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Why is January 22 the best day to buy a house?

Jan 22 best day to buy a house   for sale sign on house with pending sale

Every year we hear the rumours: Winter is the best time to buy a house.

To be frank, the rumours are true.

What’s better is that we can narrow this general statement down to a specific day. Turns out, the best day to buy a house in Greater Vancouver is January 22, 2019

There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but here are the two biggest:

  • decreased competition (as fewer buyers are house-shopping during cold, wet winter months)
  • along with seller fatigue (since anyone who lists a house for sale during the winter months is typically being prompted by a major life event, rather than a simple choice).

How do we know what the best day is to buy?

It started nine years ago when a now-defunct brokerage based out of Toronto (known as TheRedPin) decided to analyze the market. By going through more than half a decade of sales data on just over 650,000 Toronto-area transactions, they were able to pinpoint the one day that would offer home buyers the best chance of getting a bargain. That day was the Tuesday of the third week in January. This exercise was repeated the next year and, sure enough, the same results.

Why the third week in January?

The theory is that sellers with homes on the market during January are motivated to sell for reasons other than a lifestyle choice. Perhaps they are facing financial hardship, or they got a job promotion that’s taking them to a different city, maybe they are going through a divorce, or perhaps they bought a place in late-fall the year before and now they must sell their current home to avoid carrying two mortgages. Whatever the reason, there is a need to sell which puts the seller at a disadvantage.

Also, quite often sellers with homes on the market in the winter have to wait longer to sell their home. This translates to more open houses, more viewing appointments, more cleaning and a greater struggle to keep the house in tip-top shape. This can lead to seller fatigue.

Finally, there are fewer buyers in the winter months, particularly in December and January, since this time is so close the holiday season. It’s also why the third week of January is the best time. By the third week, most people are back into the swing of things. Kids are back in school and back to their routine; people are back and work and schedules are in place.

Home buyers can save, on average, about $60,000

For home shoppers in Greater Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, what does this mean? It means an opportunity to save.

We crunched the numbers for the last 10 years and found that, on average, Greater Vancouver home buyers save 5.5% if they buy in January compared to buying in the peak of the housing market in May. Home buyers in the Fraser Valley save 8.5%.

If you take the average house price in December 2018, this translates into a savings of just under $60,000 (or between $57,557 and $59,304) if you were to buy in January, rather than waiting for the spring market.

Ave. Home $ Greater VancouverAve. Home $ Fraser Valley
Average Savings5.5%8.5%
January 2018$1,038,104$724,746
May 2018$1,107,804$745,968
Difference6.3%2.9%
January 2017$887,577$626,240
May 2017$1,109,023$737,830
Difference20.0%15.0%
January 2016$1,090,241$669,085
May 2016$1,067,419$722,384
Difference-2.1%7.4%
January 2015$820,883$524,585
May 2015$905,956$573,754
Difference9.4%8.6%
January 2014$803,942$490,505
May 2014$813,985$535,832
Difference1.2%8.6%
January 2013$748,234$435,485
May 2013$776,996$498,609
Difference3.7%12.7%
January 2012$755,133$466,062
May 2012$729,519$484,299
Difference-3.4%3.8%
January 2011$769,237$441,372
May 2011$833,205$526,507
Difference7.7%16.2%
January 2010$640,445$433,831
May 2010$667,025$457,941
Difference4.0%5.3%
January 2009$537,416$399,881
May 2009$585,194$418,962
Difference8.2%4.6%
Source: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, Zolo
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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.