When is the Best Time to Buy a House in California?

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California has a lot to offer, including a world-famous coastline, beautiful beaches, and state parks, as well as thriving metropolises, and the eponymous Hollywood and Silicon Valley areas.

If you’re planning a home purchase in The Golden State, you may be wondering, what’s the best time to buy a house in California? Does it make a difference in how much I will need to spend or how long the process will take? What factors might impact the timing of my home purchase?

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When is the best time of year to buy a house in California?

1. Summer (best selection)

Summer provides California home shoppers with the highest selection of properties for sale. Specifically, the end of May and June typically see the most home sales. However, summer is often cited as the most expensive time to buy a house — with prices potentially as much as 10% higher. This is partly because many families want to purchase a house before their children start a new school year.

Additionally, buyers often use summer vacation days to move into a new house and they have the most mobility during the summer months. Because of these reasons, many industry publications will advise you to start your home search in January or February for a late spring or summer closing.

According to Jennifer and Andrew Oldham, a top-performing real estate team in California’s Bay Area, “Listings typically get posted after the Superbowl and then keep increasing through August. The least available inventory is during the winter holidays.”

2. Spring (good selection)

Spring is second only to summer in inventory and price levels for the California housing market. Spring carries with it a sense of new beginnings. The season blossoms with property selections and open house events that can enhance the excitement of the house-hunting experience.

3. Fall (fewer options, better price)

According to Time magazine, early fall can be a good time to buy a home because inventory in some markets is still plentiful, and those sellers are often eager to close a deal before the winter season begins.

Late fall to winter — specifically, through the holidays — can present opportunities for homebuyers to get a good deal, with California data showing that sales typically see another uptick in December as buyers strive to wrap up financial matters before the end of the year.

4. Winter (best price)

Echoing the Oldhams’ observations, data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) indicate that winter typically has the least sales activity — with January and February being the slowest. But prices tend to be lower and buyers can often get eager sellers to offer concessions, such as covering closing costs. In addition, builders can be incentivized to negotiate to clear new construction inventory at the end of the year.

Ultimately, the best time of year to buy a house in California depends on your goals. Are you budget-minded, or do you want a larger pool of properties to choose from? If the home is an investment, the best time to buy is when everyone else isn’t.

To pick the best time for you to buy a house in California, the first step is to partner with an experienced agent in your selected market.

Are there ‘best days’ or ‘worst days’ to buy a house in California?

There aren’t any best or worst days to buy a house in California. “Anytime that is right for you is a good time to buy a house in California,” says Jennifer Oldham. “Appreciation on California homes has been steady over the years, and your home will likely be your largest asset, so choose wisely and don’t wait on the market or what the media tells you is the best time to buy.”

“Instead, be selective about the house you buy and the neighborhood,” Andrew adds. “Check out where you’re going to buy your groceries, coffee, and the local school districts.”

What’s unique about the California housing market?

The Golden State housing market is unique because California is the country’s third largest state. It attracts a lot of new residents and visitors each year, and has some of the most picturesque scenery in the world.

Major companies are headquartered throughout the state and so many people find it a desirable place to live. This means that there is a high demand for houses in the state. It’s also very tech driven so tech companies coming to the area and tech layoffs affect the surrounding housing markets.

Other unique factors about the California housing market include:

  • Fast-selling houses: 33 days is the median days on market
  • Houses often sell for more than asking price, depending on the market
  • Commitment to going green: Starting in 2020, all new single-family and multifamily homes that are three stories or fewer must come with solar panels. This is intended to decrease energy consumption and save homeowners money on their utility bills.
  • Desirable places for young professionals and retirees

Is it a good time to buy a house in the current California market?

It’s always a good time to buy a house in California, according to the Oldhams. California homes have steadily appreciated over time. Historical data shows the average rate of appreciation in California came in at 6.77% annually over a 39-year period. In the current market, some areas of California are experiencing slight declines in median home prices, which can benefit buyers.

In addition, California offers a variety of world-class amenities for almost every buyer’s discerning tastes. The Oldhams are still seeing multiple offer situations on many homes, so demand is still strong.

What’s the best way to get started buying a house in California?

