December Shopping Season Includes Homebuying

December 4, 2018
Building exterior at night with snow and Christmas decorations
Photo: Unsplash/Roberto Nickson

Typically, December is a slow season for real estate. But the last month of 2018 may be atypical with the combination of rising interest rates slower home price appreciation, and less competition.

At a recent open house in the suburbs of Chicago, real estate agent Lynn Fairfield got first-hand information on what was top of mind for buyers, "I see more people buying right now because they're afraid rates will be higher in 2019." Interest rates are close to 5 percent, 1 percent higher than they were in December 2017, and are expected to increase in 2019

Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale tells CNBC that there are many reasons why buyers should keep shopping for a home along with gifts for the holidays, "Chief among them, December is the best time of year if you want to avoid competitions." On the real estate platform, prospective buyer views per property are 21 percent lower than during the rest of the year.

While supply and competition may both be at their low point, motivation is at its high point, for both buyers and sellers. "That buyer has to move. Either they have a lease expiring Jan. 1, or they have saved enough money for their down payment, so they are motivated to buy," said Fairfield. "A lot of people are more motivated price-wise from the selling standpoint too, because they too want to get to their next location."

Homes do stay on the market longer in December, on average five days longer than the rest of the year, so sellers have to be patient. And buyers have to be flexible. If the seller hasn't already vacated the property, they may not want a lot of buyers traipsing through their holiday decorations or coming around when family and friends are visiting.

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