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Not sure when to sell your house? If you’ve been on the fence, we’ve got good news: It’s a great market for sellers! Limited inventory continues to drive home prices up, and the latest data from the National Association of Realtors shows that half of recently sold properties were on the market for just 39 days.
Of course, the decision of when to sell your home isn’t solely based on market conditions. You have to take your personal situation into account—and that’s where expert advice comes in handy.
We asked Linda Domis, a Los Angeles-area real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) with 38 years of experience, to share her advice.
“Now is a great time to sell,” she says. “Longer days during daylight saving time mean more hours for buyers to look at property. With less stress, buyers can think about a move more comfortably.”
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Here are a few other things to keep in mind before planting a For Sale sign in your yard.
You’re Out of Debt With Cash in the Bank
If you didn’t have all your financial ducks in a row your first time around the home-buying block, you probably learned a few things the hard way. Like the fact that Murphy can smell broke from miles away. If it can go wrong, it will! Put those lessons to good use and be a money-smart home buyer the next go-round!
Start by taking a hard look at your finances. If you’ve paid off all your nonmortgage debt and have three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund, that’s a good sign you’re financially mature enough to purchase a home again.
You’ve Got Equity on Your Side
When the housing bubble burst, home values plummeted, sending many mortgages underwater. Thankfully, the tide has turned: According to CoreLogic, only 8% of homes with a mortgage had negative equity at the beginning of 2016. If you’re not sure where your equity stands, ask an experienced real estate agent to run a free comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine an approximate value for your home.
Linda says it’s worth the sale “if your home has recovered enough value to provide at least 20% equity for your next purchase.” Why is 20% the magic number? Because putting 20% or more down on a home keeps private mortgage insurance (PMI) at bay. That could save you hundreds of dollars each year!
Your Home No Longer Fits Your Lifestyle
Another factor to consider is how well your home meets your everyday needs. Perhaps you could use another bedroom (or even two) to accommodate your growing family. Or maybe your kids have all moved out and you’re ready to downsize.
“Empty nesters can really benefit from selling now while rates are low,” Linda says. “It’s very freeing to sell a large home, pay cash for a smaller one, and invest the rest in your retirement.”
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Whether you’re sizing up or down, make sure your mortgage fits your budget. Dave recommends keeping your monthly payment to 25% or less of your take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.
You Can Actually Afford the Move
Don’t get so carried away by the excitement of your next home that you forget to account for the cost of leaving your current one. Hiring professional movers? Save up cash to cover the cost of packing up and hauling your stuff away.
You should also invest a little to get your current place ready for prime time. Linda recommends focusing your home-improvement dollars on these areas:
- Paint: “Paint is the number-one investment when upgrading,” she says. “Buyers love the look—and smell—of fresh paint.”
- Curb appeal: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Linda suggests a three-pronged approach: “Plant flowers, trim shrubs, and paint the trim.”
- Kitchen and bath: “You don’t need expensive appliances or countertops, but new faucets and fixtures go a long way,” she says.
Want a bonus tip that doesn’t cost a dime? Clear out the clutter. “Neat closets and tidy shelves make your home look larger!” Linda adds.
Make the Right Choice for You
There’s no single formula for determining when to sell your house. Partner with a pro you can trust to provide honest advice so you can do what’s best for you and your budget. A good agent puts service before sales—but knows how to get things done when it’s time to sell.
Looking for a pro to guide you in the right direction? We can recommend a real estate agent in your area who’s earned Dave’s endorsement.