Home Truths: 'Why January is the best time to sell your house'
Those planning to sell their homes in 2020 (you know who you are) are likely to be thinking along the following lines right now: 'Christmas, Christmas, Christmas...'
And if you lot do get around to thinking more specifically about plans to move in 2020, the collective train of thought is likely to be something like this: 'After Christmas, and once the kids are back at school, then we'd better get down to it... some serious spring tidying. A bit of decluttering, maybe even get a skip.
'Then after that, we'll get a bit of painting done to brighten the house up. Perhaps a month or so of weekend nights will sort that out.
'Then after that, we'd better get the garden sorted, front and rear.
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'Then after that, when all the flowers are out and the garden looks great, and after the kids are back to school after their Easter break, then we'll put our house on the market.'
And after all the 'after thats', you're looking at April or May to go to market.
The above is pretty much how most of 2020's vendors are thinking right now.
But in complete and utter contrast, consider that those who will buy a home in 2020 are likely to be thinking more like this: 'Once Christmas is out of the way, it's all systems go! Get out there and find that dream home!'
Then thirdly, those nice mortgage people down at the banks are currently thinking like this: 'Just how long will our mortgage rule exceptions last for 2020 before they're all gone? March? Maybe April?'
Because for some time now, mortgage loan exceptions have dictated the tempo of the property year. So when people ask me when is the best month of the year to bring a house to market, I tell them this: "Unless you're selling a country estate, with big grounds, that needs summer to them show off, I'd bring your home to market in January."
Then they screw up their noses and ask: "When is the next best month to bring a house to market?" And I say: "Unless it's a country house estate, then bring it to market in February."
Then they screw up their faces again and they say: "Aww, but the garden will look... so... dead." And they go right ahead and sell it in April. When all the tulips are out.
Estate agents will tell you that when it to comes to taking advice on buying and selling houses, every Irish homeowner knows better than the experts.
I have analysed and reported on the property market in Ireland for almost 30 years, but in three decades of advising friends, family and various associates on property matters, only two ever took my advice. None since 2005.
One saved half a million by cutting the price of his top-end home hard to achieve a sale just before the crash kicked in. The other bought a wonderful solid terrace house in a good area, instead of her initial choice - a Tiger-era apartment in a block that has since been at the centre of fire-safety issues and shoddy works disputes.
For those who want to know, and forgoing a surprise upset, this is what will come to pass in 2020:
Come January, everyone who has decided to buy a house will stomp out their front door in their hundreds, and they will whizz about, looking at everything for sale that ticks their boxes - which won't be very much. For the most part, January's stock will consist of homes left over from 2019 (mostly because their owners originally overpriced) and a small amount of new stock, placed for sale. Once the latter homes aren't overpriced, January's home hunters will converge on them and compete for them.
There will be some fierce bidding sessions and those homes will generally be sold, and well. Their vendors will generally (not always) fetch a better price than they would have gotten at any other time of the year.
Early-bird buyers milling about in January and February and March will tend to have a higher spending power than those who venture forth later in the year, because they are more likely to have bigger loans approved under the exceptions ruling - that each bank may provide a limited percentage of exceptional loans to the otherwise strictly maintained mortgage lending criteria as decreed by the Central Bank.
The distribution of exceptions is front loaded in the year and as the man says, when they're gone, they're gone. Last year, the exceptions started evaporating by the end of March and, generally, they were completely gone by May.
So in some locations, those who sold earlier in the year actually got more for their homes than those who sold later on. According to the Irish Independent's annual How Much Is Your House Worth? 2019 survey published last January, prices in Dublin 22 rose 5pc overall in 2018. But looking closer, the report tells us that they rose 9pc from January to June but then decreased again by 4pc between June and Christmas.
So back to our story: remember all those guys decluttering and painting and gardening?
Well, when the flowers start blooming, some time in early April, most of those who plan on selling their homes in 2020 will pick up the phone to their estate agents - by the hundreds - and have them stick up a 'For Sale' sign. In April or early May.
Tulip time is when the most properties are being placed for sale at once. At the same time, it's also when the exceptions are starting to run out. April fools?
Conversely, if anyone ever asks me what is the best time of the year to buy a house, I'd say that there are two perfect windows. First, try June, when the unsold April shower are starting to panic and cut their prices. You've got rattled vendors, loads of homes and fewer buyers as holidays start to kick in.
But for the best timing of all, I'd buy right now. Agree before Christmas. You can get a 2020 mortgage exception for an agreed sale that closes on January 1 and this increases your buying power.
Now is when formerly overpriced vendors who wanted to be out by the end of the year are finally in touch with reality and ready to talk turkey. And that's when the most exceptionally timed buyers go 'gobble gobble' on a steal.