Why January is a Great Time for Sellers and Challenging for Buyers

If you’re a buyer looking to lock up a new place early this year, sorry, I don’t have good news. January has typically been a great month to put a property on the market. As a listing agent, my listing might be the only game in town, so I can usually count on multiple offers and sales prices over asking. However, when representing a buyer this time of the year, the roles are reversed and the competition can seem daunting.

While the decision to move or buy or sell real estate generally requires many weeks or months of thought and careful consideration, many people commit to focusing their efforts and taking essential steps to move forward at the start of the calendar year. Since readying one’s property to sell takes a lot of up-front work (e.g. cleaning, repairs, packing, staging, photography, pre-marketing, and potentially lining up a landing spot), this often lags a few months from the time the decision is made. However, getting ready to buy requires very little up-front work. For renters, obtaining a pre-approval, which can be completed in only a few days, may be the only necessary step before the buyer can start making offers. Any leg work involving packing and moving can be done after an offer is accepted or the purchase closes. This advantage in mobilizing speed plus the desire to beat the mythical “spring buying” season makes January a very competitive month for buyers.

This set of circumstances typically leads a large demand/supply imbalance in the first few months of the year, especially when the previous year was also a seller’s market. The market usually creeps back to equilibrium somewhat by March. So, if you’re looking to buy now, there’s no harm in trying, but if you’re ready to enter the lion’s den, make sure your offers are strong enough to compete and don’t give up if things don’t materialize in an accepted offer quickly. Relief will come sooner than you think.