What the typically slower holiday market can mean for buying a … –

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Though the housing market can be unpredictable, there’s one piece of near certainty around the holidays and the start of the winter season.

With many homebuyers and sellers focusing more on the upcoming holiday festivities, there are usually fewer sales than any other time of the year. Peak times are in the spring and summer.

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What this often translates into is better deals for the buyers, says Howard Hanna real estate agent Jenny Chin, who has more than 50 years of experience in real estate.

“I actually tell a lot of my buyers that if you are looking for the best deal for the year, more than likely it’ll happen in the month of December because when everybody else is busy planning their holidays, they’re not necessarily focusing on buying a real estate project,” Chin said. “But for a seller who needs to sell, they need to sell.”

According to Zillow, coming out of the fall season, 26.1% of Greater Cleveland sellers made price cuts, up from 22.5% from September, marking the sixth largest jump among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.

This trend is not new. Ahead of the pandemic and the changes that came with it, data showed winter consistently offering the lowest prices in Cuyahoga County. From 2015 through 2019, the median selling price was $22,000 to $33,000 lower in the winter than the summer, research of county records showed.

“Usually the inventory tends to increase during this time of year,” Orphe Divounguy, a senior Zillow economist, said. “Demand slows down. Homes that haven’t sold, usually are homes that were not move-in ready or priced correctly, will tend to sit on the market a little bit longer into this time period.”

Chin said potential buyers may also be able to take advantage at the end of the year if lenders have not reached their goals as they may be willing to offer a lower refinancing rate.

For sellers, who need to sell during the winter season, Chin said she usually encourages putting up holiday decorations in the home and taking new pictures to help buyers picture themselves there.

The 2023 housing market has been plagued by rising mortgage rates and low inventory, among other factors. The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 7.44% last week, up slightly from 7.08% in mid-November a year ago but up sharply from 3.1% at the same time two years ago, according to mortgage rate tracking from Freddie Mac.

Jeff Ostrowski, an analyst for Bankrate, called 2023 an “odd year” nationally.

“The home sales, the number of homes that are changing hands, it is way down from a couple years ago,” he said. “A normal year would be about 6 million home sales, but this year we’re going to have about 4 million home sales, and that’s because of a combination of factors. Home prices are still high, mortgage rates are at their highest point since 2000, and that’s really squeezing affordability.”

Though the market has faced many challenges post-pandemic, recent data has shown that interest rates have slightly dropped. But there is something that concerns Divounguy.

“What’s really interesting about the Cleveland market is that it’s among the most affordable markets in the country,” Divounguy said. “Across the country, especially in the Cleveland-area market, prices are now starting to increase faster than in other places. Sadly, building permits in Cleveland are down about 10% when compared to last year.”

Divounguy added that this could lead to locals being outpriced due to the lack of inventory, but he was hopeful with the continued disinflation and slow lowering of mortgage rates, the 2024 housing market would do better in terms of transactions.

“I usually tell potential homebuyers, finance first by getting in touch with a loan officer,” he said. “Loan officers will also help you improve your credit. Real estate agents are absolutely crucial. They know the market in and out, and they’ll help you navigate the challenge of finding a home that you can afford when inventory is still so far below where it was before the pandemic.

“I think for sellers, our research shows, that listings that include a 3-D home virtual tour or an interactive floor plan get 69% more page views and 80% more saves on Zillow. In the Cleveland area, listings still sell very fast.”

Megan Sims covers real estate for See previous work at this link.


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