When selling any asset, obviously the ideal outcome is to get as much money as you can from the sale. Since no one has a crystal ball, you can never be absolutely certain that you are timing the sale 100% ideally. However, there are many things that should be considered when timing the sale of any asset—your property included.
Supply and Demand
At the most basic economic level, the ideal time to sell is when supply is low and demand is high. Similarly, you ideally want to buy something when supply is high and demand is low. In Vancouver, more frequently we see demand being higher than supply. So, as a seller, you are more often going to be in luck versus out of luck. In 2016 and 2017, demand was much higher than supply, so we saw major price appreciation. However, in 2018 and 2019 (for the most part), we saw the opposite. So, one could argue that selling during 2016 or 2017 would have been more ideal than selling during 2018 or 2019. That being said, this doesn’t take into account the total price appreciation during 2016 and 2017, or the total price deprecation during 2018 and 2019. If this is taken into account, selling during the downturn would have still been better than selling in 2016 given how much prices appreciated during the 2016/2017 market.
Sellers often ask us when the best time of year to sell is. The depends on your sub-market, but Vancouver tends to be such a busy real estate market that the only time it’s actually slow is during Christmas and New Year (approximately from December 20th to January 10th).
Furthermore, the time when buyers tend to be a little more serious (spring and fall), is the same as when sellers tend to be a little more serious. Demand goes up, but so does supply. In this respect, there isn’t a lot of benefit in timing for seasonality in Vancouver.
One exception to this might be if your home has an outdoor space that truly comes to life in a big way during the warmer months. In this case, one could make the argument that your property may emotionally ignite buyers to a greater extent when your home’s most special feature has been fully activated.
Selling & Buying
If you are going to be selling and buying at virtually the same time, in virtually the same region, then this topic may not really matter. Whatever benefit you might get on one side (due to market conditions), you will be at a disadvantage on the opposite side. For example, if you list your home at a time when supply is low and demand is high, in order to sell for top dollar, you will then be facing the same conditions as a buyer. This may lead you to believe that it would be best to try and time to the market on each side, but in most cases, someone trying to time the market on both sides often doesn’t fare well, and it can be a major headache trying to time it. If someone sells high, for example, and then rents as they wait for the market to drop, they may end up waiting a long time, as the market continues to appreciate, all while incurring steep rental costs. In the end, they may end up priced out of the market and still renting.
It is often a good idea to perform some fresh updates soon before you sell, so these updates will be brand new for potential buyers. This can maximize the effect that these updates have on buyers, which can maximize the return on investment for these updates. This is especially true for updates outdoors where dirt and rainwater can quickly make things look less clean and new. Further, daily life (especially if children are involved) can result in small scratches and minor damage being done virtually daily, so these add up over time to a home just not looking and feeling quite the same.
If a neighbour lists their property and the selling price is strong, this might be a good time to list and take advantage of the outcome of that comparable property. There may be buyers who missed out on that property and would pounce on yours while they are still emotionally connected to your neighbours’ home. Plus, the more recent a comparable sale, the more weight it carries when using it to negotiate a higher selling price.
It would be prudent to conduct market research to gain insight into what might be in store for the market in the short and medium-term. Obviously, the short term is less challenging to predict. However, be cautious—the media tends to exaggerate whatever is happening in the market by choosing a stat that is the most interesting, most compelling, and oftentimes somewhat misleading. So, it’s important to not rely solely on the media. Speak to top REALTORS® and experienced and successful real estate investors, if possible. Regarding medium or long term forecasts, the most important information to review is the employment outlook of the city, housing supply outlooks, immigration and population growth forecasts, infrastructure and public transit plans, etc. If these are generally looking healthy, then it is more likely that price appreciation to some extent would occur over time.