What Is The Best Season To Buy A House In California?

What is the best season to buy a house in California

If you’re shopping for homes in California, some times of the year are better than others. Cars and boats sell for the lowest prices in the winter months, but what about properties? 

Like almost any product you can think of, supply and demand change what buyers are willing to pay for a home. Sellers have to be aware of their timing too. When demand is low, they might cater to their potential buyers more, sweetening the deal with discounts. With high demand, the pressure to take offers isn’t as strong, putting home sellers in the driver’s seat. 

So, when is the best time to buy a home in California? 

“If buyers are looking for the best selection of homes then summer time they will find the most homes on the market to select from, however if they are looking for the best deals then they should look during the winter holiday season when other buyers are distracted with the holidays as they can find some great deals from motivated sellers who have to sell.” - Sandy Jamison

Nationally, the best prices pop up around Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but the California home-buying season needs a bit more explanation. Each season (and month) will have its own flavor, so to speak. 

When to Buy a House in California (and Why)

Season by season, we’ll elaborate on what the market is doing and what it means for home buyers. 

Want to hear this information directly from a realtor? We’ll tell you about the market in your soon-to-be neighborhood for the months you want to relocate.

Spring - Demand and Competition Rise 

You might have heard that summer generally brings a flood of new properties to the market. It’s a similar story in spring, which has a very healthy number of listings. 

Following the winter, spring is quite an optimistic time for the real estate market. January might start off slow, but there will be a huge difference by the time March arrives. Homes that were taken off the market during the winter may re-list in the spring months, adding to the inventory. The market will become more and more active on its way to its peak in the summer months.

Sellers know that they might get a higher price after the winter, which is typically less expensive than other seasons. That being said, buyers should expect that prices will increase dramatically. Spring sellers may still be open to lower asking prices.   

We like to remove pressure from the home-buying process. 

We guarantee our client’s happiness with their home for the first 18 months, with a standing offer to buy it back or sell it for free if something changes. How’s that for peace of mind?

Summer - Inventory Swells and Competition Peaks

With the advantages of a very active summer season, many California home prices are also higher during this time of year. When we say higher, that’s not just one or two percent. Home prices could increase by much more than a couple of percent. If the seller has researched comparable properties, the hot summer market could make this profitable. 

Think about the negotiations too. If you’re a home seller in California, would you accept a lower offer when other buyers might be calling soon? It becomes less likely, though will depend on each individual property. 

A Hot Day in Los Angeles

Los Angeles on a hot day - via Anna Irene

Still, summer isn’t just for the home sellers. 

The summer months of the California home-buying season bring variety and competition. Buyers find the highest number of listed properties during the summer months, which can help fast-moving buyers in many ways. Instead of bending the budget and needs, you’ll have more choices, increasing the chance of finding “the one” before September starts.

Autumn - Listings Slow and Prices Improve

Before winter arrives and the new school year begins, many prospective home buyers are out there, searching the fall/autumn market. These are often serious buyers, who couldn’t secure property earlier in the year, for whatever reason.

The Hakone Gardens in Saratoga California

The Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California - via Peter Thoeny

Buyers are looking for somewhere to settle, but sellers face the same urges. They’ll look to close deals as soon as possible, freeing them up to go elsewhere. This can present a win-win situation, where buyers could pay a lower asking price and sellers could close the sale before winter. 

Leaving the home on the market longer is the last thing a seller wants to do, as long as they can collect reasonable value for their home.  

Winter - Lower Inventory with Matching Low Prices

If you guessed that winter might have lower real estate prices in California, you’re right. Unfortunately, the inventory is lower too. 

The California Association of Realtors points out that LA County had 18.7% fewer active listings online in December 2023 compared to the prior year. On top of that, 27.7% of the county’s active listings had reduced prices.

Active listings in Santa Clara were even more scarce. Compared to December 2022, the active listings were down 31.3%. About a fifth of the active listings were reduced in price.

Orange County CA

Orange County California with a wintery backdrop - via Bennilover

Many homes might even get pulled from the market during this time and competition is low. This means that buyers might suffer from limited options. That being said, if you find an attractive property, you might have extra negotiating power during the winter months. 

While it’s definitely a slow time of the year, buyers and sellers are generally a bit more serious. Fewer offers, fewer showings, yet stronger intent from both parties. Even the home inspections can be hampered by the cold weather, so this season isn’t for the unsure or hesitant. 

When winter wraps up, January will see a steady rise in listing numbers and prices. Spring and summer bring peaks, and the cycle continues. 

A California Home Buying Season Summed Up

“Best” is too general and simplistic of a word to describe the complex California home-buying season. 

So, let’s break this down into clearer metrics:

  • The best season for buyers-choice is summer, followed closely by spring.
  • The best prices for buyers come in winter, though inventory is more scarce. 
  • The most competitive time to buy a house is in the summer, building gradually from spring.

More Questions? Follow-up With Us!

If you have more questions about what to expect from the markets around the Bay Area, don’t be afraid to reach out to us today. Our experts are experienced in all property types and the entire San Francisco Bay Area, and we can help you to find what you need to know today.

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