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Deciding whether you should buy or sell your house first should be based on your finances, moving timeline and the market conditions of your current and future homes. Buying and selling real estate are both stressful exercises. If you have the financial security to own two homes at once, then buying first is a convenient option that avoids multiple moves. The worst-case scenario would be to buy your dream home and then face the nightmare of selling your existing one for much less than you were counting on. There is a simple principle to use when deciding whether to buy first or sell first, but there’s a bit of groundwork you need to do before applying it.

Step One

It makes sense to buy before you sell. Find out how much money your bank will lend you and whether you can borrow enough to cover owning two properties for a period of time. If they will give you bridging finance, for instance, you’ll need to understand the costs and whether there is a time limit. If you cannot fund more than one property at a time, the answer to whether you should buy first or sell first is a given: you need to sell before you can buy.
If your bank will lend you the funds, then you need to consider market conditions before deciding to buy before you sell.  See step two.

Step Two

Fundamental to your decision is whether the market conditions at the time favor the buyer or the seller. Are you buying and selling in the same market?

– City and regional markets can differ substantially and getting the timing right (or wrong) will have a much greater impact on your financial position.
The simple answer is to do what is hardest first. If you are moving out of a market where it will be easy to sell and into a market where it’s difficult to find the perfect home, then I’d suggest that you buy before you sell. If you have the type of home that has a limited buyer pool, you might be better off selling first.
– If you are buying and selling in the same market, then market conditions will dictate whether it’s best to buy first or sell first.
In a buyer’s market you will find it harder to sell than to buy, therefore from a real estate market standpoint, selling before buying makes the most sense for people who are selling in a buyer’s market. You know your current home may take longer to sell, and you probably don’t want to or can’t afford to pay for two homes for an extended period of time. By selling first you will know precisely how much money you will have to spend and it will give you the luxury of time, You can wait until you get an offer you’re satisfied with, without the pressure of knowing you already bought (or are in the process of buying) a new house.

When in a seller’s market, it stands to reason that you are going to find it easier to sell, so in most cases, it’s better to buy before you sell. When you look to buy there will be a scarcity of property to choose from and fierce competition from other buyers. If you sell first you run the risk of a long lead-time before securing your next property. You may also have to rent in-between transactions, Having to move twice is perhaps the biggest inconvenience of selling first. It will cost more than doing a single move, and you might have to put some of your belongings in storage if your temporary housing can’t hold all your stuff. Many buyers in this situation find themselves tempted to make a panic purchase, which they could live to regret all too quickly.
In a seller’s market, there is another compelling reason to buy before you sell. When prices are rising, if you don’t buy back in quickly, you run the risk of being priced out of the market.

One of the ways I guide my clients through the dilemma of whether to buy first or sell first is to help them gain clarity about exactly the sort of property they will be able to buy. Often people have unrealistic expectations, so it’s important that they start from a position of knowledge. Even if you cannot get bridging finance and don’t have the option to buy before you sell, knowing what and where to buy before you even list your property for sale will give you a distinct advantage. It will allow you to hit the ground running the moment you find a buyer for your place.

Chady Melhem | Property Consultant

Call me for any advice you may need!

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