Fall can be an underrated homebuying season, given that competition from families is often less fierce after the school year has begun. If there's still affordable inventory available locally, the conditions are often still conducive to house hunting. Sellers can find ways to enhance seasonal curb appeal, and those who didn't get a favorable offer over the summer may be eager to move their properties off of the market.
But don't assume that because school has started and one large segment of the prospective homebuying population has gotten settled there won't be competition. According to the National Association of Realtors, the fall is historically the second-busiest time of the year, at least in terms of national sales activity. Many people are looking to lock in their purchases before the year's end, so as to take advantage of tax breaks while still possible. Especially if you're searching in a warmer climate, the fall season offers every bit as much rivalry among would-be buyers. Therefore, doing your homework and having your finances in order remains as crucial as ever.
Other factors for fall house hunters to consider include:
How soon do you need to move?
Many fall homebuyers may be looking to move quickly, prompting them to outbid their competition in an effort to close the deal as soon as possible. If your situation doesn't dictate that you need to shore up new living arrangements immediately, there's no reason to find yourself in a bidding war for a home that's not ideal. Instead, you're probably better off waiting it out or seeing what other deals might be available. Most of your competition will not find shopping during the colder months appealing, but on the flip side, there's often great return-on-investment potential on the market nearing the year's end. Weigh your own urgency and embark on your fall home search accordingly.
Capitalizing on year-end tax breaks
Owning a home means you're eligible for certain year-end tax breaks, which may trigger an additional level of urgency if you're shopping during October or November. Mortgage interest payments and property taxes are both deductible from your gross income, as is any prepaid interest. That means any payments submitted prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible, potentially making a serious difference in what you owe the government. Given the significant financial commitment associated with buying a home, particularly if you're a first-timer, it's worth considering whether you want to maximize your tax breaks as soon as possible.
The logistical elements
Remember, if you secure a new home purchase during the fall, that also means you'll be physically moving soon thereafter. Aside from not wanting to disrupt the school calendar, this is one of the greatest deterrents for many people when it comes to fall homebuying. Depending where you live, the weather conditions can complicate the moving process. Streets can be wet, icy or even packed with snow, and access to alleys or side streets may be limited. It's also worth noting that fewer home showings will be happening as the end of the year nears, and if you're hoping for moving help, it may be more difficult to get people to commit to doing so once the warmer weather has passed.
On the flip side, you could find that viewing homes and shopping around are generally easier exercises, with fewer fellow buyers to serve as competition and monopolize the owners' time. If you know what you're looking for and can get past the seasonal elements of fall house hunting - or you live in a place that renders them a non-factor - the final quarter of the year can provide you with ample opportunity to get a jump on your competition.