Knowing when it’s time to sell your house is not an easy thing. Ten years. That’s the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Think that sounds surprisingly short? Or way too long? The fact is, people’s reasons for selling their home are different, as are their time frames.
Still, there are some common threads—financial and emotional—that lead us to call it quits on our home and move on to the next one. And you don’t always see them coming.
Read on for some telltale signs it’s time to start packing your bags (and when you should settle in for the long haul).
1. It’s a seller’s market and you want in.
You just found out your neighbors sold their house for a boatload of money, and you are eager to make a profit on your property.
Before you consider selling your house, make sure the price your neighbor got for their house isn’t a fluke. A few indicators of a strong market to watch for are: The amount of time properties stay on the market is decreasing, the price per square foot is increasing, and you are seeing an uptick in real estate action in your neighborhood ( lots of agents knocking on your door and sending you letters asking if you want to sell your house).
Check online listings in your neighborhood, and pay attention to the “recently sold” flyers in your mailbox to keep track of what comparable homes in your area are going for.
If other houses on your street with the same bedroom/bathroom count as yours are selling for a price that you’d be more than satisfied with, it might be a good time to sell your house too.
2. You’re stretching to pay your mortgage every month.
Not everyone sells in order to pad their bank account. Some homeowners underestimated their ongoing housing costs and simply want to ease their financial burden. Maybe your income situation has changed, and you now have to stretch to afford a mortgage payment that was comfortable when you purchased your house.
If your monthly housing costs exceed 30% of your gross monthly income, it might be time to sell and finding a less costly living situation.
3. You’ve changed—but your house hasn’t
The starter home you bought when you were expecting your first child is now a tight squeeze for your growing family and all their stuff. Seriously, so much stuff! A home should be comfortable place that serves the way you live. If your house is a source of stress rather than a sanctuary, it might be time to sell your house.
Death, serious illness, divorce—these are all emotionally wrought experiences that may warrant a need for change. Relocation is another factor. Or maybe you are sick of the open floor plan because you really don’t want to hear the Fortnite arguments going on in the living room while you are trying to get dinner on the table. You might have pictured yourself living through your golden years in your house, it’s okay if your plans change.
4. You’re over ‘high maintenance’
The average homeowner spends upwards of $2,000 a year for maintenance services. Not repairs, mind you, but scheduled services such as landscaping, snow removal, septic service, private trash and recycling, and housecleaning.
Sick of watching these payments steadily drip out of your bank account? You might be better off in a low-maintenance condo or a new-build property. You may even qualify for a tax break that can make trading in your high maintenance house for an easy to care for condo even more attractive.
5. You’ve put at least 5 years into the relationship
If you sell too soon—assuming you have a mortgage—you haven’t really built up any equity in the home beyond the down payment, in the beginning, your mortgage payments are almost completely interest payments.
In fact, unless the housing market is seriously booming (see above), you might lose money when you sell. Remember: Selling isn’t free: You’ll have to shell out to cover all the costs associated with hiring a broker, closing, and, of course, purchasing another home.
That’s why experts recommend staying put for at least five years, unless you have an urgent need to move. In addition to everything else, moving too quickly sends prospective buyers a bad message.
Buyers don’t feel good when it appears you are selling too soon. They are going to wonder what was wrong with the house? Why are you leaving so fast? Is there a costly structural issue you don’t want to deal with? Are the neighbors selling drugs and shooting fireworks at your house? Is the place haunted (you would be amazed how many people might ask this)? Buyers can dream up all kinds of negative scenarios when a seller hasn’t owned the home for very long.
But beware of snap decisions
Of course, there are no promises that selling will be better for you in the long run.
Selling your home is, above all, a personal decision. Even when the market is booming, it may not be a good time to sell your house. Do what will help you live—if not happily ever after—happily for now.