by Sandy Dodge
Successfully selling a home and buying a home are significant accomplishments on their own, but when their timelines cross it can be difficult to manage both. If you’re thinking about doing both simultaneously, it’s equally important to understand the steps you can take to make the process go smoothly as it is to have a backup plan in case it doesn’t. Above all, the balancing act required to pull off both deals highlights the importance of working closely with a trusted and experienced real estate agent.
Do I buy or sell first?
One can imagine a perfect world in which the two transactions go through one right after the other. However, this is not usually the case. So, should you list your current home first or start by putting in offers on a new one? There are pros and cons to both.
Selling your current home first allows you to make offers on a new home with cash in your pocket, increases your buying power, and avoids having to juggle two mortgages simultaneously. On the other hand, it creates a gap of residence, often leaving homeowners wondering where they’ll stay until they move into their new home or whether they may need to rent before they can buy again. Sellers may also negotiate a rent-back agreement with the buyers, allowing them to rent the house from the new owners before they move in.
Buying before selling solves the need for any temporary housing and makes the overall moving process much easier. Having a residence established ahead of time means you’ll only have to move once, which can save you some serious stress during this time of transition. Oppositely, buying a new home before you sell your current one will put an added strain on your finances. Having two concurrent mortgages equates to taking on more debt, which could result in less-than-favorable loan terms for purchasing your new home. Without the lump sum generated by a home sale in your pocket, coming up with enough money for a down payment may be a challenge and obtaining private mortgage insurance (PMI) may be in the cards. Finally, buying before selling comes with an obvious assumption—that your current house will sell.
Ultimately, the order of operations depends on your situation. Perhaps you’re moving due to a change of employment, and you need to direct all your energy toward buying a new home by a certain date before you can even think about selling your current one. No matter which route you take, it’s important to communicate your timeline to your listing agent or your buyer’s agent so they can strategize accordingly.
Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time
Local Market Conditions
Buying and selling at the same time will come with a certain duality: at each step in the process, you’ll have to balance your responsibilities as both a buyer and a seller. For example, when assessing your local market conditions, you’ll be looking at not one, but two housing markets.
- Seller’s Market: Selling in a seller’s market means that that you’ll need to be prepared to move once you list, since you could be looking at a short selling timeline. However, relying too heavily on the assumption that your house will sell quickly could make things dicey down the road. If you’re buying in a seller’s market, finding a new home may take longer than expected. You could potentially be waiting weeks or months for an offer to get accepted.
- Buyer’s Market: Selling in a buyer’s market typically means that homes stay on the market longer. If you proceed with a new home purchase just after you’ve listed your current house, know that it may take a while to sell. If you’re buying in a buyer’s market you can afford to be picky, knowing that time is on your side. With fewer people buying homes, sellers will be more flexible, giving you leverage to negotiate your contingencies.
Having a Backup Plan
If only you could wave a magic wand and make both transactions go through as planned. That’s why it’s important to have a backup plan in place to right the ship should things go sideways at any point in the buying or selling process. Talk to your agent about which options may be right for you. Here are a few:
- Sales Contingency: Buying your new home with a sales contingency allows you to opt out of the purchase contract if your home doesn’t sell by a specified date. Purchasing contingent on the sale is rare in highly competitive markets.
- Bridge Loan: If your current home hasn’t sold yet and you’re not able to afford the down payment on a new home, a bridge loan may be a fitting solution. Bridge loans can be used to cover the down payment on a new house and are repaid once your existing home has sold.
- Rent-Back Agreement: A rent-back agreement is a clause in the sales contract that allows the seller to rent their old home from the buyer for an agreed-upon period of time before the buyer moves in. This can be especially helpful in situations when the seller is having trouble finding a new home.