Home-Selling: It’s in the Metrics

GRADY FUSON: “His legs are gone. We’ll be lucky to get sixty games out of him. Why do you like him?”


PETER: “Because he gets on base.”

–Moneyball (2011)

Can algorithms determine the perfect time to list a home in today’s market? And in today’s market, does it even matter?

Zillow, Seattle, thinks so. Its analysis of 2021 home sales shows the optimal time to list a home this year is in the second half of April—and more to the point, Thursday, April 21.

The analysis found homes listed during the last two weeks of April can expect to fetch 2.8% more, or $9,300 on the typical U.S. home. And homes listed on any Thursday, when shoppers are planning for weekend showings, can sell for $1,100 more.

Furthermore, the analysis found while the pandemic-era housing market barely resembles the one from two years ago, with sky-high demand and record-low inventory driving intense competition for homes year-round, the traditional spring home season is alive ans well—listing a home for sale in the spring, according to the Zillow algorithms, will yield the best results.

“With inventory as low as it is, home sellers can expect a quick sale pretty much year-round,” said Zillow economist Nicole Bachaud. “Even as frantic buyers are snapping up homes days after they hit the market and often bidding them up above list price, there is still value to be had by listing a home during the right time of year, which is in the spring in most cases. This is a friendly market for sellers, but those who are simultaneously buying need a firm grasp on the right tools and strategies to win their next home.”

So, is there a “bad” time to list a home, even in the recent all-cylinders market? Zillow says yes to that, too. It found the potential price benefit from listing at the right time has grown as home values have increased. Listing during the best or worst times of the year can affect a sale price by as much as $21,000, compared to a difference of only $12,500 before the pandemic.

That, of course, is assuming a uniform U.S. housing market—which is anything but. Zillow said should 2021 trends hold true this year, among the 35 largest metro areas, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland and Austin would have seen the best time to list a home to be as early as the second half of February. Los Angeles, where winter weather does not deter buyers, has the latest ideal time to list; those who listed their home in late December last year saw the biggest price benefit, just edging out late March. Los Angeles metro inventory was 20% lower in December than March, likely contributing to increased demand for each home.

Still, the analysis found, those markets are outliers. In most large markets, listing in April or May is the sweet spot. Nationwide, the worst time to list a home is during the first two weeks of November, when homes sell for a 3.5% discount.

Regardless of when they are listed, homes are selling quickly. The difference between the periods with the fastest sales (late January through April) and slowest sales (August) was only three days last year, compared to a difference of 12 days in 2019.

And with first-time home buyers hampered by higher interest rates and record-high home prices, home sellers are increasingly valued as buyers as well, as they look for their next home. Home listings in April get more than 30% more page views per day than average, meaning more interest and potentially a bidding war that ends in the home selling above list price.