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When should I sell my house?
January 20, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Question about when is the best time to put a house on the market...

My husband and I will be selling our house the next few months and I've gotten conflicting reports on when is the best time to sell it. We live in CT so I know I shouldn't put it on the market now since it's so cold and ugly outside. Some people have told me that it should go on the market in March to catch the early spring house hunters. Other people have told me to wait till summer to catch the families trying to relocate while their kids are out of school. Our house is a 6 bedroom 1910 Victorian so it would appeal to familes as well as old house buffs. However, we live right next to an elementary school. Should I wait until school is out so prospective buyers (without children) won't be put off by the swarm of urchins next door? I'm afraid if I contact a realtor right now, they'll try to convince me to sell it asap even if it's not the best time.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by SheIsMighty to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
 
A realtor will have your best interests at heart as far as selling. It won't cost you anything to put it on the market, but the lifestyle of "clean everything, right now!" can get old. I'm about to put mine on the market, but down here in TX, the selling season really starts the first week in January.

It can't hurt to put it on the market now.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2006


A realtor will have your best interests at heart as far as selling.

Yeah, sure.

A realtor is interested in turnover. Better sell three houses at a low price in one month than get a good price for those three houses in six months. Read 'Freakonomics' on realtors, you'll be convinced: realtors keep their house on the market ten days longer than average, and get a higher price. They will push you to take the first acceptable bid, because that's when they get paid. Conclusion: their best interest is to keep your price low.

I'd say whatever you do, sell the house yourself.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:55 AM on January 20, 2006


I'll second what Neku says, except that if you don't have the temperment or desire to sell it yourself, at least read Freakonomics before you start talking to Realtors.

And as someone who wouldn't even get out of the realtor's car to look inside your house if there was a swarm of urchins outside, I would say wait until school is out if you can, particularly if the weather will be nicer, the lawn greener, the trees leafier, etc.
posted by spilon at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2006


I think the only issue here is that houses that sit on the market a long time might look stale / hard to shift. "Why isn't that house selling?" People might think your asking price is too high or that there's something else that's putting people off. Otherwise, list it when you're ready; the market will catch up with you.

We've just listed our house (UK), having been told that the traditional holiday lull has been getting shorter. In the past the rush to list used to come in late January to be well available come the springtime. But now estate agents told us they are getting flooded with new listings right after Christmas. From experience, this appears to be true.

I'd second that comment on cleaning, too. Taking a page from the "house doctor" we're aiming to have our house never more than 30 minutes from showable; no mean task with two small children.

As for the realtors, I agree that they are looking for a quick sale. We got six appraisals and quotes, played them off to find one ready to ask the highest price for the mean commission. I'd only FSBO if you're prepared to wait. Otherwise, you're paying good money, but estate agents are really market makers and I do think on balance they tend to be on your side.
posted by sagwalla at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2006


Realators' interestes may not be perfectly aligned with your own, but it should be possible to find one that you can work with and who will wait for your house to get the price you want. sagwalla's point is good, that people can be put off by a house that's been on the market for a long time, but I've also seen houses sit on the market for months while their owners wait to get top dollar - and they get it.

But the conventional wisdom would be to wait until spring and list it then.
posted by GuyZero at 7:14 AM on January 20, 2006


I have (alas) had to sell three different homes and in each instance in a bad housing makrt. The market is not good in Connecticut at the present moment. How can you tell? As you drive arfound in a fairly smallish town, not how long houses for sale sit there without being sold. Then also note how many new houses go on the market...and sit there. They pile up. That indicates a bad market. Spring, I was told, is the best time to try to sell. People drive about because the weather is nice; homes look better because grass etc beginning to come back; the juices within people begin to move about more. People begin to think Change, Different, New
posted by Postroad at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2006


We are in the process of selling our house now, we put it on the market in October and had our first off a few weeks ago. So, say just under three months.

According to our realtor it would have taken less if we had started in the spring since folks are more willing to move when the kids are out of school. However we had no external schedule pressure, so we put it on the market as soon as we finished organizing and cleaning. The longer time period also gave us time to look at more houses.

If you're moving because of a job change you may not have that option. One friend moved in the winter for a new job and it took almost a year to find a buyer.

I do know of folks who list their homes at a higher than expected price just to see if anyone bites. Personally I could stand having to leave at a moments notice because someone wants to see our home. But I guess for enough money I could be convinced.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:11 AM on January 20, 2006


If you feel like your realtor is only in it for the turnover, find another realtor. There are "hustler" types out there. There are also realtors (like mine) who care about your needs. I've used mine for three transactions now - I'm in a bad bind at the moment to get out of my house. Part of her helpful solution? She's cutting her commission by more than half - she only wants to cover her costs for marketing my house.

