’s Happening Here?

All those people who pulled out of the market in September or October skew the data every single year. The people who continue to keep their homes listed start to feel pressured into moving those homes stat. Suddenly, a wave triggers, with homeowners lowering their prices in the hopes of attracting the few remaining buyers out there.

A good buyer (one with a pre-qualification or pre-approval in hand and few financial complications) has a lot of advantages in the fall and winter markets, to be frank. The fall market is a bit better than the winter market in my experience. 

There aren’t a ton of new listings happening between mid-November and mid-January, leaving a lot of markets looking pretty picked-over by the time Christmas rolls around. But you never know when that fluke property will pop up in your Realtor.com app. 

Don’t get me wrong, sellers also have some pretty good advantages in the fall market -- especially if they’re not celebrating Thanksgiving at the house they have for sale. Since so many homes are going to be difficult to show or are temporarily off the market, your beautiful, clean and uncluttered house will look like a gold-encrusted gem. 

There might be fewer buyers, but there are still buyers. Depending on your market, your odds of selling may be much better in the fall since the competition between sellers is so much lower. The only disadvantage is that you may also be forced to find a home in the constricted fall market within a limited time frame so your buyer can close.

Should You Buy in the Fall Market?

Sure! There’s no reason not to, aside from moving your kids into a different school district and those sort of life things. As far as getting a good value, you can clean up in the fall market, especially in September and October. People are nervous, they need to get their homes sold, so the last guys standing from summer are often ready to wheel and deal. It’s also starting to cool off, so you won’t be moving during the burning inferno that is summertime (at least here in Texas).

The one and only caution I’ll contribute here is that buying a house just before the holiday season will do two things to you: leave you financially exhausted for a bit and give you zero motivation to holiday it up that year. I’ve done this twice now because I apparently have the worst timing ever. Just put a bow on the mailbox and tell your family that this is their gift (only kidding, but kinda not really).

Wrapping it Up: Fall is a Season for House Hunting!

In short, if you’re a buyer, fall is likely to produce a housing market that’s skewed in your favor. Sellers that have had their homes on the market all summer are getting antsy and will be ready to deal as much as they can.

If you’re a seller, in some markets you may have a better chance of selling your home because the competition is greatly reduced. You might not get top dollar, but if your home was overpriced to begin with that sin is largely forgiven once the fall buyers come out of hiding.

All of you, get out there and buy or sell your houses! Interest rates are still pretty fabulous and there are lots of great mortgage products available.