It has been a long time since we had a “proper” real estate season. After the recent housing market crisis, there has not really been a true season. Instead, during that time and in the time since, most buyers and sellers were happy to jump into the market regardless of the time of year. The deals were generally no better or worse. Oh sure, there is definitely more activity in the spring and summer than fall and winter, however, for the most part, our post-crash real estate closing business was fairly steady regardless of the time of year. Last year (2016), there were hints of a real estate season re-establishing itself. This year, there is no doubt that the old season is back.
Traditionally, the real estate season begins in late winter/early spring, usually around the weekend after the Super Bowl. That is the time of year that most folks begin their house hunt and sellers looking to put their house on the market begin engaging real estate agents to list with. These early-season buyers and sellers are looking to get a fresh start on the new year. In the traditional seasonal market, the winter season is usually filled with properties that have been on the market but haven’t sold for one reason or another. During November and December, much of the housing inventory is scraping the bottom of the barrel. In fact, many sellers will take their property is off the market during that time so that they can start fresh in February or March of the next year.
The Chicagoland real estate market has behaved this way this year. While there are certainly folks who enter the market during non-seasonal times (probate properties, short sales, job transfers and the like), the bulk of the market is going into hibernation as winter approaches. In prior years in the wake of the crisis, buyers and sellers really had little advantage or disadvantage when listing or buying.
The seasonal market is really at its height in April and May for new contracts and closings taking place in June and July. Most home buyers would like to be out of or into their new properties before the new school year begins. Things slow just a bit in July because so many people go on vacations. There is usually a spike at the end of July and during early August by those buyers feeling the pressure to purchase this year make their last attempts at finding a property.
Once the market moves to early fall, we are left with inventory that has been around for a while and buyers who have no option other than to purchase “right now”. Buyers who have the flexibility and who are willing to wait for the right property usually shut down their search and look forward to the next real estate season. It is not fun to traipse through the Illinois snow looking at properties.
For the time being, with interest rates so low and inventory so scant, it looks like many buyers have made the decision to wait on the sidelines until the new season begins. That does not mean that there are not opportunities out there in Chicago and the suburbs to purchase real estate or to find closing deals. But unless something materially changes the market, it looks like things have finally settled down and returned to normal for now.