Sell now, or sell later? Barbie's Malibu Dream House has got to go.
September 29, 2008 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I've been getting my house ready to sell and am wondering if I'm crazy. Should I go ahead with it now, or wait until spring? Of course, there are mitigating factors involved.

I own a house in Texas (Dallas) and have been working on getting it ready to sell... fixing things up, paint, polishing floors and the like. However, it literally feels like the end of the financial world right now. So my question is, am I doing all this in vain? Different people tell me the housing market's going to rebound at some point next year. Others tell me to get out now before the dollar turns into the peso.

The following factors are important in my decision for selling:

1. I make a decent living, but I do live paycheck to paycheck because of the house. I literally am unable to contribute to my 401k or do anything beyond make token payments against my credit card debt, which is pretty high. Basic subsistence living is it. Please don't suggest roommates, turning off services, etc. I did all that the past two years just to get by and have exhausted those options; I genuinely have tried everything and cannot get financial traction.

2. Originally I had planned to pay down that debt and wait until next year, hoping the market would improve and the value of my house would demand a better return on the investment. Traditionally, fall/holiday season isn't that great for selling a home, correct? Or am I wrong about that?

3. I have yet to pay house taxes for 2008. That means in January, the tax bill will be due. How will that affect me if I decide to sell now vs. waiting until after the first of the year?

4. My house was built in 2003, so it's still pretty new, in great shape, and on nearly an acre of land inside the city limits. Therefore, I believe I should be able to get a good asking price... but my city is also apparently flooded with foreclosures. How do I compete with that?

All of this is stressful and difficult for me to deal with, obviously, and I am totally alone in dealing with the home and yard maintenance, financial responsibilities and finding a realtor/new place to live if it sells quickly.

I feel a bit lost and overwhelmed. I'm trying to make the best decision for myself financially. I realize that jobs go away, illnesses and accidents happen, and were the scale to tip even a little, I'd be in a lot of trouble.

Any advice or anecdotes from people who have recently sold homes or know more about the real estate market than I do would be welcome. I already know to make the place immaculate/remove everything I own/allow anyone access at any time; I'm trying to work out getting a storage unit and all that jazz. I just wonder if I'm doing it at the wrong time.
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's true that later in the year/holiday season is often not the best time to sell a house, likely because people are more freaked out about money during that time of year, plus the weather just isn't as friendly for open houses and such.
As for the market, there is a lot of variety across the country. Some markets are still holding pretty strong (like Austin, for example, don't know about Dallas). Are you planning on doing For Sale By Owner or with an agent? An agent should be able to talk to you about this and set a strategy for getting the most out of you house, whether it be putting it on the market now, or waiting. One thing to keep in mind, too, is that depending on your area, you could be competing with more foreclosures than usual because of the economy.
posted by fructose at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2008

Renting houses is a lot easier than people think it is. Possibly you could rent it out and have a positive cash flow. Email me if you want more tips on this but it can work very well and get you out from under a debt you can't pay and give you an asset you can depreciate as well.
posted by diode at 6:57 PM on September 29, 2008

I think that no matter when you put your house on the market, it's all about luck in finding the right buyer. think about who your buyer is -- is your house right for a family? Seems like they're more likely to move over the summer. Is it an out of town businessman and his wife? they move whenever they're told. My house is likely to sell to the out of town business person who gets transferred, so I would just put it up for sale and hope that our ships don't cross in the night.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:00 PM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: b1tr0t: That was the plan... but if I need a tooth capped, I blow a tire, anything, I have to charge it on my credit card.

Comfortably I suppose is a relative term. I can buy groceries and gas, and I can go out once or twice a month. I can eat a meal in a restaurant possibly once a month. I have allowed myself to buy clothes five or six times in two years (as in, five or six outfits in two years). One pair of shoes, maybe two, in three years.

So, I don't know about comfortably. That's why I'm worried. Also, this was my dream house, which I built and helped design, so it's very emotional for me to part with it. But I have no money for things like Christmas presents, medical emergencies, travel, vacations, age-appropriate work clothing, etc.

The couch I'm sitting on has many holes in it and is covered with a cover I bought on sale at Xmas during clearance. It's more than 12 years old.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:21 PM on September 29, 2008

Renting sounds like your best bet. If you don't want to handle it yourself, you can hire a management company that will take a cut of the rent.
posted by electroboy at 9:18 PM on September 29, 2008

Find a realtor that comes highly recommended and talk to them about your options. Find out what the realtor thinks you could sell the house for on the market. Take their advice with a grain of salt, though. A good realtor will give you a well-informed opinion. An unscrupulous realtor will encourage you to sell it at below market value just to make a sale. But, if you haven't even got a number to start with, it's hard to evaluate your options.

Look into renting it out with a leasing company as suggested above. You may still have to pay out some of your mortgage if the payment is above what you could get renting it out but if you can find the right deal on a rental yourself then you may come out ahead.

You have my sympathies! This is a tough thing to deal with.
posted by amanda at 9:25 PM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Talk to a realtor (or several) about the state of your current market. If he or she feels there is a chance it would sell at a price you are comfortable with, I'd go ahead and put it on the market. Yes these are crazy financial times, but that doesn't preclude the fact that some people are ready to buy. I bought my house recently - I was renting previously. If you have been getting ready to buy a house and don't have a house to sell, this is a great time to buy.

If it is not getting a lot of attention come December, consider pulling it off the market and re-listing after the holidays.
posted by mikepop at 5:34 AM on September 30, 2008

In case it isn't obvious, beware of renting. It's amazing what people will do to rental property! You really can't reliably predict who will trash your place, and who will care for it. To say that you can "hold the renter liable" is meaningless, if you can't locate them or they have nothing to sue them for.
posted by Goofyy at 6:53 AM on October 1, 2008

That's what large security deposits are for.
posted by electroboy at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2008

Response by poster: I'm going to sell after January 31. Thanks.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:10 PM on October 29, 2008

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