In a big hurry to sell your home? Even in today’s hot seller’s market where homes attract offers in as few as 16 days, it takes around 2-plus months to sell a house from list to close. And that doesn’t account for the weeks needed to clean, paint, and tidy up the property for its market debut. If you don’t have the patience for this timeline, including the 49 days you’ll spend waiting for a traditional buyer’s mortgage to wrap, you’ll need to get creative with your plans. Thankfully, you do have options.
For one, you could list your house with a top real estate agent who knows how to get your house sold in a snap. Alternatively, you could request a full cash offer through a platform like Simple Sale, slashing your closing timeline to 10 days or the move-out date of your choosing. With this guide, you’ll get a complete overview of the top ways to get a quick offer, sign that deal — and get out of a house that’s no longer serving you.
Common reasons people need to sell fast
Myles Daniel, a real estate investor in Greenville, SC, spoke with HomeLight about the types of challenges or situations that can require a fast sale. “Life can throw some crazy things at you sometimes,” he notes in his online bio. Indeed, as someone who needs to sell your house fast, you could be facing any one of these common scenarios where a lengthy sale process would cause enormous stress and financial strain. Here are some of the most common ones Daniel sees:
Foreclosure: Losing your job unexpectedly could mean you’re no longer able to afford this particular home. Even if your mortgage company has initiated the foreclosure process, you can still sell your home independently prior to your scheduled auction date. But depending on how behind you are on payments, you may only have a month or two to get the job done before the house goes to the courthouse steps.
Bad tenants: When a landlord has trouble attracting tenants, they may resort to loosening their application standards. Unfortunately, bad renters will easily turn an investment sour. In that case, it makes more sense to unload the property as soon as possible.
Inheritance: It often makes no sense to hold onto a property you inherited, especially if you live far away. When you add up the costs of maintenance, utilities, and property taxes, the sooner you can sell this home, the better.
Foundation issues: A major foundation repair that requires a fix involving hydraulic piers can cost upward of $10,000 alone. Rather than let a problem like that fester and threaten your home’s structural stability over time, you could sell the house quickly to someone who can afford to address it. Keep in mind, though, that a large item such as foundation cracks will raise red flags in an inspection, resulting in a price discount.
New job: An exciting new job opportunity opens up but there’s only one problem — it’s across the country and you’ve got this ball-and-chain called a house weighing down your mobility. Even as remote work increases post-pandemic, many companies are still asking their workers to come into the office part-time. When you need to sell your house fast for a job relocation, the pressure of a start date and straddling two locations can make the process tricky.
Divorce: Selling your house can help you get a fresh start after a divorce. In addition, until the home is sold, at least one party will need to pay the mortgage and keep up with the lawn, which can cause additional tension and financial strain. As such, many people going through a divorce are looking for a fast way to sell their home and move onto the next chapter.
Water damage: Water intrusion and flooding inflict catastrophic damage on a home, and a home with a history of water damage can be harder to sell. It’s also expensive to fix, with the average water damage insurance claim totaling $7,000. For someone who doesn’t have the cash to make costly repairs, selling the home quickly with the proper disclosures may be the best option.
Fire damage: Similar to water damage, destruction caused by a fire is difficult and costly to undo. A decent fire will destroy your home down to the ductwork and Sheetrock. Without adequate homeowners insurance or the upfront money to make repairs, the only type of buyer willing to take on your property may be an investor who can pay cash and plans to gut it.
You may fall into one of these categories or perhaps you need to sell quickly for another reason entirely. Whatever the case, you can either pursue an off-market sale with a cash buyer, or, depending on your level of flexibility, sell on the open market with a few shortcuts worked in. Let’s explore each avenue.
Option 1: Request an all-cash offer for your home
When you sell a home, two steps tend to be the most time consuming:
1) Attract a buyer who wants to make an offer.
In a hot market, homes naturally sell fast. Recent statistics from NAR show homes sat on the market an average of just 16 days in May 2021. But in a regular year, your typical days on market could be more like 35-40 days. A house in rough condition will also take longer than average to sell. A traditional buyer who’s planning to live in the home will prefer that it be move-in ready, and they may need the property to meet certain standards for it to pass the appraisal.
2) Wait for the lender to close on your buyer’s mortgage.
In 2019, 87% of recent buyers financed their home purchase, according to NAR. Meanwhile, data from Ellie Mae indicates the average purchase loan took an average 49 days to close as of April 2021. Even if you do zero home prep and attract a buyer in record time, you can’t speed up this closing timeline so long as there is lender involvement.
This is why, as they say, “cash is king.” Selling your house to a cash buyer effectively eliminates both of these weights that would otherwise slow you down. You could list your house on the open market and get lucky by attracting a buyer who will pay cash. However, you can take much of the uncertainty out of the process by working directly with an operation that buys houses for cash.
