The answer is, “It depends.”
There are a lot of factors that go into purchasing real estate, but seasons do have an impact on the market even in SoFlo. Families typically try to get moved and settled by the start of school, and the snowbirds and vacationers typically do not show up until the first winter blast hits the northern and mid-Atlantic tiers. During this time, inventory that did not move in the prime late-spring to early summer season can get a little dusty and sellers a little anxious. Even Money magazine agrees that fall is the time when sellers get anxious and buyers can be aggressive in negotiations. Nobody wants to be the house on Trulia that sits for 120 days, making browsers look and think, “It looks nice, but what’s wrong with it?”
The 120 mark is not a death sentence, as homes nationwide in 2015 were on the market for an average of 102 days before selling. Sometimes it’s as simple as an awkwardly worded description, or going iPhone on the photos instead of hiring a pro (yes, it makes a difference), or having a frankly overpriced home for the area. Hitting the 120 day mark can make a seller and agent more amenable to agreeing that the roof needs work, that the carpeted hardwoods are still dressed in orange shag from 1974, and that no, the photos were not the best. You can use time as leverage to get concessions and lower the price, then use the time to fix and flip for the next prime season, or rent it out to snowbirding visitors.
You should be aware of the time that it will take to find, negotiate for, inspect, and close on a home, so come preapproved with mortgage in hand if you want to be taken seriously. After you close and take possession, you can also take advantage of year end sales to fix up and furnish the home, and pump up the curb appeal. That’s a lot of wins, but you’re going to need to budget time and money in order to get it in position as a rental in order to catch winter vacationers. If you’re buying in a university area, you’ll have a lot of lead time before the return of students apartment hunting in late July or August.
Even better, you’re also in position to claim a lot of tax breaks associated with buying, upgrading, renting, and maintaining your investment property. It’s a good idea, if you’re going to be an absentee landlord to hook up with a reputable management company for your property. However, condo and co-op boards, and some HOA are passing CR&R amendments against short-term rental services such as Air BnB and VRBO, or even mandating a certain amount of owner-occupied properties versus renters. Talk with your agent about finding the perfect resources for you and your investment. They’d love to show you some polished gems or diamonds in the rough!