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Could January be the New April for Home Shopping?

People have begun their home search earlier each year since 2015
January 2019 fell just one percent behind February for highest number of views per listing
In one out of five markets January saw the highest number of listing views in 2019
Although searching begins earlier in the year, competition remains high through spring
Historically, April launched the kickoff of the home shopping season as buyers would come out of their winter hibernation looking for their new home. Realtor.com listings data from 2015 to 2019 shows, however, the spring shopping season now starts in January for many of the nation’s largest markets.

In 2015, the peak month for average views per listing on realtor.com was April, while January lagged behind by a substantial 16 percent.

For the year, the month of January fell 1 percent below February for most monthly views per listing on realtor.com during 2019. Although it lagged February, January saw a surge, ranking as the top month in 20 of the 100 largest metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Jose, Calif., and Denver. In 2018, that was true for just three of the top 100 metros.

As shoppers modify their strategies for navigating a housing market that has become more competitive due to rising prices and low inventory, the search for a home is beginning earlier and earlier. With housing inventory across the U.S. expected to reach record lows in 2020, we expect to see this trend continue into the new year.

As of November, the number of homes for sale across the country was down 9.5 percent year-over-year. Additionally, the inventory of entry-level homes priced below $200,000, shrunk by an astonishing 16.5 percent year-over-year.

The shift to January’s newfound popularity does not mean that the other prime spring months have become less competitive. Realtor.com data shows that views per listing used to ramp up into spring, but now competition starts high in January and stays high.

For example, in 2018, March, the most competitive month, had 21 percent more views per listing than the least competitive month, January. In 2019, that gap between most-and least-competitive months narrowed to a difference of just six percent. What used to be a lopsided bias for April is now a feverish search starting in January, staying consistently competitive across the first four months of the year as hopeful homebuyers look for just the right home.

Locally, Seattle had the greatest spike in home shopping in January 2019, with views per property 32 percent higher than the next-highest month. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; San Francisco; Atlanta; and San Jose, Calif. metros rounded out the top five markets where January was the most competitive month in 2019.

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