Best time to sell a house is sooner rather than later


By David J. Dowd

The best time to sell a house can be a financial or lifestyle decision. A common phrase is, “I wish I moved years ago.”

dowd_headshotMoving seems overwhelming, and people think they will get more money by fixing the home first or waiting for market conditions to improve. Sound familiar? Then reconsider and don’t fall into these typical traps at the expense of living in a setting that does not meet your needs or desires.

Don’t let the house hold you back from living the life you choose.

Do not sacrifice lifestyle for an outdated home. Don’t put mom, dad or yourself at risk of a fall or leaving the stove on because moving is too daunting.

The time to sell varies, depending on the style of your home. If the property is suitable for families with school age children, then selling in the spring is usually best so that the new owners can settle into their new home in time for the school year. However, when selling a condo, a small cape or ranch house, the time of year is almost irrelevant because your buyer will likely be an empty nester, retirees or a couple without children.

The sequence of events starts with a month or two getting ready for pictures and finding a great realtor to list your home on MLS, the Multiple Listing Service that feeds the websites to attract buyers. To meet this timing, move things to the garage or into storage. Then plan on 30 to 60 days on the market, and another 45 to 60 days from an accepted offer for inspections, mortgage approval and closing.

In total, it’s usually at least four to six months from making a decision to sell and to close on a home sale. That means starting by April or May for the back-to-school buyers. Of course, you need to find a new location, but renting can be a fine interim option that allows you to look with cash in hand, and with less pressure.

You can influence price with a coat of paint or minor repairs. Buyers have many choices and the Internet makes it easy to shop and compare. Be realistic, and work with a realtor who is aggressive yet pragmatic. The most reliable measure of price is to compare the price per square foot of sold homes nearest to yours and of similar style and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Cleaning out the clutter and presenting your home in its most favorable light is the best way to get an offer at the higher range of comparable sales. However, repairs will not put you into the next price bracket. The cost of holding the home while spending to fix or upgrade the property eats up most of the increase in price you might get, and therefore becomes another trap.

The best plan is to not over-manage or over-think things beyond your control. Sell as soon as you are ready to change settings and not when the house is perfect.

David J. Dowd is president of Sell Moms, which provides free advice and services to homeowners. For more information call him at 774-696-6124, or email Or visit for more info. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on