How does selling for cash work?
Usually it goes something like this: You skip the song-and-dance of staging your home to impress, and go straight to requesting a cash offer. No agent fees, no open houses. The buyer you’re working with determines what they’re willing to pay, perhaps based on a quick home tour or by looking at photos.
You review their price and terms, and decide whether you’d like to accept. Some cash buyers will still require an inspection, and negotiate with you over repairs. Others will purchase “as is.” You’ll have to account for any complications such as HOA requirements, but generally, you can close in two weeks or less. For further details, we recommend reviewing our complete guide on the process of selling your house for cash.
Who buys houses for cash?
Some cash buyers you’ll encounter are large house-buying companies that either flip or rent out homes at scale. Others are mom-and-pop investors who only purchase a few homes per year. But any legitimate buyer who offers cash provides the same benefit to the seller of simplicity, speed, and control over the outcome. Keep in mind: Over the past 40 years, cash buyers have paid 12% less on average than a buyer getting a mortgage. So you’ll need to decide whether the trade-offs are worth a potentially discounted price.
Here are a few signs that would indicate your house would be a good candidate for a cash buyer:
Your house is outdated but in a great school district: Even if your house isn’t in great shape, your location may sell itself. In the right locale, your property could appeal to house flippers who are looking to rehab properties and re-sell them to first-time buyers prioritizing their children’s education.
If your property would make a decent rental: Landlords could be eyeing your home as the next property for their portfolio. Check out what similar properties in the area are commanding for rent and consider whether you’re located near any hotspots for renters like universities or shopping.
If you live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood with good housing stock: In markets like Phoenix, Raleigh, Atlanta, Charlotte, and San Antonio, tech-enabled real estate companies called iBuyers purchase homes in decent condition using algorithmic pricing. Their business model is to flip a higher volume of homes on thinner profit margins, while offering an online home-selling experience. They won’t buy a teardown, but that also means they’re likely to offer a better price.
Where can you get a cash offer?
Not sure how to find a cash buyer in your market? If you’re looking for a fast, easy home sale, we’d recommend our Simple Sale platform. Through Simple Sale, HomeLight provides you with an all-cash offer for your home.
You can skip the repairs, prepwork, and open houses and go straight to receiving an offer. In addition, we’ll compare your Simple Sale cash offer against an estimation of what you could realistically fetch on the open market with the help of a top agent, so you can make an informed decision while weighing your selling priorities.
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Option 2: Work with a top agent to speed up your sale
Maybe you need to sell fast but don’t love the idea of sacrificing any of your home value to do it. At the end of the day, listings represented by agents sell for more money. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2020 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, homes recently sold with the assistance of an agent went for 35% more (at an average $295,000) than homes sold by owner (an average $217,900).
The same study showed that homes listed with agents sell for a median 99% of their asking price. So despite the benefits of selling for cash, 89% of sellers choose to work with a real estate agent to maximize their home value.
However, if you choose to work with an agent, you’ll need to accept that the buyers you attract aren’t guaranteed to pay cash. In addition, you should find an agent who can and will do everything in their power to execute a speedy sale. In that case, experience and a history of successful sales matter big time.
What do you need from your agent?
If you’re on a tight deadline, it’s reasonable to have concerns over whether a real estate agent will work at a fast enough pace to sell your home. That means not just any real estate agent will do. To give yourself the best shot at selling quickly, partner with an agent who has a track record of selling homes like yours quickly. For that, you can look at days on market data and their transaction history
Days on market (DOM) tracks the time between when a house is listed and when it goes under contact with a buyer. If an agent’s average DOM is lower than the area average, it’s a good sign that they price homes correctly to attract quick offers and come out of the gate with a strong marketing plan for their listings.
HomeLight’s agent platform tracks average DOM and how agents in your area stack up against their competition. Agents awarded with HomeLight’s “Sells Homes Fast” badge are among the top 5% of agents based on average days on market for seller transactions.
Experience in your area
An agent with hyperlocal expertise will be able to highlight the perks you’ve come to love more easily and authentically to interested buyers. They’ll also have heightened familiarity with real estate in the area and what types of upgrades would help your house sell for more (and which ones would be a waste of money).
The best way to tell whether an agent’s experience aligns with your locale is to look for a concentration of past transactions close to your home. HomeLight includes a “Transactions Near You” feature on every one of our real estate agent profiles so you easily can see where an agent does the most business.
Is there anything you can do to speed up the sale?
