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The Best Time to Sell a Home in SF

What’s the best time of year to sell your home in San Francisco?

Conventional wisdom says it’s during the spring. Birds are chirping, weather’s fine, and families have their eye on a summer-break move. It makes sense why SF Bay Area real estate sales typically trend highest between March and June (outlying years like 2020 notwithstanding).

But is it crazy to think that the busiest time to sell may not necessarily be the best time to sell?

In our 20+ years serving home sellers and buyers in San Francisco, we’ve learned a little secret that most real estate blogs, or your well-meaning friends, or even some agents won’t know to tell you:

In San Francisco real estate, the early bird gets the worm.

Rather than listing your home in the spring, we find that sellers with the flexibility to list around December to March often get the best results.

This may sound counterintuitive. It’s definitely counter to the conventional wisdom. But through the course of 800+ San Francisco home sales with both buyers and sellers, it’s a trend we’ve noticed year after year.

The reasons make sense once you dig into them. Shall we?

Does Timing Actually Matter in San Francisco?

Keep in mind, San Francisco is a unique, year-round real estate market. You can have great success selling your home in December, July, March, October, etc.

It’s more important to price right and present well than to time your home sale perfectly. (More on that below.)

However, if you are planning to be a “spring seller,” you may want to get a jump-start. With some flexibility and preparation, you could position your listing to hit the market when competition is higher among buyers and lower among sellers.

Why The Best Time to Sell Could be Winter

In our competitive, quirky micro-market of San Francisco, prospective buyers often start their “spring real estate” shopping in December. It’s easy to browse listings on the web, and folks have more time during the holidays, so why not?

By the time January 1 rolls around, many buyers are primed and ready to spend their end-of-year bonuses on a home and make their New Year’s Resolutions come true.

Sellers, on the other hand, are slower to react. They are more entrenched in their homes. They wait to “see how the market is doing” and follow online advice to “sell in the spring.” While it’s good to be careful, an overabundance of caution might make you miss the ideal window. (And you never know when a black swan is heading your way. Looking at you, 2020!)

In reality, real estate is slow. Strategically listing a property takes at least some amount of preparation—often weeks or months of it. Then, due to the escrow process, closed transactions lag about a month behind accepted pending offers.

The big secret is that the so-called “spring” real estate sales that top the charts were actually on the market in the winter—December through early April—thus closing in the spring.

If you have made the decision to sell next year, or if you are on the fence about whether to sell at all, it wouldn’t hurt to hire a great real estate advisor now (ahem, perhaps us? 🙂) to consider your options and plan your attack later.

When Selling Your Home, Timing Is NOT Everything

We’re talking a lot about the best time to sell your home, but let’s be clear: timing is NOT everything. Dozens of factors might influence the results of your home sale. Timing is only one of them.

What else matters? Among other things: pricing, preparation, marketing, networking, negotiations. Any of these has the potential to impact your bottom line, or even impact whether your home sells at all. Price and presentation are chief among them, no matter the time of year. That’s why it’s important early-on to hire a top San Francisco listing agent to advise you on the next steps and strategic decisions.

Additionally, not all home sellers in San Francisco have the flexibility to wait months for the “perfect” time to sell. If you must sell due to a life event, like work or family circumstances, then timing may not be a top priority or within your control at all. We play the hand we are dealt.

A successful home sale starts with realistic expectations. We’ll help you understand what to expect based on your own situation and the reality of current market conditions. Our goal is to exceed your realistic expectations. 

Speaking of which, there are greater market forces at work. Between the pandemic, housing boom and subsequent cooling/shifting market, we’ve seen multiple, dramatic swings in buyer and seller sentiment in just the last three years.

To perfectly predict the market only happens by happy accident. Thus, agents like us whose crystal ball is in the shop are left to use tried-and-true strategies and creative solutions to help our clients win. For sellers, that may involve harnessing market seasonality in your favor, if you have the leeway to do so.

Your SF Realtor Team—All Year Round

Hopefully this was a helpful look at why winter might be the best time to list your home for sale in San Francisco. Typically, home sellers want to maximize their investment and get the most money back from their sale. We’re here to make that happen for you, via thoughtful, data-driven, experience-backed advice.

As always, if you have any questions about selling your home, or anything San Francisco Bay Area real estate related, we welcome your questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience. If you think we’re a good fit and you’d like to work with us, don’t forget to fill out our buyer worksheet or seller worksheet to get a head start.

In the meantime, stay up to date with all the latest real estate news, SF Bay Area events and culture, market updates and more by signing up for our twice-monthly Vivre Real Estate newsletter! Each edition is packed with valuable tidbits and insights, custom written and curated for you. We value your privacy, and we never sell or share your info.

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