Spring is a popular time to list a home, and now that we're officially there, you may be gearing up to put your home up for sale. But given the health and financial crisis COVID-19 has created, you may be wondering whether now's a good time to deal with the headache of selling a home, not to mention the potential danger of having strangers come in to view your property. The answer? It's really a mixed bag.
Sell your house at the wrong time and the consequences of that careless decision will haunt you down the road.
Hang on too long when you’re in financial trouble and you could end up with a foreclosure or short sale. Jump the gun out of fear when the market’s down, and you’ll miss the upswing right around the corner. Want to stay for the memories but not the maintenance? Prepare to watch your home’s value chip away every year and net less in the end.
When you set out to buy a home, a mortgage lender helps to make sure you’re ready with a look into your income, credit history, and cash reserves. But when you question “Should I sell my house now or wait?” it’s on you — and only you — to make a smart move.
So start here. Let’s review the signs it’s time to let go of the house even when your heart fights back, how to know when to stick it out a little longer, and the tools and resources you need to make a decision with all the facts in front of you.
When to Know You Are Ready To Sell Your Home
You’ve outgrown the house and are in a financial position to trade up:
The opportunity to relocate to a new or better home is the no. 1 reason Americans move, according to a recent study. And as one of the main benefits of home ownership, many buyers use the proceeds from their old house to comfortably purchase their next one.
However, before you sign up for a bigger mortgage in a snap decision, crunch the numbers to make sure you can afford your next residence when the dust settles.
We’ve got to look at the equity position that they have. Do they have enough money to sell it and have a nice down payment for the next property, or can they sell it, walk away even, and get similar financing on the next home?
The nice thing about being able to put 20% down on your next home is you’ll likely be able to avoid private mortgage insurance. Take your price range down a notch, keep your down payment the same, and you can shave off the cost of insurance from your monthly payments.
What’s the maximum comfortable payment? We’re not looking at $400,000 houses when they can only afford $350,000.
Core Logic, which analyzes global property information, notes that the average U.S. homeowner gained $12,400 in home equity between the third quarter of 2017 and the third quarter of 2018, with the most significant increases in Western states such as California and Nevada. Overall, U.S. homes with mortgages (roughly 63% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by 9.4% year over year.
Estimate your home equity with this simple formula: subtract your home’s estimated market value from your current mortgage balance.
Maintenance keeps getting away from you or you’d like to age in place longer:
90% of retiring homeowners want to age in place, but Americans notoriously wait too long to downsize or switch to a house that better meets their needs later in life. Seller generational trends from the National Association of Realtors show that 67% of people who moved between the ages of 53 and 92 did so for a health-related concern.
While you cling to the memories of the house you’ve lived in for years and dread the idea of parting with your neighborhood buddies, the clock ticks toward a time when you’ll have to call in help (whether it’s your kids or a professional) to sort, organize, pack, and move all your belongings for you. It’s a lot easier to move out of a two-story house with a basement when your knees don’t hurt.
Making ends meet every month feels like a stretch:
Your mortgage is just one expense of home ownership. Property taxes, home insurance, private mortgage insurance (typically between 0.50% and 1.2% of your loan amount), utilities, household maintenance, lawn care and other fees can strain your finances.
This can vary depending on where you live, as well as the size and age of your home. But consider: If an average home costs more than $360,000 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), you could pay an additional $1,204 a month—or $14,448 annually—for these other expenses.
And that’s not considering maintenance costs that arise from a leaky roof, faulty AC unit, or broken appliance. It’s advisable to set aside 1%-3% of your home’s purchase price each year in a separate savings account specifically for such maintenance and repairs.
Unfortunately, not everyone can keep up with all the costs or would rather not be house rich, cash poor. If you find yourself spending more than a third of your income on housing costs, it’s a big sign that you’re overextended.
Dipping into savings once or a late loan payment here and there can spiral into a delinquent mortgage (that’s more than 90-days late) quickly.
It’s much better to face the music, sell the house you can’t afford, and downsize to save money rather than wait for the inevitable: a foreclosure or short sale—both of which damage your credit and leave you with no money to walk away with.
Your sale lines up with local seasonal trends and buyer behavior in your market:
Believe it or not you can tweak the timing of your home sale even closer to perfection with clues from real estate transaction data. In fact, we found that you can boost the profits on your house by 75% and cut weeks off your days on market by selling at just the right moment.
