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In our current complex housing market, homeowners with dreams of moving to a new place are asking the universal question, “Should I sell my house now or wait?”
Making the decision to sell a house is hard enough, but knowing if now is the time to list it is a whole other level of calculus, especially when the housing market feels unpredictable.
While the market has a significant impact on the sale of your home, it’s not the only factor to consider. It’s also important to evaluate your own personal situation and reasons for selling.
To provide you with some guidance, we’ve consulted with top real estate experts and researched the best ways to determine if now is a good time for you to sell your home, or if you might benefit from waiting.
Is now a good time to sell my house, or should I wait?
According to Fannie Mae’s most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), 66% of consumers reported that it’s a good time to sell a home. However, only 18% said it was a good time to buy a home.
Fannie Mae Senior President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan explains that, from a historical perspective, the current housing market is unusual. “Given the significant home price appreciation and rapid rise in mortgage rates, it is very much a tale of two markets, at least from a consumer perspective.”
So while the index is up about 5 points year over year, the overall HPSI is maintaining a low-level plateau, most notably due to mortgage rates that are at a 22-year high and home affordability concerns.
“Consumers remain pessimistic toward the housing market in general and homebuying conditions in particular,” Duncan explains. “If mortgage rates remain elevated, many existing homeowners will likely continue to hold on to their current historically low mortgage rates, suppressing existing home listings and providing support for home prices.”
You could base your decision to sell on the fact that 66% of consumers think the timing is right, but a decision like this is not something a homeowner can determine from national surveys and interest rate activity alone. In the following sections, we’ll provide two sets of common scenarios to help you decide if now is a good time for you to sell, or if you might want to wait.
When to sell a home (9 common scenarios)
Typically, you should consider selling now if the circumstances provide favorable selling scenarios. Each scenario in our list below can count as a positive point toward your decision to sell. The right situations might include:
1. If mortgage interest rates are low
Historically, sellers will find the greatest success when interest rates are low and more buyers are on the hunt. So, today’s higher rates will likely play a role in your decision of whether to sell your house now or wait.
As of September 2023, average mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed loan stood at 7.19%, according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market survey.
While the recent rate increases may seem significant, the current rate is actually still under the long-term average of 7.74%, according to Freddie Mac records going back to 1971.
2. If housing inventory is low
When supply is low and demand is high, selling your home can be more profitable.
The total inventory of for-sale homes in the U.S. remains relatively low. Near the end of September 2023, the housing inventory was estimated to be at 3.3 months of supply. A 6-months supply is representative of a balanced market.
National Association of Realtors data shows that the total housing inventory is about 15% lower compared to a year ago.
3. If you need to relocate for a job or other life change
“We’re finding that the people that are selling right now need to sell more than they want to sell,” says Jose Roberto Samano, a top real estate agent in Orange County, California, who works with over 65% more single-family homes than the average area agent. “The family situation is probably the biggest reason. Job relocation too.”
4. If your home’s value has grown
If you have lived in your current home a long time, or if property values in your neighborhood have increased to the point where you have earned a significant amount of home equity, now might be a good time to sell and cash out.
“You’re up on chips right now,” Samano says. “It’s a great time to walk away from the table and reinvest your money back in. Getting back into the purchase market would be just ideal because you can take advantage of buying cash or buying with a large down payment, which puts you in a different situation.”
5. If you are ready to downsize
For many older homeowners, downsizing may be more than a desire; it may be a necessity, either for financial, mobility, or other health reasons. If maintaining your home has become difficult, now might be a good time to sell.
6. If you need to upsize
Perhaps you need more room because your family is growing. Or maybe an elderly relative or child must come to live with you. Maybe your employment changed and you need a home office. The need to upsize can play a big role in your decision to sell now.
7. If you’re selling a second or inherited home
Now may be an optimal window to be a seller who isn’t also trying to buy a home.
