Should I Sell My House? 6 Signs It’s Time to Move On

Ten years. That’s the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house before a sale.

Think that sounds shockingly short? Or way too long? The fact is, people’s reasons for selling their homes are different, as are their time frames.

Still, there are some common reasons—financial and emotional—that lead us to sell our current home and move on to the next one. And you don’t always see the reasons coming.

Read on for some telltale signs it’s time to start looking for the next home and packing your bags (and when you should settle in for the long haul).

1. You know the seller’s market is booming and you want in

Let’s start with one of the most obvious reasons to sell: You’re eager to make a profit on your property.

You need to gauge the key indicators of a strong real estate market.

A few signals: The price per square foot for real estate in your area is increasing, the amount of time properties stay on the market is decreasing, and you’ve noticed an uptick in brokerage activity in your neighborhood. (If you’re situated in an especially hot neighborhood, you might even get a letter or a knock on the door from a listing agent who wants to help you get in on the action.)

If any of these are true in your area, think about selling up.

2. Because your neighbors just got what for their house?

Check online real estate listings in your neighborhood, and pay attention to the “recently sold” flyers in your mailbox to keep track of comparable home prices in your area.

If other houses on your street with the same bedroom/bathroom count [as yours] are selling for a price that you’d be more than satisfied with, it might be time to move on.

Another sign of a hot home sales market is the relationship of asking prices to sale prices. If home buyers are making offers fast—for as much or more than sellers are asking—it’s a seller’s market. A buyer may offer you a sales price you can’t refuse, too.

3. You’re sick of feeling financially stressed

Not everyone sells their real estate in order to pad their bank account. Some homeowners underestimated their ongoing housing costs and simply sell to ease their mortgage burden, or to cash in their equity and use it for other purposes.

If your property taxes or mortgage payments have become unmanageable, the best recourse may be to sell and find another home that’s more affordable. Selling your home is better than struggling with a big mortgage loan, and possibly risking foreclosure.

To breathe easy, your monthly housing costs, including your mortgage interest, principal, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and HOA or condo fees if applicable, shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income.

Before you sell your home to reduce your monthly living expenses, make sure you can find another home to rent or buy in your price range, and that you can qualify for a loan at current interest rates when you do.

4. You’ve grown—but your home hasn’t

The starter home you moved into when you were expecting your first child isn’t necessarily the house you need now that you have three preteens and a capybara. It’s bittersweet to give up the memories you’ve made in your home, but if your living quarters are causing you stress rather than comfort, take the leap and sell up.

Death, serious illness, divorce—these are all emotionally wrought experiences that may warrant a need for change. Relocation is another factor. But let’s not overthink things.

Maybe you’re just tired of the same old, same old, and it’s time for a change of scenery.

5. You’re over ‘high maintenance’

The average homeowner shells out $2,000 a year for maintenance services, according to a recent report. Not repairs, mind you, but scheduled services such as landscaping, snow removal, septic service, private trash and recycling, and housecleaning.

Sick of watching these payments steadily drip out of your bank account? You could sell, and buy some lower-maintenance real estate such as a condo or a new-build property. You might even want to try renting, and let a landlord worry about leaky pipes and other property hassles.

6. You’ve put at least 5 years into the relationship

If you sell too soon—assuming you have a mortgage—you haven’t really built up any equity in the home beyond the down payment. In the beginning, your mortgage payments are almost completely interest payments.

In fact, unless the housing market is seriously booming (see above), you might lose money when you sell. You might even owe more than you can get from your house after closing costs.

Remember: Selling isn’t free: You’ll have to shell out to cover all of the costs associated with hiring a real estate agent, closing, and, of course, purchasing another home.

That’s why we recommend staying put for at least five years, unless you have an urgent need to move. In addition to everything else, moving too quickly sends potential buyers a bad message.

Buyers don’t feel good when it appears you are selling too soon. What was wrong with the house? Why are you leaving so fast? Are the basement walls about to collapse? Are the neighbors selling drugs and shooting fireworks at your house? Buyers can dream up all kinds of negative scenarios when a seller hasn’t owned the home for very long.

Another reason you may not want to sell is if you don’t meet the qualifications to avoid paying capital gains tax on your profit from a home sale. Generally, you can exclude the gain from the sale of your home if you owned and lived in the home for two of the past five years. A sale before the two-year mark, if you don’t meet any of the exceptions, could be a costly mistake. By the time you pay capital gains tax, you won’t have as much equity left as you’d planned.

But beware of snap decisions

Of course, there are no promises that selling will be better for you in the long run. Take your time deciding if you should sell, and then study the local home sales market, with the help of your real estate agent, before you price your home. If you underprice your home, a buyer may snatch it up too cheaply. If you overprice it, the right buyer may pass it by.

Selling your home is, above all, a personal decision. Do what will help you live—if not happily ever after—happily for now.

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What Does ‘Days on Market’ Mean? How Buyers Can Take Advantage

In the real estate game, many buyers understand that knowing a home’s days on market (DOM) is absolutely critical intel. Why? Because the number of days a home spends on the market directly affects the price of a home. Plus, this information can be used to the buyer’s benefit to negotiate a lower price. Here’s how!

What does ‘days on market’ mean?

‘Days on market’ is the number of days that a property has been listed on the local multiple listing services (MLS) until a seller has accepted an offer and signed a contract. It can also be referred to as “time on market” or “market time.”