Traditional wisdom has it that the best time to sell your house is in the spring when the weather warms up and buyers come out in force—and this is true in many markets. But seasonal trends differ from city to city, so you could benefit from a fall, summer, or even winter sale depending on the weather, competition from other sellers, and buyer behavior.
We analyze millions of transactions to crunch the data on when homes sell faster and for the most money on a local level. So rather than throw a dart at the calendar, use our Best Time to Sell Calculator to find out the best (and worst) months to sell a house in your city and plan accordingly.
You’ve seen strong home price growth in your area for several years and the market generally favors home sellers:
As they say in the world of stocks: buy low, sell high. You bought a house with the intent of building wealth. Sell it at the opportune moment and you could push your potential windfall from this investment to the ceiling.
For this strategy to work, first you need to understand how the value of your house fits into the larger housing market picture. Not confident in your ability to read the real estate tea leaves? Then stick to the basics with a review of your local market inventory and the price trends in your area.
NAR puts out a monthly existing-home sales report that shows the state of inventory across the nation and breaks it down by region. Inventory refers to the number of homes for sale on the market. “Months of supply” of inventory represents how long it would take to sell all those homes up for grabs.
If your market drops below 3 months’ worth of inventory, sellers have the clear advantage, putting you in the position to command a higher price and make few to no concessions.
Why You Should Sell Your Home
More Reasons to Sell You Home Now
Few people are predicting that 2020 will be a record-breaking year for home sale prices.
But relatively speaking, 2020 might be the best time to put your house on the market. Especially if you're on the fence about selling this year or next, it may be better to sell in an environment that's more predictable, rather than wait for time to pass and circumstances to change.
If you bought your house in the past few years, still love it and don't want to part with it, go ahead and wait another five years before revisiting the thought of selling. But if you're weighing your options to sell and are considering selling this year or next, don't play the waiting game.
Here are more reasons to sell your house in 2020:
New Buyers Are Still Entering the Market
If your house is at the higher end of the price range in your market, you should expect less buyer interest than in previous years. If your home is considered in the entry-level or mid-level price range for your city, however, expect to have interested buyers eager to move quickly.
The biggest wave of new home buyers will continue to be millennials, who are mostly first-time home buyers. But depending on where you live, you may see the youngest generation of adults breaking into home ownership as well. Members of Generation Z, born between 1996 and 2010, are largely still too young to make up a significant portion of the home buyer market.
Interest Rates Are Expected to Remain Low
Interest rates are expected to remain low throughout 2020, which will help new buyers obtain financing for their first home purchase. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged in December 2019 with the target range of 1.5% to 1.75% and noted its intention to keep rates as-is throughout 2020.
While the Fed's recommendation plays a role in mortgage interest rates, the interest rate lenders offer to home buyers varies based on the individual and the market. On Jan. 2, the average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.72%.
While some fluctuation is expected throughout the year, Daryl Fair weather, chief economist for national real estate brokerage Redfin, predicts mortgage rates will stabilize at about 3.8% this year, which is still low enough to encourage buyers to enter the market.
"It's basically setting the stage for a continued rise in home sales," says Reese Stewart, a real estate agent with Re/Max Properties SW and president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Florida.
Low interest rates aren't just a helpful nudge for would-be buyers to consider your home for purchase. As you look to your next home purchase, you can likely secure a low interest rate as well.
You Have High Equity
If you've been in your home for more than a couple years, you've been building equity as the property value increases and you make consistent mortgage payments. The more equity you have in your home, the more profit you'll likely see when you sell the property. That, in turn, can be used for a larger down payment on your next house, other expenses or savings.
"Especially for someone who bought post-recession, they're in a good place to sell right now," Stewart says.
Whether you're hoping to step up into a larger home or a more desirable neighborhood, significant equity in your current home can only help, making you a more desirable prospect to both mortgage lenders and home sellers considering offers.
But you'll likely need to sell your current home before closing on a new one. With this in mind, Wendy Gilch founded Selling Later, a real estate marketing platform that allows homeowners to post their property information and photos prior to listing it for sale, noting the planned listing date.
This service, launched in Gilch's hometown of Pittsburgh but now available nationwide, can help sellers figure out their timeline over the next few months.
Did you find this real estate blog searching for answers or help?
We are a real estate consulting agency and offer a wide variety of services including cash for home deals.If you are currently looking to sell your property as is, send us an e-mail or call today for an offer.
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