“A lot of people are getting rid of their second property, their investment property that they had, or maybe they inherited a home or something like that,” Samano says. “Obviously, they don’t really need it and so they’re really kind of offloading their properties.”
8. If you can pay cash for your next home
Let’s say you’re relocating from Manhattan to a countryside cottage in rural Michigan. The proceeds from the sale of your previous home will enable you to pay cash for a residence in a less expensive market. The use of cash eliminates the concern of giving up your lower mortgage rate.
9. You can’t afford to keep your home
Because of changes in your income or other financial setbacks, selling your home now may be the only way you can avoid potential foreclosure.
If you’re in a bind of this kind, selling now may be wiser than waiting, given the economic uncertainty many consumers are feeling.
When to consider waiting to sell a home (11 scenarios)
Waiting to sell could be your best option depending on a variety of circumstances that can create unfavorable selling scenarios. The times to consider waiting might include:
1. If mortgage interest rates are going up
When interest rates go up, home values and offer prices can come down. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad time to sell; it just means you will want to carefully evaluate your selling objectives and consider if you might benefit from waiting.
2. If your move isn’t crucial
Yes, upsizing can be on both the “sell now” list and the “wait to sell” list. Is your desire to upsize based on a crucial need, or just because you think it would be nice to have the extra space? The cost to purchase a larger home now may become a burden, especially if other factors will add additional costs, such as higher interest rates or a lack of equity.
3. If you haven’t built much equity
Similar to evaluating your home equity when you’re considering trading up, you don’t want to move when your home is considered “upside down,” i.e., you owe more than the property is worth.
For example, if your home’s value is $300,000 and you owe $320,000, you may want to wait to sell or rent it out until you’ve built up some more equity.
Because the bulk of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest at the outset, it usually takes about four to five years for your home to build enough equity to make it worth selling. In addition, you’ll need to make sure your profits from the sale will cover all of your selling fees, which account for roughly 9% to 10% of the sale price.
4. If housing inventory is rising
When supply is high and demand is low, selling your home may not be as profitable as you would like. Keep an eye on what’s happening in your market.
In many areas of the country, high housing inventory may not be an immediate concern. Nationwide, it’s only at a 3.3 -months supply, and a 6-months supply is considered a balanced market. Current U.S. supply is relatively low, and many people still desire home ownership.
“There’s still a lot of buyers out there,” Samano says.
5. If your home has unfinished major repairs or renovations
A home that needs a lot of work can turn away potential buyers looking for a turnkey property.
Typically, to get top dollar, you are better off completing any remodeling projects before placing your house on the market.
Whereas during the pandemic housing boom, most buyers were willing to take whatever they could get and waive many seller concessions due to the highly competitive market, many buyers are now more critical regarding the condition of the homes they’re looking at.
“Buyers smell blood,” Samano says. “They know there’s blood in the water.”
6. If you’re happy with your current home
If you are content with your existing home, and it fits your needs and budget, waiting to sell might be the best decision.
“If your home is comfortable and you are locked into a low interest rate, then you might not want to sell,” says Nathan Butcher, a top agent in Los Angeles with 23 years of experience.
Homeownership is a natural hedge against inflation. While rents continue to go up at an unusually fast rate (up 26% since before the pandemic), you can rest easy knowing that your mortgage payments will remain predictable.
7. If you recently refinanced your home
Because mortgage rates hit record lows between 2020 and 2021, many people opted to refinance their higher mortgage rates instead of opting to buy a new home.
According to Freddie Mac, refinancing activity in 2020 reached its highest annual total since 2003, climbing to $772 inflation-adjusted dollars in single-family refinances. Now, as mortgage rates are higher, if you’re one of the many homeowners who refinanced in 2020, you will likely want to hold off on selling for now.
“Many homeowners have recently refinanced their property, locking in a great rate,” says Liz Hulz, real estate investor and co-owner of a house-buying company in Washington, D.C. “If you have taken advantage of the historically-low mortgage rates to refinance and ease financial hardship, now is not the time to sell.”