When browsing home listings, buyers should always take a look at the number of days on market to determine how other buyers are reacting to the property.

Size Matters: Tracking the Economy Through New-Home Square Footage

The U.S. housing market may not be synonymous with the business cycle, as a famous 2007 paper proclaimed, but the ups and downs in housing, which represents a big part of the economy, usually do offer hints about what’s going on more broadly.

That’s why economists closely watch housing market indicators like sales volumes and home prices — as well as how Americans are accessing the market and managing their obligations to mortgages, rental costs, taxes, and so on.

But small details about the housing market can say just as much about how well Americans, and the broader economy, are doing.

Typical new home size falls prior to and during a recession as home buyers tighten budgets, and then sizes rise as high-end homebuyers, who face fewer credit constraints, return to the housing market in relatively greater proportions.

The bigger question, as always, is about the specifics of what we’re seeing right now. The median size perked up at the beginning of this year, as the housing market shook off a difficult 2018.

But overall, sizes have been on a downward path since mid-2015.

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Current declines in size indicate that this part of the cycle has ended, and size will trend lower as builders add more entry-level homes into inventory and the custom market levels off.

Existing-home sales, which have only eked out a gain in two of the last 12 months, would say we’re past cycle peak but new construction should continue to trend up, which would suggest it still has legs left.

In the post-recession economy, entry-level buyers were unable to break in to the market. But now their pent-up demand could help elongate the housing cycle.

It may even help cushion the overall economy from a near-term downturn. We have no recession in our forecast for the foreseeable future.

4 Reasons Why Applying for a Mortgage Online Might Not Be The Smartest Decision!

Applying for a mortgage these days can be accomplished entirely online—no need to schlep to a bank and suffer hand cramps filling out paperwork.

Instead, you can punch some basic info into an online mortgage site, and up pops a bunch of loan choices. An industry renowned for being slow and cumbersome is now wooing customers with the promise of ease, speed, and transparency. Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loan’s online platform, for example, promises qualified customers approval in as little as eight minutes.

But taking out a six-figure loan is one of the most complicated and substantial financial transactions most people will ever make. Does it really make sense to handle it by pushing a few buttons on your smartphone?

Maybe for those with a typical 9-to-5 job and good credit.

If you are a salaried employee with no overtime, no bonus—no funky income, if you will—just a plain-vanilla borrower, then sometimes the online mortgage does work. You know: You have a five-year work history, you’re putting 20% down, and have an 800 FICO score.

But then there’s everybody else.

Here are some of the many reasons why those borrowers might consider taking more time with the process, including consulting with an experienced loan officer or mortgage broker.

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1. You want to shop around for the best loan

First and foremost, it’s always in a borrower’s best interest to comparison shop on rates and fees on a mortgage information website. Speed and convenience alone do not always translate into a better price for borrowers.

You should invest some time in it, do your research. Also, do your diligence on your credit. And think about how long you’re going to be in your home. The reason? The length of time you estimate you are likely to be staying in the home can be a factor in whether you apply for a fixed or adjustable rate loan.

Gaining an understanding of different loan programs is a smarter approach than just going online and filling out things. A lot of people really don’t know if they’re getting the right loan program, the right interest rate, the right down payment.

The research process may ultimately lead you straight to the speedy online mortgage site as the best option anyway. But you won’t know that unless you go out and take a look around.

2. You’re a first-time home buyer

Researching all your options is especially important if you’ve never purchased a home before. First-time buyers should always talk through important details like rates, points, and closing costs with an expert. After you’ve been through the process once, you have a better idea of what to expect and what information you’ll need to provide to make the process go smoothly.

Even those who have borrowed before may want to consult with someone if there is anything about their circumstances that might make qualifying more difficult. For example, a real person could be a helpful advocate for borrowers who are buying a second home or rental property, have spotty credit, or have inconsistent income.

3. You’re self-employed

About 15 million Americans are classified as self-employed, according to the Pew Research Center. While salaried workers generally only have to show the lender their W-2 tax forms to prove their income, self-employed workers should expect that they will have to provide the lender with more income documentation, such as tax returns from the last few years.

The fact is, some online lenders are more strict about documentation requirements than federal guidelines require, because they want to reduce their risk. That can make qualifying even tougher for a borrower who is already perceived as a higher risk—for example, applicants who have only been in their current job for a few months, or those who want to include overtime pay as evidence of their buying power. The lender will want to see proof that the overtime pay is consistent. Certain guidelines say you have to show you have it for 12 months or 24 months—it depends on the loan.

4. You want some extra handholding

Working with someone one on one may also help prevent last-minute problems when it comes time to buy that house. We can’t tell you how many clients who have come to me after they’d gone online and gotten a pre-approval from a lender. Then they go to purchase a house, and halfway through the transaction, the online lender says all of a sudden, ‘You can’t get approved.’ The client freaks out. And that’s when they get a hold of someone like myself.

Finally, there is the matter of personal preference. Not everyone likes the impersonal approach. Before applying for a loan, borrowers might consider whether they are the kind of person who appreciates a lot of help and attention in other shopping experiences. If you like a hands-on environment, like a Macy’s, you’re a different kind of shopper than someone who enjoys going to a warehouse club. Your expectations going in will influence how satisfied you are with the process.