The best way to get started buying a house in California is by taking a free online buyer quiz. Answer questions like what ZIP code you want to buy in, what is your time frame, and what’s your budget. Then get matched to a reliable, trusted local HomeLight network real estate agent.

We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews. The recommended agents are the best performing agents in their area. You can compare them online and then choose the real estate agent that seems like the best match. This is a completely free service and is a good first step in the California homebuying process.

How does weather affect house prices or sales in California?

California doesn’t generally get as harsh winters as other states, but Northern California does have its cool days and chillier evenings. However, southern California is a more moderate climate and is typically known for its warm, dry summers and wetter winters.

Buyers may be affected if the weather is too hot or too cold, and may choose to buy when the temperatures aren’t as extreme. No one wants to go house hunting during freezing temps or when it’s unbearably hot. Earthquakes and fires are other deterrents for buyers in California. These events aren’t always predictable or frequent, so buyers don’t typically see these as a home-shopping obstacle like winter weather.

According to the Oldhams, “It’s hard to both bring homes on the market and to get buyers out looking at homes when it gets dark early and there are brutal winters with flooding and downpours.”

What are the best cities to buy a house in California?

Choosing the best cities to buy a house in California is subjective. It really depends on where you want to live, if you want to be near friends or family members, the location of your job, or where you want your children to go to school.

Some homebuyers prefer to live in rural areas where they can spread out, while others enjoy the hustle and bustle of a big city. Still, others prefer the laid-back vibes of small coastal towns. Choosing where to buy a house can also vary depending on if you’re going to live there full time, use the house as a vacation home, or if you’re purchasing an investment property.

Some of the top-rated cities to buy a house in California include:

  • San Diego: Known for its beaches, world-famous zoo, and warm climate, San Diego attracts buyers who want to live a laid-back coastal life but still be in a major city.
  • Irvine: Located in Orange County, Irvine is close to the coast, is home to an accredited university, and is centrally located.
  • Los Angeles: One of the country’s largest cities, LA is a sprawling metropolis and the center of the film and entertainment industry. It also is known for its restaurants, shopping, and moderate climate.
  • Santa Barbara: This seaside town has beautiful scenery, a major university, and a strong surf culture. It’s also home to highly rated public schools.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: “The area is beautiful, you’re near the ocean, close to Silicon Valley, and only a couple hours away from the mountains,” says the Oldhams.

How else might I get a better deal on a home in California?

California is a beautiful place to live, with diverse scenery and endless activities and adventures. However, it is also one of the most expensive states to live in.

Some tips to get a better deal on a California home include:

  • Pay cash: You can close on the house quickly and cash is king when it comes to real estate. You may get a better price for the house because you paid cash.
  • Work with a local real estate agent: A top local agent can help you negotiate an offer on the house, advise you of what comparable houses have sold for, and tell you a bit more about upcoming developments and attractions in the area that may affect the house values.
  • Expand your search: You may get a better deal if you expand your search a bit. For example, you may want to live in Palo Alto because you’re going to work there, but housing prices are high, so consider looking at bordering cities, and neighborhoods a bit farther away where your dollar will stretch more.

A few final tips for California home buyers

When buying a house in California, some things to keep in mind include:

  • Choose a mortgage broker that offers the most competitive rates and terms. Get your preapproval letter and rate locked in as soon as possible. Interest rates are constantly changing and the California housing market moves fast. You want to be able to write an offer as soon as you find a house you like and know that you already have your financing lined up.
  • Research first-time homebuyer programs, loan products, and down payment assistance programs specific to California, and some are even specific to the city you’re going to purchase in.
  • Always get a home inspection, even if you’re buying the house ‘as is’ or with cash, and it’s not required. You want to know what condition the house is in, if there are any repairs that need to be completed immediately, and how old things like the roof, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are.

Bottom line: When Is the best time to buy a house in California?

The best time to buy a house in California is whenever is best for you. It’s impossible to predict the market; inventory changes regularly, and so do interest rates. Focus instead on factors you can control. Purchase a home in California when you’re financially able and when it best suits your needs.

When you’re ready to make the move to California, consider HomeLight’s Agent Match platform. Get free performance-based recommendations for real estate agents in the area you want to live in. HomeLight agents safely show you homes and negotiate successful offers. Then all you need to do is settle into your new dream home.

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