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Tips on the Best Time to List Your Home on Capitol Hill

Think you know the best time to list your house for sale?

Spring time on Capitol Hill; first crocus, then daffodils, then just a couple of weeks after tulips start losing their petals, the half-cross wooden real estate signs begin sprouting up. Just a few at first appear in March and April, they peak in May and June — with some plucked quickly — and then some wilt all the way into August.

It’s important to understand that while there are countless reasons folks need or want to sell or buy their current or future home, as well as 365 days on which to do so, in general a large number of sellers become active around spring and early summer, often in order to get settled before the start of a new school year. But while Capitol Hill schools have become very popular, they don’t drive our market any more than politics do.

On any given weekend in D.C., plenty in the purchaser population are able to buy your home, an even larger crowd who would be willing and quite a few who might actually be ready, but how many are all three? The crowd thins out. When do their jobs start? Do they need schools? Where will they work? Where will they play? Important questions, but less so in my opinion than how many homes are available when the ready, willing and able line up to look.

Supply and demand strike again. Assuming proper pricing and presentation, would a seller prefer a higher number of listings on the market, in competition with their home, or lower? I might suggest a listing time outside of the norm, avoiding the onslaught of “option paralysis,” a springtime affliction many buyers experience after walking through their fifth Sunday open house. How many homes, similar to yours, is your buyer likely to view on the weekend you list? How likely is yours to be “best in show” on the first of June?

Here are some good times to list your home outside of the spring rush:

  • Third week of January to early February. Baffling to some, and based largely on personal experience. I suspect these factors are at play: pent-up demand following three months of slim pickings; reducing active competition and many within the buyer population need a little time for life to get back to normal after the holidays. A couple of paychecks after all that spending doesn’t hurt either.
  • Late January to April 16th. This date will list your home ahead of the masses but close to the “let’s see what comes next week” conversation amongst buyers. The April 16 part is easy. Potential first-time buyers have often discovered by then the generous amount of tax deferment homeownership provides.
  • Third week of September. This date works for almost the same reasons late January does: pent-up demand is high, summer spending is done and life is getting back to normal, so let’s get settled into new digs before year’s end!
  • Despite all the chatter, real estate sales is a business of attraction, not promotion. Balloons and broker bellowing aren’t what inspires buyers to write million-dollar checks. In my opinion, the date you list your home runs in fourth place in terms of importance, behind pricing, presentation and exposure. This is as true in Anacostia as in Adams Morgan, and everywhere in between.
  • Ultimately, if handled properly, there is no bad day to list a home in DC. Dec. 24 can work well for a well-priced listing so long as enough time on either side of that date is given for exposure. Just save some open house cookies for later that night.