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Historical Home Search Trends Indicate Approaching Slump

With Labor Day ringing in the final weeks of summer, activity in most local housing markets is set to come down from its yearly peak—but a few areas are expected to warm up heading into fall, if history is any indication.

Based on trend data collected from 2011–2013, Trulia reported Tuesday that home searches on its website nationally come in 6 percent below the annual average for the months of September and October as summer transitions into fall.

"As summer comes to an end, therefore, the slow season for house hunting begins," said Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko.

Trulia's analysis follows a report last week from Redfin in which Chief Economist Nela Richardson predicted the strongest fall season in years for home sales as the market comes closer to balance. Commenting on its own findings, Trulia noted that the housing crisis has played its own role in the seasonal pattern of home prices and other activities, meaning search patterns in the past few years could change in the future.

Among states and the largest U.S. metros, Trulia says the biggest post-summer drop-offs in home searches usually happen in the top warm-weather vacation spots, with Florida and Hawaii seeing seasonal declines of more than 10 percent.

At the local level, the biggest decreases tend to be along Florida's Gulf Coast and throughout the South and Southwest, including markets like Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida (-18 percent); North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Florida (-13 percent); Austin, Texas (-12 percent); West Palm Beach, Florida (-12 percent); and Phoenix, Arizona (-12 percent).

Taking a broader look at the 500 largest metros, Kolko observed another of market that sees a major slowdown in search activity in autumn: college towns such as College Station-Bryan, Texas, and Columbia, Missouri.

"The lesson for university students and employees: figure out your housing situation before the school year starts," he said.

Not all markets are poised for a fall slump, however. While the beaches might empty in the coming months, home searches have shown post-summer growth in parts of New England and in areas of both coasts.

One key factor, Kolko says, is climate.

"Markets where search activity is high in autumn tend to have warm and dry Septembers and Octobers relative to their local climate in the rest of the year," he said.

Seasonal interest also tends to strengthen each year in vacation spots closer to mountains and forests. Among the metros posting the largest increase each fall are Lincoln, New Mexico; Teton, Wyoming; and Watauga, North Carolina, each of which are near ski resorts.

At the state level, Trulia found that Vermont, Maine, and Wyoming usually see slightly higher activity than the national average through September and October.

About Author: Tory Barringer

Tory Barringer began his journalism career in early 2011, working as a writer for the University of Texas at Arlington's student newspaper before joining the DS News team in 2012. In addition to contributing to DSNews.com, he is also the online editor for DS News' sister publication, MReport, which focuses on mortgage banking news.

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