What makes a house sell?
This entire book could be devoted to answering this question. But to be as concise as possible, a successful sale requires that you concentrate on six considerations: your sale price, your terms of sale, the condition of your house, its location, its accessibility, and the extent of marketing exposure your house receives. While some of these factors are beyond your control (such as the actual sale price), you can compensate by taking advantage of others (like a new paint job) to make your property as attractive to prospective buyers as possible.
When is the best time to list a house for sale?
The "best" time to list your house is actually as soon as you decide to sell it.
If you want to get the best price for your house, the key is to give yourself as much time as possible to sell it. More time means more potential buyers will probably see the house. This should result in more offers; it also gives you time to consider more options if the market is slow or initial interest is low.
Is there any seasonality to the market?
Peak selling seasons vary in different areas of the country, and weather has a lot to do with it. For example, late spring and early fall are the prime listing seasons in many areas because houses tend to "show" better in those months than they do in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. And of course, people like to do their house shopping when the weather is pleasant.
But keep in mind that there are also more houses on the market during the prime seasons, so you'll have more competition. So while there is seasonality in the real estate market, it's not something that should dominate your decision on when to sell.
What about market conditions -- price trends, interest rates, and the economy in general? Should they have any bearing on when I list?
Probably not. Even if you're under no pressure to sell, waiting for better market conditions is not likely to increase your profit potential.
How long should it take to sell?
Average listing times vary from 30 to 180 days, according to market conditions in a particular region, town, or even neighborhood, and of course, price, terms, condition, location, accessibility and exposure play an even greater role. Selling in any market is easier if you keep time on your side. Most professionals will tell you that allowing yourself at least six months will put you in a position to get a better return from their marketing efforts.
What if I can't sell my old house before I have to move?
This situation can arise for any number of reasons. For instance, getting the job promotion you've been waiting for may mean having to relocate very quickly. Another example: you finally find your "dream home," and need to get it under contract before it sells to another buyer. Whatever the reason, don't panic. You have some viable alternatives to the worrisome possibility of double mortgage payments.
If you don't have to sell in order to buy a new home, consider the advantages and disadvantages of renting your old house. If you're being transferred before you've had a chance to decide on the new house, you may be able to obtain a short-term rental of your own while you're becoming familiar with the new area. Either way, a local real estate professional can usually help, by advising you how much you can expect to pay for rent in your new city, or what you need to charge for your current home to both cover your mortgage payments and take care of other costs you'll entail as a landlord.
Another solution available from some brokers is the guaranteed sale plan, which is detailed in the next question.
What if I do have to sell my current house first?
Some brokers offer guaranteed-sale plans, which are essentially a written promise to buy your house at a pre-determined price if it doesn't sell by a certain date. The amount of the guaranteed price varies considerably between brokers.
If you opt for the guaranteed-sale route, look into the ERA Sellers Security Plan. It's a unique guaranteed-sale plan offered in all 50 states. You'll sleep better knowing your participating ERA Real Estate has the financial backing to fulfill the terms of the plan. You are also entitled to some additional benefits that are automatically included in the program.