Fall is synonymous with back to school, cooling temperatures and the home selling season quiets down. Ask any real estate expert when the best time to sell is, and they’ll likely tell you to aim for spring and summer, when conventional wisdom says you’ll find the most demand and can capture the highest sale price.
But as seasons change, so do long-held beliefs in real estate.
We analyzed housing data from 2017 (pre-pandemic) to 2022 (post-pandemic) and discovered that even though new listings decline on average 21% in the fall, demand from buyers has increased since 2020. In other words, there have still been just as many buyers looking in the fall – people we’re calling “Anytime Buyers.” This is a new trend that has popped up in recent years.
New Listings Decline From Summer to Fall, But Demand Has Increased Post-Pandemic
In the three years before COVID-19, we saw a marked dropoff in the summer-to-fall visits our homes received — a 34% decrease in 2018, and a 15% drop in 2019. This trend has completely reversed since the pandemic. In 2020, we actually saw a 12% increase in visits from summer to fall, likely due to pent-up pandemic demand. And in 2021 and 2022, we observed no decline in buyer interest in our listings between the seasons.
While many families with children want to stay put in the fall and winter months so as not to disrupt the school year, life still happens. From 2017 to 2022, an average of 70% of annual residential home transactions took place by August. But with an average of 5 million home transactions per year across the U.S., that means about 1.5 million people still move in the fall and winter months. Job changes, retirement and other life events can necessitate moving throughout the year. The increased freedom due to remote work and a desire among many home buyers for more space and amenities, perhaps explain some of these trend changes.
This is good news for both sellers and buyers: if you weren’t able to move this spring or summer, you’re not too late. There is still demand.
Avoiding the Risks of Fall Selling to Capture the Interest of the Anytime Buyer
Fall still presents unique challenges to selling your home. Since 2021, around 10% of listings throughout the year, except fall, are eventually delisted (i.e. taken off the market), most likely because no viable buyers emerged. This number increases to 14% when looking at homes that are only listed in the fall. However, when we zoomed in on fall listings and looked only at homes that we believed were significantly overpriced (i.e. homes where the initial list price was more than 10% above our internal price model valuation as of listing date), this delisting figure ballooned to about 24%. What does that mean? Mispricing a home can cost you: there’s more than a 70% increase in the likelihood of needing to delist your home.
For homes that sell within 60 days, the vast majority of visits happen during the first month of listing, and particularly during the first week. While fall isn’t unique in this regard, it does highlight the fact that it’s always important to have a good initial list price strategy: there’s a limited window to make an impression on most of your potential buyers.
How do you nail the initial list price? One key is how much active competition there is: how many other homes in your neighborhood and surrounding areas are listed at the same time? If there aren’t that many in a desirable area, there is more flexibility on pricing. Another great tool is to start your selling journey with a no-strings-attached cash offer from Opendoor. Instead of relying on estimates to determine your home value, you can get a preliminary offer from Opendoor in as little as 3 minutes. That offer is a benchmark as you consider your options to sell and determine what price is ‘right.’
"I recommend clients dial into three aspects of the selling triangle: pricing correctly, the house’s in-person presentation and online presentation. With that triangle, if each one of those is done right, every home will sell." — Ramon Casaus, ROC Real Estate Partners & Opendoor agent partner
In addition to pricing, sellers should also:
Use photos of your home from spring and summer to showcase how it looks when the landscaping is most verdant.
Maintain landscaping. Mow the lawn and clean up fallen leaves and debris. Curb appeal still matters.
Ensure indoor heating and plumbing are current. Too often sellers don’t learn of maintenance issues until after the cold weather hits.
Maintain or add to interior and exterior lighting. With fall comes earlier sunsets, which can impact a home’s appeal. Add extra lamps or consider landscape lighting.
Employers often conduct the most hiring (and even relocations) during what is known as the September Surge. Market your home to appeal to potential buyers in other cities.
Avoid seasonal decor. "Less is more," says Opendoor Senior Home Designer Stephanie Duncan. "This year, we've seen a rise in universal decor: Home accessories that work year-round. Buyers are most impressed by house plants, wall art, and books, so consider investing in elements like these that are both functional and stylish. A home without excessive holiday decorations will be more appealing for buyers to envision the space as their own.”
As always, homeowners can skip the stress and sell directly to Opendoor anytime. Selling to Opendoor avoids the hassle of making home repairs, staging and showings — and it removes the uncertainty of selling on the market. We know that people don’t always have control over big life moments, but, with Opendoor, you do have control over how and when you sell, so you can focus on your next chapter.
Amit Arora is the VP of Investments at Opendoor. Senior Strategy & Analytics Lead Cody Feng, also contributed to this report.
Methodology for Chart 1: This data was determined by taking active Opendoor listings and calculating the average daily visits from agents per listing. For reference, “Fall” corresponds to September 1-November 30, and “Summer” corresponds to June 1-August 31.
Methodology for Chart 2: This data was determined by examining all MLS homes that listed between 1/1/2021 and 12/31/2022 in Opendoor’s 50+ markets and those within its buying criteria. Opendoor’s buybox represents 65% of the total serviceable market. We then calculated what percentage of these homes eventually delisted. For reference, “significantly over-priced” denotes homes where the initial list price was more than 10% above our internal model valuation as of listing date.