Do I buy or sell first when it is time to move? That is probably the most common question I am asked as a Realtor. That question is similar to “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” There is no easy answer… they both go together.
I suggest that you start with the money. If you can pay cash without selling your home or if you can afford a bridge loan, then you can buy first and make sure that your move will take you into the home of your dreams
Most people, however, stretch to buy a home and find it safer to list their old home first so that the money from that sale will pay for the next purchase. Here is what I usually recommend. First, have your existing home appraised by a local Realtor. A market analysis done by a Realtor will help you find the approximate value of your home. Based on that number, you can talk to a mortgage professional and start the process to get financing for your move.
With a loan pre-approval in hand, you can safely start house hunting with the knowledge that the homes you are seeing are homes you can afford. After a few full days of house hunting you should know if the price range you are using will offer you a home that fulfills your needs. As long as there are several homes you would be happy with, you can get ready to list your home with the likelihood that when it sells there will be several good homes to choose from.
Before you list your home, clean house! I always tell people that when you are going through the “should I or shouldn't I move?” routine, it’s the time to clean house. Be ruthless. Go through every closet, every drawer, every cabinet and cupboard. Sort through all of the clothes that haven not been worn in the past year. Look through the pots and pans that you don't use. Get rid of all the unopened books and gadgets that haven’t seen the light of day in five years. Don’t forget those outgrown toys. Have a garage sale or box them up and take them to a charity. The same should be done in the basement and garage. Don't just box everything up. Get rid of the junk and then organize the stuff you really use.
When you get rid of the clutter, you will be able to analyze whether or not you really want to move. You will be already ahead because the only stuff left in the house will be what you'll want to take with you. The best that can happen is you'll discover you don't have to move after all. Suddenly that closet that was "too small" will be large, open and spacious. Drawers and cabinets will be nice and conveniently organized. By making your house more livable, you've done yourself a huge favor.
If the house feels roomy to you when you're done, it's bound to look roomy to a buyer. Buyers seem to assume that a person who keeps their home neat and clean will also take good care of mechanicals and hidden items
If your house is neat, clean, and organized and still not meeting your needs then you know it is time to move and you can list your house.
Have your Realtor return and update the pricing analysis and list your house. When it sells, you will be ready to pack and move. Your financing will be in place and this will put you in a strong negotiating position for the purchase of your new home.
Moving is hard work. It’s like childbirth…lots of pain but worth it in the end.