Kelly and Mike disagree on when to list their metro-Atlanta single-family home. She advocates listing it during winter, when there are fewer homes on the market to compete with. He wants to wait till May, when the yard looks spectacular and more buyers are looking. So, who’s right?
The Off-Season Inventory is Low, But…
Kelly’s instincts about inventory levels are spot-on. Let’s look at the data for Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties to prove her point. Since 2014, the differential between the lowest-inventory month and the highest has averaged 22 percent. So, clearly, there are fewer properties to choose from in winter months. But there’s more to this story than seasonal considerations. Inventory levels in metro Atlanta are low, period. Demand continues to outpace supply, no matter the month.
As this graph illustrates, the supply of listings dropped 30 percent from 2014 to 2016. This year is following suit. In January and February, inventory levels were the lowest of any months during the past 10 years.
The question is, given low-inventories, does listing off-season result in a higher price-to-list ratio or faster sale, as Kelly hopes? Given strong demand year-round and low supply, her argument makes sense. Again let’s look at the data before jumping to conclusions.
Contrary to most sellers’ expectations, the data shows little difference in selling price between seasons in the metro-Atlanta market. Look at the sale-price to list-price ratios in weak versus strong selling months. Over the last three years, the difference has averaged just one percent. In plain terms, Kelly can’t argue for listing in winter based on sale price. But there’s little financial advantage to waiting for spring either, as Mike argues.
Is Mike Right About Anything?
When it comes to speed of sale, Mike is on the right track, but not overridingly. Over the last three years, Atlanta metro homes listed in May stayed on the market the shortest number of days—just 14 in 2016! To his point, homes listed in January and February consistently took the most days to sell (an average of 39 to 40 days, respectively), with a dramatic drop come March. So if you’re looking to sell very quickly, you may want list in spring, particularly May.
But honestly, in metro-Atlanta, you can expect a relatively quick sale on a well-priced home, no matter what the month. Nationally, the average days-on-the-market (DOM) is 70. Our average keeps dropping in Atlanta. Between 2014 and 2016, the average DOM in the three countries we’re considering dropped 24 percent to 23 days. That spells one thing—a seller’s market! (And there’s even better news, if you’re planning on selling with Virgent—our average was 14.)
So Who Wins This Argument?
Unfortunately for Kelly and Mike, there’s no clear winner in this debate. But fortunately for all sellers, the current Atlanta market has a strong tail-wind year-round. Last year was even better than 2015 or 2014 for selling properties at close to list price. So while Mike’s property is particularly beautiful when the lawn is green and the magnolia tree is blooming, buyers aren’t going to pay a premium for his gardening skills. The data just doesn’t support his thesis.
So when is it the “right time” to list a property? Our best answer: when you’re ready. Let your personal circumstances guide you, and don’t worry about the season.