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Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Market Conditions, Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links | 14 comments | Print Print

When to Sell Your House

Recession talk is back in the headlines, which will liven up the debate about when to sell the house.

If you are thinking of selling, consider the items that are closer to home which would not only have a direct impact on your success of getting top dollar, but be more predictable too:

1. Sell When You Have Good Comps – Let a neighbor (or two) be the guinea pig, and sell their house first.  Once there are a couple of strong sales nearby, it is much easier to justify your top-dollar price.  But don’t expect buyers to pay more than 5% higher than the last guy.

Similarly, if there have been a couple of bad sales recently, wait at least six months after they have closed before selling.  Appraisers can’t use them if they are more than six months old, but buyers are known to have longer memories.

2. Sell When There Are Good Active Listings Nearby – Ideally you’d like to have recently-closed sales to help justify your case, but if you don’t have those, the next best thing is to undercut the OPTs nearby.  You and I know that the over-priced turkey is living in fantasyland, but buyers always gravitate towards those that look like the better “deals”.  You will look like the ‘best buy’ only if you drastically undercut the competition….by at least 5%, and 10% is preferred.  Buyers probably know the others are outrageously over-priced, so just under-cutting them by a few bucks isn’t enough.

3.  Sell Right After Home Improvements – Retail buyers (the ones who pay top dollar) don’t want the fixers, they prefer the cream puffs.  Shiny new improvements lose their luster quickly, so if you know you need to bring your home into the 21st century, spend the money necessary and list your home the next day.

4.  Sell When New Tenants Move Nearby – Are you among the unfortunate owner-occupiers who have to endure tenants next door?  Did the renters with five kids and 14 yapping dogs just move out?  It’s a good time to sell!  Or conversely, if a great couple with no noise-makers just moved in, sell before they move out!

5.  Sell When You Go On Vacation – With tight inventory, buyers flock to the hot new listings in the first few days on market.  If you don’t like to see dozens of strangers pouring through your house with little or no notice, you should go on vacation the day your house goes on the market – especially if you have a lot of kids and pets.

6.  Sell Before You Get Old – You might chuckle, but it’s true.  For most sellers, moving means: a) having to sift through all the old junk that has been stored away for years and decide what is worth keeping, b) packing and unpacking, c) dealing with a lot of unknowns – strangers, moving, new home, getting settled again, etc., and d) making life-changing decisions.  Don’t underestimate how taxing it can be to endure the transition.

7.  Sell Once You Know Where You Are Going – You have to be 100% committed to moving.  Why?  Because once a seller signs the purchase contract, you cannot cancel (only the buyer can).  In addition, if you don’t know where you are moving, you will price your home too high, and it won’t sell.  Many sellers need to leave town to make it worth it.  If you are thinking that you’ll just rent for a year or two and find a smaller place later for half-off, recent history has shown that it is very difficult to score a big discount in the great neighborhoods.  If you opt for that program, be prepared for the other option which is perfectly acceptable – you may rent the rest of your life.

8.  Sell If There Are Foreclosures Coming – It’s not a price thing, because REOs sell for what they worth.  It’s because they are typically run-down due to lack of maintenance for months or years.  If you see the dilapidated-look happening nearby as you are getting ready to list, offer to maintain their yard for them.  Or if they already moved, just do it.  Your listing agent can help you monitor the f-list.

9.  Sell in March or July – We are fortunate to enjoy a 12-month selling season in San Diego.  Everyone thinks that hitting the market during the Spring Selling Season is the most productive, but there is usually more competition too.  Items 1-8 above are more important.  If you wanted to time your own move around spring or summer, then focus on March or July.  If you list in March, hopefully there were already 1-2 of your neighbors who got started in February and had success that you can ride.  If not, consider waiting until the last minute and list in July once all the good buys have been taken (and hopefully several of them sold for astronomical prices) and school is bearing down on the family-types.  An alternative strategy is to list the day after the Super Bowl and appeal to those buyers who have been hung out to dry by the holidays.

10. Sell When All The Macro-Economic Issues Are Settled – ummmm, see 1-9 above.


  1. Have you considered applying for a job as a real estate professor or some position of that nature? Or maybe a real estate columnist. Wait, blogger is kinda like a columnist. Just hope your invaluable insight don’t get lost in here.

  2. Thanks madhatter!

    Ideally, I’d like to hire somebody to make a book out of the 3,658 posts here, and then make a movie out of the 1,197 videos!

  3. Or Re #6 let your heirs do the selling, after you are gone or in a nursing home. They get to clean up the mess. I recall my grandparents house, where a lot of stuff was left since they lived there 50 years.

  4. Great information Jim. One the best info posts in a while.

    Is there a better place on the internet for quality real estate information?

    Maybe the BAR would fund your book aspirations.

  5. Jim, first rate advice. One problem I have here in Western Sonoma County is a lack of Comparablke sales. I looked at all of the 11 new listings that came on the market here last week and there were no comps for 6 of them.

  6. This is a excellent cliff note version of preparing to sell and I would imaging the converse would would be true of what to look for when trying to buy.

  7. For buyers there is one rule – buy the right house, at the right price.

    Could happen anytime, and for the buyers who have specific targets for area and price, you might have 2-3 chances per year.

    If buyers want to open it up, and make buying easier, just don’t be so picky – there are plenty of houses for sale. For those who are picky, you need good help.

    For those who aren’t picky, Redfin is a good option – they’ll take your order and give you a kickback.

    Those who are picky should work with me.

  8. re #7 – Yes, sellers – you can cancel, but make sure the buyers have signed off on EVERY contingency there is, and don’t let your listing broker tell you otherwise, I’ve had two try and bully me into saying that I couldn’t cancel the agreement without their (my broker’s) consent – yeah right!

  9. buy low sell high, dont get greedy.

  10. @#8


    This is why I recommend that agents don’t comment at this blog.

  11. “3.Or Re #6 let your heirs do the selling, after you are gone or in a nursing home. They get to clean up the mess.”

    I’ve personally just been through this (both counts 2+) year process.

    I really wish my Uncle was still alive so I could beat the shit out of him for what he put our family through with his arrogance and selfish low-life white-trash behavior.


  12. Agreed – if you don’t want to leave any money to your heirs, fine, but to make them clean up your mess too is selfish.

    If people would handle their business while they are still young enough to organize it, they can leave a nice clean package for the kids.

    Sort through your own crap, because if you leave it to me, I’m going to throw it all out.

  13. Sell now! So some of us can buy! Sheesh….!

  14. Re #12 but if you do leave money then in essence they get paid for the cleanup. Or they can hire it done, either with the hired organization putting on an estate sale etc. I helped my parents clean out my grandparents house where they had lived 50 years or so. Also I moved into my parents house (moved to the country) so I had to clean out my house, moved the stuff I wanted and had the rest hauled away.

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