My friends ask me, why don’t you take August off? They say, isn’t real estate dead in August? The answer is, it depends on what you want to do. Opportunities exist for both buyers and sellers, although they must be carefully assessed. August is not a great time to launch most listings, but it can offer an opportunity to pick one up in a slightly less frantic manner than may prevail in September.
Conventional wisdom used to have it that August saw no real estate activity. Agents stopped doing Sunday Open Houses (or sometimes did them on a Monday or Tuesday evening instead) and took advantage of the hiatus to go on vacation or spend long weekends at the beach. The rental market, of course, remained busy in August as new graduates tried to get settled before their jobs began, and families before the school year began. While that has not changed, sales activity throughout the marketplace has definitely escalated in recent years. But it’s different.
Summer activity was always at its weakest for larger properties. More families and wealthy people, the typical buyers for more expensive units, leave town (or don’t come to town, if they don’t live here) in August. For one thing, it’s hot. Midtown is overrun with tourists, although this increasingly is not a seasonal phenomenon. But most of us don’t get to take the whole month off, so the marketplace for less expensive properties remains brisk; we are still seeing competitive bidding for our one and two bedroom inventory. And the slower market for larger units can create opportunity for both sides. Since only serious buyers search during the second half of the summer, sellers can feel confident that appointment requests come from those who are ready to make a deal. For buyers, the fact that the field is less crowded can mean a less rushed process, with more time to negotiate and a greater ability to actually contemplate a purchase before making it.
Agents used to recommend to their sellers that they remove unsold properties from the market after June 15, to re-list them after Labor Day as new listings. This subterfuge no longer works as both our RLS (Manhattan’s version of the MLS) and StreetEasy, the site where many of our buyers search the market, require a property to be off the market for 90 days before the clock gets re-set. In general, there’s not much point in trying to game the system. Most agents agree that over time there is only one reason properties don’t sell: price. Disguising the time on the market so it appears as five days rather than five months will not precipitate a quicker sale. Only an inviting appearance and an appropriate price will do that.
My agents stay busy all summer long. The pace slows but it never stops. August may be the time when the vigilant buyer finds that seller who is ready to move on. It may be the time when the patient seller is rewarded with the buyer who needs to complete her search so she can get back to the other demands of her life come summer’s end. Ours is a 24/7/365 business. So we are at our desks in August!