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Timing the New York City market—knowing when is the best period to buy or sell—is a key strategy for getting the most out of your deal—and avoiding a long (and painful) hunt for a new apartment or (interminable) wait for the right buyer to come along.
The classic, rule-of-thumb thinking says that peak NYC buying and selling seasons are spring and fall—where buyers find the most selection and when sellers have the most interest. But there are other windows during the year that may work to your advantage if you have the flexibility to act fast.
[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post was published in April 2018. We are presenting it again with updated information for October 2019.]
If you’re a seller
It’s well documented that the number of listings on the market surges in the first half of the year, with inventory rising again in early fall. So if you're selling an apartment, you'll definitely want to try to have it listed during the first half of the year if possible. A StreetEasy analysis found that apartments sell more quickly during the peak seasons, spending 10-15 fewer days on the market on average from April to June compared to the rest of the year.
If you’re a buyer
When you are buying, you should know that prices are 0.3-0.4 percent lower in the spring, and buyers are 10-20 percent more likely to get price cuts on the asking price in the same period, according to the analysis. Price cuts are also more prevalent in September and October than during the rest of the year.
Seth Levin, an associate at Keller Williams, recommends that his sellers jump into the market in early spring—and stay mindful of being on schedule.
If you cannot make that time frame, he recommends you "hold off until after Labor Day—our second busiest buyer market. If my sellers have the luxury of doing so, I also often recommend they pull their properties off the market for July and August and then relist in the fall. If they are on the market in late fall, I usually recommend pulling their listing off from Thanksgiving until February, since both of these periods of time see lower buyer activity,” he says.
He says that seasonality still rules in NYC, but it’s been disrupted somewhat by online marketing, third-party aggregators, and out-of-town buyers, who don’t abide by the same spring/fall buying and selling schedules.
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Buyers can gain in winter and summer
Buyers can gain an edge if they have the ability to wait for periods when sellers are “more desperate and ready to negotiate,” Levin says, because most buyers are not on the hunt.
“Summer and winter, typically not thought of as prime buyer markets, are often when you can find sellers that ‘need’ to sell. If a seller is on the market at these inopportune times, it often means that they need to sell because they have to close on something else, are relocating, or have a general urgency,” Levin says.
This means looking for properties being marketed in the dog days of summer or during the winter holiday season. While there may be less inventory to choose from, a lack of competition can be an incentive to negotiate a deal, he says.
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Making the most of the holidays
The winter holidays have been one agent’s winning strategy.
“I have always had tremendous luck with winning bids for my buyers around or during the holiday season,” says Janine Young, an agent at BOND New York. “I would never tell someone to hold off on bidding for a property they truly love to wait for November or December to roll around, but I'm always certain to work the timing to our advantage if we happen to be looking around that time of year. Sellers tend to be more receptive to offers if they picture their holidays with the sale behind them, or dread the property lingering through a cold winter.”
Young says the winter season can work to a seller’s advantage if they price right.
“Similarly, I would never suggest to a seller that they wait until a busier season if they aren’t in the position to hold onto the property for that many months, but I would certainly be careful to make sure we price and market the property accordingly,” she says.
Is back to school the best week to buy?
A recent report from Realtor.com pointed what the listing website says is the best week out of the entire year to buy a new place: September 22-28. Surprised? The site surveyed 53 major markets and found that in 41 one of them, the market favored this week because sellers were back from summer vacation and ready to finalize their real estate goals. In addition, there’s a lack of competition during this time from buyers with families—who are likely to put a search on hold at this point and focus on getting children settled in school.
In New York City (which the report considers along with Newark and Jersey City), buyers can expect a 22.3 percent dip in buyer competition and a 37.6 percent increase in time-on-market this week, says the Realtor.com report.
But brokers that Brick Underground spoke with say that back to school reflects a more serious mindset for many NYC buyers too.
Martin Eiden, an agent at Compass, previously told Brick that Manhattan and Brooklyn buyers are on a different schedule than the rest of the U.S.
“Most of our buyers are away for the summer and resume their home search in the fall. I have had more accepted offers in September to date than all of June, July, and August. For our market, more listings comes on in the fall as buyers resume their search.”
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