8. If you can’t afford to move
The recent rise in home prices can be a double-edged sword. It’s great when you’re on the sell side, but is it worth cashing out now if you’ll have to sacrifice those profits to buy high?
If you are not in a financial position to make your next home purchase, or if the cost of transitional housing is beyond your current reach, now may not be the best time to sell.
“With my clients, we take a look at the equity position that they have,” says Todd Schroth, a top-selling agent and relocation specialist in Wekiwa Springs, Florida. “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? We’re not looking at $400,000 houses when they can only afford $350,000.”
9. If you will face steep capital gains taxes
Capital gains taxes are another consideration. You may be able to avoid paying capital gains taxes on your home sale, but you’ll need to have owned the home and lived there as your primary residence for at least two of the five years leading up to the sale.
As long as you meet these criteria, you can exclude up to $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re married and filing jointly) of “capital gain” on your main home. In other words, if you just bought your primary residence, it may be in your best interest not to sell it for at least two years. If you need help determining how much you’d owe in taxes, reach out to a tax advisor for assistance.
10. If you have no clear game plan or objective
Moving is a big decision. It’s even bigger when it involves selling what is likely the largest financial asset you have.
To avoid seller’s remorse, you’ll want to map out exactly what you’re going to do as soon as the home is sold; whether that’s immediately buying a new home, moving into a family member’s casita, or committing to full-time RV living.
11. You aren’t mentally ready to sell
Even if you keep pace with up-to-date information about the housing market and your equity situation, deciding whether to sell now or wait often comes down to a battle between your heart and mind.
When in doubt, talk with a top real estate agent who knows your local market inside and out to help you weigh both your personal and financial motivations.
7 tips to help sell your home
If you’ve decided that it makes sense to sell your home now rather than wait, here are some tips for navigating the market and ensuring a successful transaction:
1. Deep clean and declutter
As the market cools down, it becomes increasingly important to focus on the appearance of your home.
“That’s really kind of how people generally make a decision,” Samano says. “People fall in love with their eyes.”
Spend a few weekends getting organized. Take down personal photos and clear clutter from surfaces and floors. Schedule a cleaning service if you don’t have the time or energy to get the house sparkling. Rent a dumpster and plan for donation pickups if your home is overflowing with belongings you don’t plan to take with you.
Even how your property smells can influence a potential buyer’s decision, Samano says. “Make sure you don’t cook any fish during the week and stuff like that.”
2. Price your home right
“Your pricing strategy is important,” Samano says. “You don’t want to chase the market; you want to catch the market. What I mean by that is you want to price at a great advertising price so you can drive the price to its highest point possible.”
In other words, when a property is priced correctly, it welcomes enough people in the door who are serious about buying and sets the stage for a potential bidding war.
When pricing your home, it’s important to watch market trends. U.S. home prices dropped year-over-year at the start of 2023 for the first time in over a decade. But in some markets, this trend is shifting back up. Due to the lack of inventory, the National Association of Realtors expects home prices to rise by 2.6% in 2024.
To get a ballpark idea of what your home is worth right now, you can use an Automated Valuation Model (AVM) tool like HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator. AVMs use publicly available data and recent sales records to generate a value range based on the current market conditions.
3. Work with a high-performing agent
“The best thing a seller can do is to seek out the top 1%, instead of just going with a friend or family member,” says Butcher. “You need an expert in your area with great reviews. Interview two or three agents. Ask to see the properties they’ve sold in the last 60 months and ask about their networking contacts.”
Samano says to also look at the way agents market their listings.
“You want more of a digital agent rather than an analog agent,” he says. “You’re not going to sell your house to your neighbor. Nobody sells or buys houses through the penny saver or the newspaper anymore.”
4. Stage a home office
Data from the job search website Ladders estimates that 25% of all professional jobs are remote positions. Buyers today are looking for homes with an office and sometimes multiple offices. It’s worth it to stage a bonus room, bedroom, or area of the basement as a space that would support working from home. Keep it simple with a chair, desk, and lamp if you don’t already have an office setup.