Even if your agent is a total superstar, there’s a lot you can do as a seller to boost your chances of a fast sale:
Declutter — and be ruthless about it
If you’re going to show your house messy, you might as well request a cash offer because you’re not going to get the best price and hoarder vibes will not result in a fast sale. Create the illusion of space by removing shoes, boxes, and stacks of items from your floors. Relocate bulky furniture and move any clutter that won’t fit into storage spaces. If it won’t fit in a closet, the basement, or the garage, it must go to storage. Countertops should be clear of anything not intentionally placed. At the very least, your home needs to be tidy and organized when the showings start.
Hire a cleaning service
Don’t skip this step, even if you’re in a hurry. If you don’t have time to mop the floors, vacuum, dust, and get your surfaces sparkling, then hire the job out. An investment of $150-$250 to clean a 2,000 square foot home will pay off. Our home prep study from 2019 found that a deep clean results in an average 935% ROI or $2,000 home value increase on average.
Spruce up your curb appeal
Follow these yard care basics to help your house sell faster:
- Mow the lawn and edge around your driveway and plantings.
- Pull large weeds and apply weed killer to any unwanted plants sprouting up through cement cracks, being careful to avoid healthy flowers.
- Make a run out to Home Depot for mulch and spread it liberally around any plant beds that need it.
- Clean up your front entryway with a bucket of soapy water to remove cobwebs and grime from your door, entry lights, and mailbox for a great first impression.
In summary, skip any excessive projects that would cost you time but don’t neglect your outdoors.
Pick the right time to list
Let’s say you don’t want to prolong the sale process, but you have a bit of flexibility as to when to put your house on the market. Use our Best Time to Sell Calculator to find out the fastest time to sell in your market based on local housing market data. Some housing markets see intense seasonal changes based on when parents start looking for homes, popular times for vacation house-hunters to arrive, or shifts in the weather.
Watch out for these 3 ‘sell fast’ options
Certain routes to selling your home may sound like a shortcut but aren’t what they seem. Here are a few options to avoid:
The main thing you need to know about short sales is that the “short” refers to money, not time. Selling short means that your lender has agreed to allow you to sell your home for less than you owe on it. As a general rule, short sales take a lot longer to finalize than a regular sale.
Short sale agent Brad Wallace, who does business in the Philadelphia area, says: “They call it a short sale, but it’s the furthest thing from a short sale. The quickest short sale I had was probably about four months, and I’ve had short sales that lasted over two years.”
Not only will a short sale take a lot longer to complete, most sellers aren’t even eligible to short sell their homes. You likely need to be financially underwater, behind on your mortgage, and facing foreclosure. Even if you’re eligible, your lender (or lenders if you have debt on the property with multiple entities) does not have to agree to a short sale. So if you want to sell your home fast, a short sale is definitely not the way to go.
If you think auctions are only an option for desperate sellers and banks unloading foreclosure homes, you’re mistaken. Any homeowner can sell their house at an auction. However, there are trade-offs.
While you will know the exact date your home will sell thanks to the auction option, this may not be as quick as you’ll think. According to Forbes, auctioned homes take an average of 45 to 60 days from listing to close.
Selling at auction is risky, too, because you have limited control over the final sales price. As the seller, you set the minimum bid you’ll accept, typically at 10%-15% below current market value (auction experts advise this to generate more interest among buyers), but after that, it’s up to you to accept the final bid. Competing buyers may bid up the price over the market value or you may be stuck accepting that minimum bid offer.
Not all properties are ideally situated for auctions either. NAR advises that sellers self-test the market, their home and their financial situation with the Two-Thirds Rule to determine if an auction is the right option.
One of the major factors is that your home needs to be carrying a lot of equity — up to 25% — to see any cash from an auction sale.
FSBO (For Sale By Owner)
Selling your house solo is possible — but it’s rare. According to NAR’s 2020 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, a mere 8% of recent sellers went the FSBO route. It tends to be an option people choose when they already have a buyer lined up. Of those who did go it alone, 51% already knew the buyer of their home before the transaction, and 30% sold their home to a friend, relative, or neighbor. If this sounds like you, you could strike up a deal with your buyer with the help of an attorney to draft and finalize the paperwork.
Keep in mind though that you could sacrifice price by doing this. Researchers at leading real estate data source Collateral Analytics, now owned by Black Knight, found that FSBOs sell for 5.5% less, and in some cases nearly 6% less, than agent-assisted sales, indicating that expertise real estate agents bring to a sale often more than makes up for their cost.
When you need to sell fast, you do have options
Selling a house has a reputation for being overwhelming, stressful, and time-consuming. But fast? Not so much. That said, you don’t have to leave your selling fate to complete chance. Whether you decide to request a cash offer or work with a top agent who can meet your deadline, you now know your main options for selling a house fast. All that’s left to do is pick a path.