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Saving up to buy a house in a few years, so right now I'm just watching the market to get a sense of the region. I noticed that the Case-Shiller index has seasonal adjustments, which make sense to me for, say, housing starts, but less sense for the overall price of housing.

Is there a commonly accepted season in which homes are cheaper to buy than others?

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Years ago, my observation on this phenomenon (which may be totally wrong) was that the seasonality had to do with the school year and the weather itself. There were more transactions once school ended and right before it started than during the school year. The types of homes transacted during this time also was more kid-friendly, obviously families with more children had a greater desire to avoid disruption of their kid's schooling. The weather played a similar role in that fewer people in areas where snow is common want to risk moving in the midst of a storm.

I suppose to directly answer your question - the better time to buy is when others aren't out looking. That's the time there are fewer sellers as well, so this may cancel itself out, but you may find a winter seller needing to move and feeling under pressure to do so.

Given the current state of the economy, the number of foreclosures out there, I'm not sure the seasonal effect would gain you much.

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My Realtor, after 30 years in the business, suggested that after Labor Day in the US (pick a comparable time when all schools have started for the year elsewhere, perhaps) was a great time to find a home just outside your price range that you have had your eye on, offer a lower price, and likely get it because the owners won't see any other prospective buyers and have likely been sitting long enough on the market waiting. Plus they want to move before the holidays. – justkt Nov 18 '11 at 15:00
Thanks! I often hesitate to provide answers based on guts and observation, glad to hear a pro agrees (with my school-based observation). – JoeTaxpayer Nov 18 '11 at 15:10

Any season is a pretty good season to buy right now if you have great credit. Home prices are way down from what they were a few years ago, and I actually saw a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage quote of less than 3%. You potentially can borrow for peanuts now if your ducks are in a row.

I think you still have time. The real estate slump is far from over -- at least a couple of years.

But here's a more direct answer to your question. I've been told that there's more buyer interest starting in the spring after the winter. This may be reflected in the prices: cheaper in the winter.

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