What is the Best Month of the Year To List or Buy a Home?

Tim Ford

After another amazing summer here in the Gallatin Valley, fall is in the air. As hunters stalk their prey and skiers start to prep their skis, people often ask if the holidays or the winter are a poor time of year to list a home for sale. Buyers also often ask, ‘What is the best time of the year to buy a home’?

For the past few years, I’ve been analyzing the number of contracts versus the number of new listings during each month of the year to try to answer that question. The data is always interesting.

The attached data includes new listings and new contracts for single family homes in and around Bozeman, both inside and outside of city limits, but not including Belgrade, for the past four years. The New Listings column includes the number of homes that were listed during that month. Big caveat, that column is not the total number of homes on the market during that month, and that is perhaps the Achilles heel of this study. In any given month, there would have been more homes on the market above and beyond the new listings (in the form of inventory carryover from previous months) that did not sell.

The New Contracts column includes the number of home sales that went pending that month. This is the number of times that a buyer and seller came to a written agreement to Buy and Sell, versus the number of closed sales. When looking at buyer activity, the contract date can be more pertinent than closing date, as it indicates the activity level of buyers during that month.

As the numbers illustrate, there are pros and cons to all seasons. There is certainly more buyer activity during the spring and summer months, but there is also more new competition. There is generally less inventory on the market during the winter months, but also fewer buyers in the marketplace. Comparing the percentages of new listings versus new contracts, the 4th quarter has the highest percentages, which goes against popular sentiment.

Perhaps the lesson to take from the data is to make the move when the timing works for the individual or family. Some people cannot fathom moving in the winter. Others may have to move due to a job transfer. Maybe a new home has just hit the market that is exactly what someone has been looking for. A big plus for listing homes during the winter is the general lack of tire kickers. If someone is looking at a home on a blustery winter day, they’re usually a serious buyer. As I’ve often written, my best advice for buyers is to get pre-approved and into a position where they’re ready to buy, but don’t have to buy.

This study does not take into account price reductions, sales that have terminated and come back onto the market, and inventory carryover from previous months, but it offers a very quick and easy look into buyers’ and sellers’ activity levels.

The included data was pulled on 10/13/23 from the Big Sky Country MLS.  

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