That is having my best interests at heart. Find one with an excellent reputation. One that doesn't advertise much, yet has a high ranking by referrals.

I don't know the CT market - here, the selling season starts in late winter/early spring and runs until Thanksgiving. It then dies miserably until after the holidays.

One other thing to consider - people are watching interest rates very carefully, and many of them are speculating that rates are going to average over 7% on a 30-year fixed by the end of the quarter (3/31) or immediately thereafter. No one knows for sure, but it's a feeling, which is why I'm busting my ass to get my house showable ASAP. Wanna buy a house in Texas? :)
posted by TeamBilly at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2006


Better sell three houses at a low price in one month than get a good price for those three houses in six months.

I've no doubt that's a strategy for many - but good realtors (and there are some out there) know that they'll make the most money from the referrals and repeat business a satisfied customer will send their way. Ask around, you should be able to find one of the good ones.

people are watching interest rates very carefully, and many of them are speculating that rates are going to average over 7% on a 30-year fixed by the end of the quarter (3/31)

I'm not trying to predict the future, but rates have been dropping again as of late. And while it's little consolation to us, hearing my parents' stories about buying in the eighties with interest rates in the low to mid teens reminds us that 7 percent is still, historically, on the low side.
posted by jalexei at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2006


Spring is what I would suggest.

BTW realtors are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to get the best deal for their clients and to look out for their best interests.

I am married to one. He is fair and ethical. He has tons of repeat business. And he will make sure the termite report and the appraisals and all the other crap paperwork gets done on time so you can close. In other words, for most people, selling their own home is not the piece of cake they assume it is.

Right now would actually be a good time to shop around for a realtor. This is a not so busy time of year for them so they will have more time to talk to you, and a good one will agree to delay listing the home until you are ready. He or she will also have suggestions of things to do to make your home more attractive for a buyer, and that will give you more time to take care of those sorts of details.
posted by konolia at 9:05 AM on January 20, 2006


Jalexei, how is it that most people, who likely only buy or sell a house every five years (at most) will know enough about the housing market to know whether their realtor got them the best possible price for their house? I'd think it far more likely that they will judge and reccomend realtors based on other factors, like making the process as smooth and hassle free as possible.
posted by Good Brain at 9:40 AM on January 20, 2006


If I were you, I'd put the house on the market the second to last week of the school year. Make sure there is sign out there for the parents to see when they go to drop their kids off at school. Word will spread.
posted by pwb503 at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2006


Don't call a realtor. Call three. They're working for you- see what they have to pitch. Beware the high figure- he may be setting your house up as a comp so he can push his other "bargain" listing.

As to the urchins, are they there on weekends?

For what it's worth, two independant money manager types I know in that state are renting in anticipation of declining prices this year. They intend to buy no sooner than late 2006, more likely 2007.

Not that money managers necessarily know anything, I'm just saying....
posted by IndigoJones at 11:30 AM on January 20, 2006


On the timing issue, spring is generally the most desirable for houses that will appeal to families.

1. The weather warms up a little bit, so being out looking at homes is more tolerable. This gets you more "lookers," increasing your odds of more/better offers.

2. Families can look/decide/write you an offer in the spring, and with 1-3 months until closing happens (or whatever is standard in your area), they'll be able to conduct the move by the time their kids are out of school on break. This eliminates the hassle of changing schools mid-year.

I (legally) flipped houses for about 10 years and to me, spring sounds like a no-brainer in this situation. I hope it all goes smooth for you.
posted by peewee at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2006


Jalexei, how is it that most people, who likely only buy or sell a house every five years (at most) will know enough about the housing market to know whether their realtor got them the best possible price for their house?

How will they know if they didn't?
posted by jalexei at 2:52 PM on January 20, 2006


Sold house in Cambridge MA in 1991 within one week. Put on market in early March. Sold house in Denver 2005 two days before it went on market in early March. Both at full asking price. Both to families. One person's experience and luck. A house could languish for months and price will fall. If you do all that realtor recommends to ready house for viewing you improve your odds for more rapid sale. March is a good time, as people are planning for the upcoming school year for their kids. Spring is a great time to sell, at least in the mountain west.
posted by madstop1 at 4:57 PM on January 20, 2006


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