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When deciding to sell a home, owners usually plan to put it on the market as soon as possible. The same goes for buyers, who want to start their search immediately.

But if you can wait, there is merit in trying to time the market for both listing and purchasing, according to Terri Barnett, agent and co-owner of RE/MAX Main Street in Bexley; Debbie Garson, Realtor/broker at Keller Williams Greater Cleveland in Pepper Pike; and Jenn Wrubel, Realtor at RE/MAX Haven Realty in Solon.

For both the Cleveland and Columbus markets, the professionals said the best time to list is typically in the spring – starting around the end of February and concluding in May.

“Typically, the market cools after school starts,” Barnett said. “But with low-interest rates combined with a lower inventory of homes, we have also seen strong demands in the fall. It shows you that it’s not a typical market this year.”

On the flipside, she said the worst time to put a home on the market is the holiday season – from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

“I am unsure what will happen this year,” she added. “The winter weather usually discourages the less hardy shoppers from looking during a rough winter, but a mild winter will potentially lead to continued activity.”

Concerning the pandemic, Garson said all predetermined trends have the potential to be knocked on their heads.

“The pandemic has changed everything,” she explained. “While we have not yet seen the effect of COVID-19 in our December and January markets, it is unlikely families will be traveling over the holidays. Empty nesters with snowbird homes are hanging in the balance with the decision to stay home this winter versus going to a warmer climate where they can, at least, be outside. How to safely get there is the biggest concern.”

Garson noted she has clients who will not travel commercially and also don’t drive, which might increase the housing stock during months where historically it would’ve been quieter.

Wrubel said many of her clients had their homes freshly prepared and ready for the spring market this year, but COVID-19 “was such a disrupter.”

“So many people withdrew and didn’t want people seeing their homes,” she said. “So, that affected listings. When people realized this was here to stay and all of the doctors needed to relocate and move here, I felt so bad because there were no homes on the market. Once things settled down, people were more open to re-listing with severe instructions, like keeping doors and windows open, the lights kept on and everyone inside wearing masks.”

But when it comes to listing in the quieter months like fall and winter, Wrubel said there is merit in going against the grain – especially as society learns to live with the pandemic and daily activities resume.

“There are fewer homes on the market, so you have more people who still have to buy with less stock to look at,” she explained. “That is both within the pandemic and also pre- and post-pandemic, it doesn’t matter. So, if you list in the winter market, you’ll look better anyways because you are one of the only options out there.”

Barnett added buyers and sellers can explore the fall and winter markets as an option, but it depends on the existing inventory in the area.

“If there is less inventory during that time and the home is in good condition, there will be strong demand from buyers,” she said. “But when competition in your price range is greater, there will be more price reductions in your negotiations. The only benefit is that there are more cash buyers in the market today, offering quicker exit strategies to sellers.”

As buyers and sellers consider the market, the professionals said it is best to consult an agent when determining the best time to explore a sale.

“Our commitment to our sellers is to present the facts for their specific home,” Garson said. “Knowing the statistics in specific markets is critical. Typically, most buyers are looking for more ‘turn-key’ or, at least homes they can move into and decorate as they live in the home.”

Wrubel added, “If you are thinking of listing, call a trusted agent and ask them how desirable your house might be if you already have a place to go. There is probably already a buyer out there for the right price. If you start too high, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot.”

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