Q: When is a good time to put your house up for sale before you want to move?
A: Only a crystal ball can completely solve the conundrum of how to plan a moving date when you’re dependent on finding a buyer for your home. Like many aspects of the real estate world, determining when you should list your home for sale is both an art and a science. The art comes in when you work with an experienced Realtor who has a strong feel for the local market, knows your neighborhood and understands the ebb and flow of home sales.
The science part of your decision is easier, because your local Realtor’s association tracks the data on how long it takes for homes to sell on a monthly basis.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median time on market for all homes was 93 days in September 2013, little changed from 92 days in August, but 10.58 percent faster than homes were selling in September 2012.
You can see updated data on the realtor.com Monthly Real Estate Trends Report that tell you what the median age is for listings in your area and whether homes are selling faster or slower than in the previous month and during the same month in the previous year. You can also ask a Realtor what the average time is for a home to sell once it’s listed in your community. Remember, though, that statistics only look at the broad picture and won’t be exact in predicting how long it will take to sell your particular home.
There are several points to take into consideration about timing your list date. You should consult with your Realtor about these points:
Condition and Price
Remember that in order to sell your home as quickly as possible it needs to be in the best possible condition and priced correctly the day it goes on the market. If you want to move in three months or six months or even in one month, start working on your home now. You’ll be competing with buyers’ expectations of a move-in ready home, which means your home needs to be as squeaky-clean as possible, neutralized in terms of your décor and as clutter-free as you can make it. How long it takes to get your home ready for sale depends on whether you tip the scale toward being a hoarder or a clutter-phobe and whether you’ve kept up with regular maintenance.
On the pricing side, an experienced Realtor can share with you a comparative market analysis of homes that recently sold in your area, your current competition, and homes that have been taken off the market. Keep in mind that if you overprice your home at first, it will likely take longer to sell and even at a lower price should buyers view it as having been on the market for too long.
Think About the Season
Traditionally, the spring market is the most robust for home sales, which then slow down a bit in the summer, pick up again in the fall, and slow down again around the winter holidays. This doesn’t mean you should only sell in the spring, but you should think about the fact that fewer buyers will be looking for homes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. On the other hand, you may have less competition from other sellers.
You can negotiate with your buyer to establish a settlement date that’s convenient for you, or to rent back your home after the settlement for up to 60 days if you need to delay your move.
Regardless of when you put your home on the market, you should always have back-up plans for how you’ll handle the situation if your home lingers on the market or, better yet, sells quickly for a high price.