How long does it take to sell a house?
That’s a great question. First, I’ll give you the quick answer, and then we’ll dig into some of the nuance. And there’s a lot of nuance, as you probably imagined.
So that’s your short answer.
Now let’s dig into some of the nuance, starting with this:
Selling a home is actually a two-part process.
Part one is listing the home, and securing a contract.
Part two happens from the time you’ve secured a contract until the day you go to settlement, which is the culmination and final step of the process.
The second stage includes things such as the inspection process, appraisal, and your buyer securing the financing they’ll need to purchase your home. Each of these takes some time. How much?
According to Zillow:
After an offer is accepted, home sales typically require an additional 30- to 45- day closing period before they are officially sold. Therefore, the average time it takes to sell a house is 55-70 days in the U.S.
To check the average days on market in your particular location, here’s a great resource from Redfin. Enter your zip code, and statistics for your local real estate market will appear.
When considering how long it takes to sell a house, there are certain factors which you, as the homeowner, can control.
There are also factors that are completely outside of your control, unfortunately. Let’s talk through those factors first.
How long does it take to sell a house: Factors You Cannot Control
1.) State of the economy and housing market
The national economy and the local housing market can have a strong effect on how long it takes a house to sell at any given time. Sadly…or perhaps fortunately, there’s not much you or I can do as individuals to change the economy or the local market.
Sometimes, the housing market is very strong, in which case your house may sell more rapidly than it otherwise would.
On the flip side, when the market is down, unemployment is high, and/or interest rates are high, homes sit on the market longer.
2.) Pandemics and “Acts of God”
Who would have thought this would make a list pre-2020, right? But housing markets are most certainly affected by acts of God, like hurricanes, other weather events, and apparently, pandemics.
Luckily, despite a pandemic the housing market in 2020 remained quite strong, in general. And it actually improved the markets significantly in many markets that had been previously pretty slow.
3.) Your location
Typically, homes in rural locations sell slower than those in urban and suburban locations. 2020 has thrown that notion on its head, however. And this past year, there was a huge uptick in the speed at which rural homes in many locations sold.
Other “location” factors can include proximity of your home to places like parks, schools, community pools…and also things like landfills, cemeteries, etc. People will view proximity to any one of these places with either a positive or a negative spin. And as such, the speed at which your home sells can be affected, one way or the other.
4.) Time of sale
A typical real estate market has a slow season and a fast season. Usually, homes sell slower around the holidays, and once schools go back in session in the fall (for single family homes). Conventional wisdom is that the best time to list a home is usually between March and June.
That said, this has also not really been the case in 2020. Although things took a brief pause when the pandemic first rolled on the scene in March and April, the market picked back up, and has been hot in many markets throughout the summer, fall, and now through the holidays and winter months.
Different markets follow different seasonal trends. “March – June” timeframe is a very blanket answer when this question about best time to sell pops up.
But the more accurate answer is that the best time to sell varies depending on your city/state and the climate there. This article gives some great insight depending on if you live in the pacific, mountain, central or eastern time zone.
How long does it take to sell a house: Factors You Can Control
Now that we’ve dished the bad news about the fact that some things are out of your control when it comes to getting your house sold, the great news is that there are many things, more in fact, that are most definitely able to be controlled by you, and you alone!
1.) Condition of your home/staging
The more prepared your home is to sell, the faster it will happen. Typically, you’ll want to allot a couple of months (2-3 is typically sufficient) to prep your home before the sign goes up in your yard.
If you want a list of the most cost-effective updates you should consider as a homeowner, I’ve got a quick and really helpful resource for you. Download a free copy of our “Skyrocket Your Sales Price: 16 Secrets for Sellers” here.
Aside from repairs, staging is a big part of this equation, too.
A 2015 National Association of Realtors (NAR) study cited in Forbes states¹,
for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400
That’s a staggering statistic.
That said, to hire professional staging companies typically requires several thousand dollars in cash outlay.
If that is something that isn’t appealing to you, I have an amazing resource for you. The Ultimate Home Seller’s Toolkit will help you prepare your whole home for a wildly successful sale!
From decluttering strategies, to the best paint colors for re-sale, to staging instructions for every single room in your home…it’s a one-and-done system. And it’s available for a teeny tiny fraction the cost of conventional home staging!
2.) Asking Price
A real estate agent can suggest a pricing stragegy for your home, but you have the ultimate decision-making power when it comes to deciding on your list price.
