Fall is the perfect time to explore the suburbs—and snag a deal. The only challenge? Your weekends are numbered…
Despite everyone telling us to wait until spring, we started exploring the suburbs right after Labor Day. To us, it was a perfect time—it wasn’t too hot, wasn’t too cold, and we didn’t feel the sense of urgency many of our spring- and summer-buying friends felt. Our daughter was set in a school for the year and we didn’t have to rush to get her set for September—another perk to searching in the fall and winter.
Within weeks of starting our search, we both confirmed the town we’d been eyeing was “our” suburb and found a house that checked (just about…) all of our boxes. We signed the contract on our suburban home that Halloween and closed the day before Christmas Eve. We were 100% fall buyers—and, looking back, it was the best decision we ever made.
That said, we did learn a few lessons from searching suburbia in the fall. For starters…
#1. You have LIMITED WEEKENDS—use them wisely
While we didn’t have the crush of closing and moving before school started, we were working against another clock—the winter. The year prior we’d started our search in the winter and, while we got a general sense for the suburbs and, even, spotted some homes we liked, it was tricky to really dive in.
That’s important to keep in mind if you’re searching in the fall. Start looking early and commit to searching—first the suburbs then with your agent—every weekend. Again, your weekends will be limited in the fall and winter, even if it doesn’t feel that way now. From Halloween until the New Year, it’s tough to find time to get out and search. If it wasn’t freezing, it was snowing. If it wasn’t snowing, it was a holiday. If it wasn’t a holiday, it was a holiday party, holiday prep or some other holiday-related activity that kept us from looking. Do yourself a favor and start pounding the pavement now.
#2. You’ll get a “real” sense of the suburbs
I personally find Fall to be one of the “realest” times to search the suburbs. Maybe it was the fact that our soon-to-be suburb had a serious soccer culture and everyone hit the community center on Saturdays. Or maybe it was because everyone was back from summer vacations, camps and trips out east — people were just home and back in the swing of school, sports and family life. That, from our perspective, was important and helped us really pulse-check the communities we explored.
#3. You will have less inventory to work with…
By the time we’d narrowed our search to a single suburb, we had a good sense of the types of houses in the town as well as what we needed—and wanted. We’d seen a number of houses and could quickly suss out what worked and what didn’t just by walking through.
While a lot of people think that’s an important quality when there’s tons of inventory—you have to move fast, see tons of homes and make a decision on the fly—it’s actually a great quality in the fall and winter, too. Because we had a solid sense of what we wanted and weren’t under the gun to find it, we knew when we’d found something spot-on.
We also didn’t feel the need to have dozens of options presented to us. When we found a house we loved, below our budget, that had all of our essentials, we felt confident making an offer. Again, we knew what was out there—fall and spring—and knew what we wanted. There was no reason not to find “the one”—and, in this case, the only one—and go for it.
#4. …but you’ll also have less competition
I’d heard endless stories about spring bidding wars—presenting your best and final within a few hours which, ideally, would be overask. That wasn’t the case in the fall. We made a low-ball offer and, while the seller initially balked, we knew they didn’t have any other potential buyers on tap, which gave us time to go back and regroup with our agent. It took over a week of back-and-forth to finalize the price—time we wouldn’t have had if competition had been fierce.
#5. You’ll have a great chance at getting a great deal
Though the seller rejected our initial offer, we landed about 15% below ask. At the time we thought it was a fair price but, in the spring, two almost identical homes on our seven-house cul-de-sac went on the market, and both sold at or above ask. Both went into contract less than five months after we’d closed, and went for considerably more.
I do think our ability to get a great deal was a direct result of buying in the “off-season”—less interest, no other offers and a long time to wait until spring market made our seller particularly motivated.
#6. You’ll be able to move quickly—in every sense of the word
And once we signed on the line? Things moved fast. No one wanted to drag our close into the New Year and, because there weren’t as many deals on the table, everyone from our attorneys to our mortgage broker to the title agent was able to work through the final details very quickly. We closed less than eight weeks after we’d signed the purchase agreement—eight weeks that spanned slow-downs around Thanksgiving and the holiday lead-up.
From there we were able to literally move quickly. Our contractor started our “refresh” the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and, because it was a mild winter, our landscaper was even able to get the bulk of his work done—and, because he wasn’t booked until spring, he had plenty of time to work on our property. Even booking our movers was easy—they had, literally, every weekend open until March.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Spring market has its perks, as does fall and even winter. However, if you are going to search in the fall, make sure you know what you want, know what your non-negotiables are and be prepared to not see houses every weekend—again, inventory is limited and some patience may be required.
Beyond that, though, my advice is simple: GET OUT. Get out and start exploring suburbia, whether you’re ready to look at houses or not. Even if you’re just checking out towns, do it now. This will help you get an authentic view of communities you may want to call “home” while ensuring you’re ready to hit the ground running come spring.
And if you are getting out and exploring, do it sooner rather than later. While it’s still flip-flop weather in most of the country, the chilly weather is coming. And, when that happens, you’ll likely be less inclined—or less able—to search suburbia.
Fall is the perfect time to explore the suburbs. Contact us now for a free strategy session with a Suburban Jungle Suburbs Strategist.