5. Increase your home’s curb appeal
Top real estate agents recommend homeowners invest an average of $3,467 in curb appeal prior to listing their property, a recent HomeLight survey found. This can include anything from basic lawn care and fresh mulch to new walkways, exterior paint, and upgraded front doors and garage doors. Not only does enhanced curb appeal get more eyeballs on a home in a shorter amount of time, it also yields nearly $12,000 in estimated resale value.
6. Focus on repairs before renovations
Opt to repair the roof before you refresh a dated but perfectly functional bathroom.
“Today’s homebuyers are looking for functionality and practicality instead of appeal and grandeur,” says Anthony Minniti, a seasoned real estate investor and owner of Texas Land and Home. “They want the most bang for their buck.”
Samano suggests focusing your repair efforts on parts of the home that are used all the time, such as the water pressure, door knobs, sliding doors, windows, and lighting fixtures.
“It’s that attention to detail that really makes a difference,” he says. “I try to tell my sellers everything just has to be on point in today’s market. Don’t give a buyer an excuse to say, ‘Hey, I couldn’t open the door, so now I’m going to discount the property $15,000.’”
7. Consider leveraging programs
The home-selling process can be daunting, especially when your finances are tight.
Samano says there are several ways to alleviate the stress using various leveraging programs.
For instance, companies like Curbio and Revive can be hired to do pre-sale repairs and renovations with zero payment due until closing. If you are working with an experienced agent in your market, ask them for recommendations about leveraging programs that might help your home sale.
And for home sellers looking to buy another home at the same time, in some markets, there are programs such as HomeLight Buy Before You Sell, where the company provides a backup offer price, allowing you to make an offer on your next home without a sales contingency. If you’re in the states of California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, or Colorado, consider exploring HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program. Examples of other “buy before you sell” or “trade-in” services include: Knock Home Swap, Orchard, Flyhomes, and Homeward. Watch this short video to learn more.
Samano says combining these types of programs is “probably the most ideal situation, just because you’re able to unlock your equity, and really sell your property vacant and staged.”
Bottom line: Should I sell my house now?
If everything in your life is lining up, and you’re ready to make a move, then this is certainly not a bad time to sell your home.
That said, the traditional selling season every year is summertime, Samano says.
“If you’re just trying to time the market at its highest point, you want to sell in the summer and buy in the winter. That’s always kind of the idea,” he says.
You can check the best time to sell a house in your market with HomeLight’s Best Time To Sell calculator. This free tool uses housing market data for your area to learn the best and worst months to sell your home.
A sure way of knowing what to do in your particular situation is to partner with a top agent who can guide you through the moving waters of a changing housing market — whether you’re buying or selling. HomeLight can connect you with the best agent in your area that suits your needs.
Writers Melissa Rudy, Valerie Kalfrin, and Melissa Holtje contributed to this article.
Header Image Source: (todd kent/ Unsplash)
- "66% of consumers reported" Fannie Mae National Housing Survey - September 7, 2023
- "Existing Home Sales: Months Supply." FRED (August 2023)
- "index up 5 points year over year" Fannie Mae August 2023 NHS Key Indicators
- "long-term average of 7.74%" Trading Economics United States 30-Year Mortgage Rate
- "Mortgage Rates Continue to Increase," Freddie Mac (May 2023)
- "economic uncertainty" Goldman Sachs CEO says US economic outlook uncertain despite soft landing prospects (September 12, 2023)
- "rent up 26% since before the pandemic" US Single-Family Rent Growth Continues Yearlong Descent in April, CoreLogic Reports (June 20, 2023)
- "$772 inflation-adjusted dollars" Freddie Mac Refinance Trends in 2020 report
- "expects home prices to rise by 2.6% in 2024" NAR Economist: ‘Housing Recession Is Over’ (July 27, 2023)