Interview several agents…
My suggestion is to interview several agents before you make a decision on who you want to have list your home. If two agents give you a suggested price that’s within a 5-10k of each other, and then a third comes in with a suggestion that is 30k higher…don’t take the bait. Or at least be very suspicious and cautious before signing on any dotted lines.
Good agents will know what a good price point for your home. They base their pricing opinions on studying comparable homes that have sold in your area in the past 6 months to a year.
They’ll also consider the square footage, lot size, bedrooms, bathrooms and condition, as well as a couple of other factors that are all industry standard. So no matter what agent you talk to, their pricing suggestions should fall within a fairly close range.
So when you encounter an opinion on pricing that’s a gross outlier, that should be a red flag for you.
And do your own research…
I recommend doing your own research, too. There are amazing online platforms for consumers these days. We no longer have to rely on realtors to give us statistics and information about our local markets and pricing. It’s readily available for all to see on sites like Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor.com.
On Zillow and Redfin you can even get current estimates about the value of your own home after entering your address and “claiming” the home as your own. This information can be extremely valuable to you, although it shouldn’t be taken as gospel in absence of other information and insights that an agent can provide.
Last word on pricing…don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
What does that mean? Although I’d love for you to get one million dollars for your home, the reality is that if your home is really only worth $225k according to the comparables and market statistics, then DON’T PRICE YOUR HOME AT ONE MILLION DOLLARS. You won’t get it. Ever.
The better your real estate photos, the quicker you’ll get an offer on your home.
In today’s real estate market, photos are EVERYTHING. It used to be the adage that homes were sold at open houses. But that is no longer the case. Photos now sell your home.
So make sure when you’re interviewing agents that you ask, and get examples of the photography package they offer. If the plan is just for Ronnie Realtor to swing by with his iPhone and take some quick snaps, then DO NOT HIRE.
Similarly, if you’re planning to sell without an agent, DO NOT make the mistake of just taking some pictures yourself and throwing them up on the multiple listing service (MLS). You will be really putting yourself at a HUGE disadvantage. Hire a professional real estate photographer. You won’t be sad you spent that money.
Believe it or not, especially post-pandemic, more and more homes are being purchased by buyers who never actually stepped foot in their new home prior to settlement. And this isn’t just applicable to investors. Buyers are doing virtual tours with agents, and relying on 3D online tours and pictures in order to make offers on homes.
4.) Time of Sale
While in some cases, a job relocation or military transfer won’t allow you to choose the time of year that you place your home on the market, often, you will have control over timing your sale. If you have the option, try to position your home to hit the market at the best time of year for your area.
As mentioned above, the general “best time of year” for selling is the spring market. But it truly varies widely from region to region.
5.) Agent selected
You can control the agent you hire. Or whether to hire an agent at all, for that matter. In general, I think it’s important for most sellers to work with an agent. Unless you’re in the business, or have a lot of knowledge in this arena already, then it’s usually worth hiring an expert. Just make sure you pick the RIGHT expert.
Ask neighbors who have sold their homes who they used. And ask if they had a positive or negative experience. Like ANY field, doctors, lawyers, chefs…there are great real estate agents, and then there are others that aren’t the best. You don’t want to put your home in the hands of anyone who isn’t a superstar.
So do your homework. Interview several. And don’t sign until you’re totally comfortable and happy with your selection.
Beyond that, no matter how big a superstar your agent is, the reality is that YOU are the best advocate for selling your home. In short…
No one will EVER be as invested in selling your home as you are.
Agents are there to negotiate offers and advise you on the whole, but they are NOT decorators. They are NOT stagers. They aren’t investors who think hard about the return on investment (ROI) you’ll get from certain updates and projects.
In other words, it’s easy for an agent to say, “update the kitchen,” without understanding how much work and how expensive that actually is…or what that will do to your bottom line once their commission is paid and they are long gone.
So while you may get some goof advice on what to do to prepare your home from an agent, do yourself a HUGE favor and DO NOT rely solely on that advice.
To help, I have some awesome resources for you. The first is a free checklist and quickstart guide you can grab called “Skyrocket Your Sales Price: 16 Secrets for Sellers”. It will help you focus on the best, most cost-effective things you can do to prepare your home to sell.
If you’re ready to dig even deeper, check out the Ultimate Home Seller’s Toolkit. This comprehensive resource will help you prep your entire home, from stem to stern and set you up for a wildly successful sale without spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process!!
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