When you take into account all the various external factors that come into play during the course of a year, it quickly becomes clear how and why the housing market ebbs and flows between the seasons - for both sales and lettings. Below is a rundown of how it all works.
Christmas - This is the quietest time of year for all sectors of the property market and that’s because everyone’s minds are elsewhere. Not only are there lots of festivities to distract us, our children are on holiday, too. It is, however, a time of heavy traffic on the property portals as we make plans for the year ahead. In the run-up to December 25th, rents can sometimes be reduced, as landlords attempt to avoid any void periods.
Winter – This is traditionally the second quietest time of the year. With daylight hours limited and the weather often inclement, properties tend to look dark and tired and our appetite for house-hunting wanes. However, there are some advantages – there is significantly less competition from other sellers and, any buyers that are about, tend to be more serious.
Spring – Although it is referred to as ‘the spring market’, it's a bit of a misnomer because it actually starts in the second half of February and finishes towards the end of June. It’s this extended timescale that provides one of the key reasons for spring's popularity – it’s the longest uninterrupted period during the year to find and secure a new home. Spring is also the time when the world gets lighter and brighter, gardens burst back into life and properties are back to looking their best. Asa result, buyers are re-energised and begin looking for new homes. At the same time, sellers also get active, leading to more property coming onto the market, providing more choice – another very important factor. It’s also when many people start searching for a house in the catchment area of a good school before the application process begins for the coming year.
Summer – For sales, the market begins to quieten down as schools break up and everyone heads to the beach. However, this is one of the peak times for lettings. Families will often move nearer to new schools during the summer months and university students begin seeking accommodation before classes kick-off in September/October. It’s also when any graduates with new jobs tend to move home.
Autumn –Lettings continues to be busy as sales come back to life after the summer break. It’s one of the shorter windows of opportunity, as people rush to get everything tied up before Christmas.
Below are the average sales volumes over the last few years (source: Land Registry). Sales volumes run 2-3 months in arrears, as that is how long it typically takes sales to be completed. Peak spring activity therefore often appears in July and August’s statistics.
In 2015, winter low point - 56,829 completed sales
Late spring/summer high point - 88,587. A difference of+56% (96% in West Berkshire)
In 2016, Brexit vote chaos distorted the usual timetables, completed sales peaking in March at 142,209thencrashingto a low point in April of 67,097.A difference of-53%(96% rise in West Berkshire followed by a 58% fall in April)
In 2017, winter low point - 72,121completed sales
Late spring/summer high point - 106,006.A difference of+47% (108% in West Berkshire)
In 2018, winter low point - 71,890completed sales
Late spring/summer high point was 106,376.A difference of+48% (59% in West Berkshire)
In 2019, winter low point - 69,048completed sales
Late spring/summer high point - 100,287. A difference of+45% (76% in West Berkshire)
In 2020, due to Covid and the stamp duty, the 2020 figures are not representative of the general picture. The low point occurred in April–27,417completed sales
The high point took place in October–88,063. A difference of+69% (228% in West Berkshire)
As can be seen from the data, there is a substantial uplift in spring, especially in West Berkshire.Major events do sometimes disrupt the cycle, such as general elections, a referendum, or a financial crisis and especially the pandemic in 2020. In 2021 pent-up demand caused by the pandemic and the extension of the Stamp Duty Holiday could mean we will have one of the busiest springs in years. If, however, you have to buy and sell outside the spring market, it’s not a disaster - sales don’t stop, even at Christmas time. A notable 89,463 properties changed hands, for example, in December 2019.