One of the biggest frustrations in the real estate market is timing. Having another property lined-up after selling a home is not always easy. The ideal scenario for sellers is to close on their current home just as they purchase a new one, allowing a seamless move.
Unfortunately, as in most markets, it’s difficult to accurately predict timing between sale and purchase, causing frustrating conflicts in the transition process. The time-frame for getting a home under contract can range anywhere from days (not uncommon in here in Bozeman, Montana) to months or even years (typically for higher priced homes). This is why hiring a Realtor® is worth the investment to gain market insights about local inventory, months of supply, and other market conditions not entirely available to the public.
In short, there’s no concrete answer about whether it’s better to buy before or after selling your current home. There are pros and cons to either decision (or outcome).
To Buy First?
If you have the financing available, buying a new home first may be a viable option. Having a home lined-up in advance has the obvious benefit of relieving pressure on your home search. This is typically the biggest advantage of buying first, because buying a home is no small deal, so you really shouldn’t rush and buy under pressure.
Buying first also allows you to move all your stuff and get your home just right before you move in, and again, without having to rush.
Another benefit of buying first is that, although you may end up having an extra mortgage payment, you won’t have to find a place to rent while searching for a new home. And because most renting agreements require a year lease, renting may not be the best option for you.
However, there exists the risk of not being able to sell your current home, or at least at the price or time-frame you were hoping for, adding the cost of a second mortgage.
Another major disappointment that you may face when buying first is losing out on your dream home. If you don’t have the funding to purchase a new home outright (as most people don’t), your offer will have to be contingent upon sale and transfer of title of your current home. Depending on how your contract is negotiated, a non-contingent offer may force your hand to remove a contingency in typically a 48 to 72-hour period, or terminate
To Sell First?
The main advantage of selling first is the strong position it puts you in as a buyer to negotiate, without being tied down by sale contingency terms. Offers tied to contingent-upon-sale contracts can significantly lower your negotiating power, and in a seller’s market, are often rejected.
Another great benefit of selling first is that it will give you the cash you may need for your new home.
On the other hand, selling your home before securing a new one will obviously entail the risk of not having anywhere to live in the meantime. When selling first, you may have to rent, stay at a friend’s house and pay for storage, or do whatever means necessary to find shelter in your transition between homes.
One way to avoid this, however, is to negotiate “rent-back” terms with the buyer of your current home, allowing some additional time for your home search.
Why Hire a Real Estate Agent?
As discussed already, Realtors® have (or should have) a firm grip on local market conditions. Having experience and exclusive access to local market statistics, a Realtor® can provide a closer estimate of how long it should take for a home to sell in your neighborhood, and negotiate terms and conditions in your best interest. It’s the job of a real estate agent to be your trusted guide and ensure that the whole process, from marketing to writing a contract, flows smoothly.
With that, I have one last important tip: make sure to properly interview prospective real estate agents before entering a contract. Not all Realtors® have the same experience and wisdom in guiding you through the transaction process. Find an agent that truly cares about their clients and will go above and beyond expectations to serve you. Make sure to read through reviews, ask your friends and neighbors, and do some digging to find the right agent for you.