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Chicago Fall Real Estate Market

Jean Ward - ChicagoLakeCondos - Chicao Lakefront

Chicago lakefront view from double-decker bus on Michigan Avenue in early fall.

The leaves are just starting to fall, the days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are starting to fluctuate.  Does the fall season affect you if you’re hoping to sell your home or look for a new place to buy or rent?

The real estate market in Chicago typically is a busy one in autumn, but it is a different sort of activity that that of the well-known spring and summer real estate market.  While every year varies slightly, experience has shown that the seasons typically play a large role in the Chicago real estate market.


Before you know it, football season is here, the beaches are closed, and native Chicagoans are preparing for winter.  The weather is typically still nice enough for homebuyers to be out and about, so home-viewing traffic is good.  Additionally, homes show well surrounded by fall foliage both in pictures and as drive-by’s.  September, October, and November traditionally dictate a reduced number of new listings, which means less option for homebuyers; conversely, the competition of other buyers also cools as the number of potential buyers dwindles.  Autumn is filled with leftover summer house hunters trying to make up their minds before the biting cold hits.  Supply and demand even out slightly and serious parties negotiate moderately.    The weather again plays a large role in the sales velocity.   If winter comes too early, the fall market is affected adversely.  If temperatures and precipitation are moderate into late fall, autumn home sales in Chicago have been known to soar.


Traditionally, cold weather brings about the least number of homes available for purchase in the Chicago market.  Buyers and sellers alike are busy with the holidays, which keep newly listed properties at a minimum, as many want to wait until after the New year, and existing listings are often put on hold, or offer reduced viewing opportunities over the holidays.  Additionally, weather plays a big role in Midwest real estate, as the snow and ice not only ground potential buyers from searching, but also often hides the details and landscaping of the properties that are on the market, along with the true representation of neighborhood activity, as NO ONE is usually outside unless they have to be, in a Chicago winter.  That being said, it can be a great time to list a home if you’re worried about competition, say in a high-rise condo building with multiple units typically for sale at any given time, as your unit may get more traffic in the off-season from buyers that have zeroed in on your particular building.  From a buyer’s viewpoint, even though you may not have your “pick of the litter,” you will traditionally have more negotiating room in the winter, as sellers who NEED versus WANT to sell my be weary of the reduced activity in the cold months and be more willing to concede than in the height of exposure. 


Spring typically brings a rush of well-timed homeowners looking to list their home in hopes of selling it over the summer, which is the most popular time to move in the city.   Just as the cold weather is starting to break, this influx of new properties available is the answer to many a homebuyer’s prayer, as he has become bored with the lack of availability of new properties.  Prices in March, April and May can fluctuate, but traditionally they’re higher than winter, as many sellers are “testing the waters” of the new year’s real estate market.  While inventory is working its way up, along with the grass poking through the thawing ground, buyers are not always completely committed to buying, and new sellers, in particular, are not as motivated to negotiate, as they both tend to have the mindset, sometimes erroneously, that there’s plenty of time and plenty of options to consider before a summer move is in order.  The activity of both listings and sales escalates rapidly near the end of the spring.


Without warning, year after year, Chicago’s busy summer real estate market roars in like a lion.  Both home owners and seekers without a contract are shocked to find themselves in mid-year without a resolution, and most buckle down with the goal of an executed contract.  The lake is brilliant, the weather is blustery, and everyone’s looking at real estate, whether they’re in the market or not.  Inventory is high, prices are higher, and the number or home shoppers is at a pinnacle.  The pace is rapid and there’s not much room for negotiation for buyers, as homes are in demand and are being sold quicker than at any other time of the year.  If buyers don’t put an offer in first time around after viewing, many times it’s too late to come back for a second attempt.


Chicago used to be a city led by only May and October rental periods.  Most multi-unit buildings of 6 or more units used to back into the spring and fall season by showing apartments only in March and April and August and September, with the exception of sublets and re-lets.  After the recent housing crash that followed the big real estate boom, there’s now an increased demand for the more temporary leasing periods and lower prices of rentals versus home ownership.  That demand, along with the fluctuation of the economy and job market, has led to year-round rental apartment, home and condominium availability.  While the ebb and flow of the above seasons still reigns supreme for the rental market, you can usually always rent an apartment in Chicago, no matter what time of year.

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