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Homebuying Season Appears to be Starting Sooner Each Year

By Anthony SanFilippo
February 2020

Is January the new April?

That’s what those who keep a sharp eye on real estate trends will be looking to see at the end of the first month of the roaring 20’s.

That’s because a year-over-year comparison saw a sharp uptick in January home shopping in 2019 when compared to 2018. Was it an outlier, a one-off, something that is indicative of nothing?

Or, is it the latest housing trend and evidence proving more people might be looking for a good buy at a time of the season that is usually less active?

A New Year’s resolution to buy a home, as it were.

According to data compiled on Realtor.com, home searches have in fact started earlier and earlier in the year for each of the past five years. However, 2019 was the first time January really stood out as a time when potential buyers were looking at homes.

“2019 was the first time January really stood out as a time when potential buyers were looking at homes.”

For example, in 2015, the peak month for viewing homes on Realtor.com was April. January was way back in the pack, 16 percent behind it.

But, in 2019, January was just one percent short of the top spot, falling behind February for most monthly view per listing on the web site.

Not only that, January saw a significant increase in major markets and ranked as the top month to view potential homes in 20 percent of the 100 largest metro areas in the country, finishing atop the list in places such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Jose, Calif., and Denver.

By contrast, in 2018, January only topped the list in three of the top 100 metro areas.

Spring Market Still Strong

Although the popularity of looking into buying a home appears to be shifting from the spring to the dead of winter, it doesn’t mean that there’s a downturn in interest in buying a home as April showers bring May flowers.

In fact, the entire first half of a year still is the most competitive time to buy a home.

In 2018 March was the most competitive month for list viewing and was 21 percent greater than the least competitive month, which was January.

However, in the span of just one year, the gap between the most and least competitive months has dwindled to just six percent.

In fact, of those 20 top 100 metropolitan areas, nine had April or May as the second busiest month for home views, meaning the competition starts early and remains high for several months.

But with home prices rising faster than salaries and creating affordability issues in many major markets, coupled with the record-low inventory stock nationwide, potential homebuyers are trying to get their home earlier than ever before – and experts are expecting this trend to continue in 2020.

Seattle Tops The List

Seattle was the top 100 metro market that saw the sharpest increase in home listing views in January as compared to other months, with the views in January being 31.7 percent higher than the next highest month, which in that market was April.

Those numbers are staggering for Seattle, especially since the next biggest gap in listing views from January to the second-highest month was in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas market where January views were 14.9 percent higher than second place, May.

Other top 100 markets where January searches were king include Honolulu, San Antonio, Texas, Bridgeport, Conn., Las Vegas, Raleigh, N.C., Jackson, Miss., Salt Lake City, Charlotte and Chattanooga, Tenn.


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