By Sally Jones
Jan 22, 2024
Last June, when the Fed followed up its most significant rate hike in 22 years with yet another, I started to think about selling my home.
It wasn’t so much that I was unhappy with this home I’ve lived in for 10 years—it was more that it seemed like a good time to cash out equity. I thought maybe I’d rent for a while; then when I purchased again, I’d pay cash and get a deal.
You know, the ol’ sell-rent-buy-later strategy.
Also weighing on my decision was the real estate downturn some experts were predicting. If we were in a bubble and facing a correction, my options to sell down the line might be affected. This happened to me after the housing crash of 2008. Moving in with my then-boyfriend, I found I couldn’t sell my home without taking a loss.
I ended up renting it out—which meant becoming a landlord, with all the pros and cons that entails. I was boxed in for a few years until prices picked up.
In the end, I decided not to sell my home for a bunch of reasons. Here’s what helped me decide—and what would get me to change my mind.
Why I thought about selling
By midsummer last year, sellers in my neighborhood were still riding the wave of multiple offers and lightning-fast sales that started during the pandemic.
I wondered how long this frenzy would last. With family visiting in July and a vacation planned in August, I put off listing it until September. And that might have been a mistake.
When I put the property on the market in late September, I immediately got an offer just 2% shy of the asking price. I was excited!
I contacted my lawyer, who’d helped me with previous sales and purchases. He congratulated me and advised me not to haggle as he was starting to see purchasers get cold feet.
Sure enough, the offer fell through before the contract was signed. The buyers’ mortgage pre-approval had expired, and their new interest rate was higher. They could no longer afford the same home they could months ago.
I kept the listing up until Thanksgiving and got just one more offer, a lowball I passed on. I planned to relist in the spring; but here we are, almost a year later, and I haven’t. What are the variables influencing me, and probably other sellers, not to sell right now?
Why I am staying put (for now)
1. I have an unbeatable mortgage interest rate
When I purchased my home in 2014, I got a competitive rate that’s hard to beat now.
If I sell now, only to buy again, I’d have to get a new mortgage—three or more percentage points higher. So I’d need to downsize or face a much higher monthly mortgage payment in my next home.
2. I have a sales price in mind
When I bought my home, I rolled over proceeds from the previous home, so I have a good deal of equity.
As a result, I have a sales price in mind that would allow me to make a cash offer on the next home if it was an equivalent price. I’d be mortgage-free—and that would be good motivation to sell.
3. I just finished renovating
I’ve touched every inch of my house in the 10 years I’ve lived there.
So I know it will be challenging to find a home I like as much that’s move-in ready, given the meager inventory right now.
4. Home prices are down in my area
I’ve been watching comps for a year, and there are signs the market in my neighborhood is softening.
Homes are lingering on the market, and some had significant price drops—a few as much as 20%.
On the plus side for me, renovated homes appear more resistant to price drops, and they are selling faster. And local inventory is low, which makes a move-in-ready home stand out.
Though price drops also are happening where I want to purchase, they’re not as dramatic. That neighborhood is holding its value better than mine. If I can’t sell for about the same price I want to purchase for, I might as well wait it out.
5. Moving is more of a “nice to” than a “have to” for me
Listings with price drops of 10% to 20% suggest very motivated sellers. There will always be people who have to move—for a job, to be in a particular school district, or to have more room for a growing family.
That’s not me.
My reasons for moving are “nice to haves.” I work at home, so I’d like to live closer to a park and maybe get a dog. But I’m not on any timeline.
What would make me change my mind?
I haven’t given up the idea of selling yet. So I will continue to check comps in both neighborhoods and watch mortgage interest rates. Maybe they will start to come down significantly, as some experts predict.
What else would compel me list my home again?
If I get a new job at a higher salary, then, I can afford a higher monthly mortgage payment.
If low inventory in my area drives up purchase prices. A neighbor just listed her home and received multiple offers, including one all cash.
If prices fall in the neighborhood where I’m interested in buying, or if I come across a motivated seller and could purchase there for about the same price I can sell for.
I’m juggling all of these factors. Should the stars align and I can purchase a new home in cash, that would be all the motivation I’d need.
Being mortgage-free has always been a dream. Or if mortgage rates sink to 2014 levels, and I can have roughly the same monthly payment as now, I’d consider that an even trade. Otherwise, I’m content to enjoy this home for a few more years.