Launching earlier in the year or at off-peak times ensures competition is less intense
If your new year’s resolution is to move house, you’d better get cracking selling yours first. But to score a swift sale at the right price, when is the best time to list?
Spring and autumn were the traditional selling windows. In July and August, everyone was at the beach. But house hunters can now search 24/7, with property alerts pinging through work days, weekends and holidays. Though a sale is possible any time, the calendar month can still shape competition, buyer psychology and the weather, and ultimately your bottom line.
Spring into action Nothing is so beautiful as spring and with greening gardens, brighter light and a general air of possibility, it’s no wonder it’s a peak time to list. Those resolving to buy in 2020 are fresh to the search and chomping at the bit. “In January, people tend to have a bit more motivation to buy,” says Stephen Day, divisional director of residential sales at Lisney. “When it gets to the new year, all of a sudden they really want to commit.”
Early bird sellers eager to capitalise were meeting Day back in November.
“Their job now for the first three weeks of January is to get the house ready, whether that’s painting or decluttering.”
Photographs, floor plans and the BER certificate are sorted with a brochure ready to go live in February.
“In the first week of February, there is a large influx of property coming on the market and then once you get to mid-February, there is a steady flow,” Day says.
Those first out of the traps with a well-presented and well-priced house in this less crowded field can catch the worm.
But as the weeks go on, with daffodils blooming and the “grand stretch” kicking in, the downside is that your property is not the only one to benefit.
“Some people would argue the gardens look great in the spring or closer to the summer but the problem then is that there is also considerably more supply. The less choice buyers have the better,” says Day.
Exemptions to the Central Bank mortgage lending rules are another factor. They allow banks to lend at multiples greater than 3.5 times income, or for deposits of less than 20 per cent for trader uppers or downers, or less than 10 per cent for first-time buyers. The amount of exemptions banks could offer ran out as early as April in 2018. So selling early in the year when buyers may have access to bigger budgets can also shape the price you achieve.
Summer loving While few will choose to launch in summer, there are some exceptions. “If you had something stunning on an acre of nice grounds or overlooking Killiney bay, you’d probably put it up between April and September,” says Pat Mullery of DNG Terenure. “A property like that is going to look better then.” House orientation can also be a factor, says Geralyn Byrne of Sherry FitzGerald, Terenure.
“A north-facing house sold during June can have full sun in the garden.”
Holiday homes are another matter. On a break from the grind of work, the sunshine and sea can leave visitors captivated by their vacation location. Peering in estate agents’ windows, they marvel at this parallel universe where they can afford a couple of acres with a sea view.
So how do holiday home sellers hook these summer lovers?
“A general rule of thumb is try and get the property on for [St] Patrick’s weekend,” says Maeve McCarthy of Charles McCarthy Estate Agents in Skibbereen. “You’ll get a good crack of the spring/summer season and then also into autumn.”
While the months of July, August and September are McCarthy’s quietest for transactions, holiday buyers are doing reconnaissance.
“There are people around in the summer and they are looking, but they probably won’t come back to buy until autumn – but they will look in summer.”
Of four holiday home viewings she conducted on December 9th, all were summer visitors.
And if your spring-launched house hasn’t sold by June, is there hope?
From the time a seller gets an agent in to when the buyer gets keys can be five to six months, says Stephen Day of Lisney, “and that’s a relatively straightforward sale”.
“It can certainly be a bit of a stigma,” says Lisney’s Day, but all is not lost. “In 2019 we did a number of sales in August. It used to be the quietest month of the year but last year, it wasn’t.”
DNG’s Pat Mullery agrees that summer needn’t be a washout. The back to school deadline can focus minds.
“Our months of July and August have been as good as the best months of the year, or not far off it. You get a lot of people that want to buy before September.”
Off peak punt Data from myhome.ie shows there were a total of 23,700 properties listed for sale on the site in September 2019, up 2,450 from March. More properties can mean more competition for your home.
“If I had a good property, I’d be telling people to put it up in January, to get on with it,” says Mullery. “Or if it’s a standard enough property, you might do better with it in December than you might do in May when the market is flooded,” he says. “You can do better off-season with a lot of property because there is less available.”
Sherry Fitzgerald’s Byrne agrees there’s something to going against the grain. “We’ve launched houses very early in the new year. You can do very well by going early because there is less competition.”
It’s the same in the latter part of the year, she says.
“Traditionally November has always been a really terrific month for sales because you’ve got people who have been out there looking saying, look, another year is about to pass. Let’s focus.”
The one exception might be some rural homes, says Will Coonan of Coonan Property operating in Kildare, Meath and West Dublin. What looks bleak in winter will be a beauty come summer.
“A rural dormer bungalow might not look well in December,” says Coonan. “It begins to look better in March, but the frustrating thing is that when a property is looking its best in July and August, it’s holiday season for buyers.”
Apartments Defying all seasonality are apartments. With buyers spanning investors, downsizers and first-timers, kids and their schedules don’t come into the equation.
“It’s an all-year market”, says Stephen Day. He cites a two bed in the Lansdowne Wood development in Ballsbridge, on the market a matter of weeks, made over the asking at almost €750,000 with a deal done before Christmas.
Preparation Whatever time of year you launch, preparation needs to start months in advance.
“The photos and the price, that’s what attracts people to click your link,” says Will Coonan. A property with photos from the height of the summer may trump another with bleaker January snaps.
“A seller needs to call their solicitor first, not their estate agent,” advises Maeve McCarthy. “Ask them, if you were acting for someone buying my house, where are the problems?”
Is the title on the property correct? Does it comply with building and planning regulations? If the property is on a larger plot, is the mapping done correctly? If it’s a rural property, is the septic tank registered? Is the right of way to the house registered? Is the local property tax paid up to date? This all takes time. A delayed or problematic contract can spook a good buyer, sending them into the arms of a rival seller.
“You want to be able to do the business once you find a buyer,” says McCarthy. “The important thing is not just the time of year to go on, it’s actually getting all the paperwork in order in advance.”
Closing time According to figures from myhome.ie, the average time to sale agreed nationally had risen to 4.8 months, and 3.9 months in Dublin in quarter one last year. But sale agreed isn’t the same as sold. If you go sale agreed in June, it might be the autumn before the deal is done.
Priced and presented properly, property viewings should start in a matter of days of launch, says Coonan.
“The key window is the first four to six weeks. Activity tends to be hottest then. You are hoping for a ‘sale agreed’ in the first six to eight weeks.”
From the time a seller gets an agent in to when the buyer gets keys can be five to six months, says Day of Lisney, “and that’s a relatively straightforward sale”. Legals should take two to three weeks, but when not ironed out before going to market, they are taking significantly longer, he says.
Time is money When it comes to listing your property, time is money. Pick a time when buyers are focused, your property looks its best, or when you can catch the competition off-guard. But not sorting the legalities in advance could mean a lost sale. Market in haste and repent at leisure.
Joanne Hunt, Irish Times Property, Jan 2020