By: Jamie Wiebe
No matter how many fond memories you’ve accumulated in your home, there may come a time when you start wondering: Should I sell my place? Maybe it’s because your local real estate market is booming and you stand to score a sweet payout. Maybe you’re relocating. Or your expanding family has outgrown your space. Or you’re just looking for a change of scenery. But questioning is easy; deciding to put your house on the market is tough.
Here are some steps to help you pinpoint when the time is right.
How to calculate your home equity
A key variable in the decision on whether to sell your home is how much equity you’ve built up over the years. Home equity is the amount of money tied up in your house—what you’d receive if you sold it, minus what you owe on your mortgage.
So how do you calculate your home equity? You’ll need two numbers: the remaining balance on your mortgage and what your home is currently worth. You can get a ballpark of the latter by typing your address into realtor.com®’s home value estimator. For a more in-depth assessment, ask your real estate agent, who will do an analysis by checking comparables, or comps (the prices of recently sold, similar homes in your area), as well as other aspects of your home.
Here’s how this calculation looks with actual numbers: Let’s say you purchased your home for $300,000, but its market value has risen to $325,000. Let’s also assume that you’ve whittled down your mortgage over the years so that all you owe is $75,000. To get your home equity, subtract $75,000 from $325,000 and you have $250,000 in home equity, which is pretty sweet!
Of course, the more you owe on your mortgage and/or the more your home’s price has plummeted, the less home equity you have. If that number is much smaller or even negative (which can happen if housing prices plummet), consider holding off on selling until conditions improve.
Is it a seller’s or buyer’s market? Here’s how to tell
Another factor in deciding if it’s time to sell is whether you’re in a seller’s market. This essentially means that the demand for homes is outpacing the supply, which gives sellers more leverage during negotiations. To figure out if you’re in a seller’s market, browse through some listings and look for these two signs: houses are selling for over asking price, and homes aren’t sitting on the market for long (generally less than six months). If that describes your area, then it’s a great time to sell. (Just don’t forget that if you sell, you may also have to buy, which may present problems unless you’re leaving the area.)
On the other hand, if homes in your area are selling for under asking price and sitting over six months, that means you’re in a buyer’s market and that market forces aren’t working in your favor. This means if you want top dollar you may want to wait.
What’s up with interest rates on mortgages?
If you’re planning to sell your home and buy a new one, you should definitely consider interest rates on mortgages. Fortunately, right now, interest rates are at historic lows, hovering around 4%. That’s an astounding deal! In the ’80s, they were a whopping 17.48%—and while they probably won’t shoot up quite as high in the near future, we’re expecting them to move up by next year. Homeowners eager to upgrade to their dream home might want to grab them while they can.
Have your housing needs changed?
Market forces and interest rates aren’t the only things to keep in mind when deciding if you should sell your home. A lot has to do with you, and whether the house suits your space requirements. For instance: Is your current place too small now that you’ve been joined by a couple of kids—or is it too big now that your grown children have moved out on their own? Both scenarios are fine reasons to find a home that better suits your needs, so be sure to consider all of these factors in weighing whether the time is right to sell.