Business & Real Estate

Is there a selling or buying season?

Following is advice on the best times to buy or sell a house in the unique Silicon Valley market.

Q: When is the best time to sell a house?

A: I advise my clients to sell at a time that works for them and their family rather than trying to predict what the market will be doing at some point in the future.

Sometimes sellers have flexibility in the timing of when they sell. In Silicon Valley, which can be very different from other parts of the state or country, there are usually more active buyers and sellers between mid-January and the end of May. This is the time when prices tend to be “set” for the rest of the year.

If the number of houses available for sale is high and the number of buyers is low, prices will tend to be near or below asking price. In reverse, sales prices will tend to be above asking price.

Q: When is the best time to buy a house?

A: The answer to this is a bit more nuanced, In the spring (see question above), there tend to be more houses to choose from, but there is also more competition from other buyers. Prices tend to be more volatile.

If you are looking for the same thing everyone else is (house all fixed up on a quiet street with good schools and walk to Starbucks), be prepared to be competing. If you are willing to look for (or willing to accept) something a little off (think purple carpet with an old kitchen on a busier street), then you may have room to save a bit of money.

Toward the end of the year, if someone is trying to sell a house, they are usually fairly serious about selling and may be more likely to negotiate. Some sellers need to sell by the end of the year for tax reasons, which may give more room for negotiation.

Q: What if I have to sell quickly at a nonpeak time of the year?

A: Not to worry. Fortunately, in this area, houses sell year-round, thanks to our mild winters and buyers coming into the area at all times. If there are fewer buyers at the time you hit the market, you’ll need to be realistic about your pricing. Don’t overprice your house. Buyers are always looking for a good deal, and if they feel that your price is too high, they will stay away in droves.

Q: How can I be successful in buying in this strong sellers’ market?

A: The market appears to be changing, and my sense is that it will become more balanced in 2019. The short answer: Don’t be shy about making an offer below the asking price, especially for houses that have been on the market for more than approximately three weeks.

It sounds obvious, but you should be fully preapproved by your lender and be flexible about buying a house that may need some minor cosmetic updates.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Email questions, comments and potential column topics to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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