Selling your home is complex. You’re strategizing about the listing price and making improvements so that it’s more appealing to potential buyers. But you’re also preparing to change the backdrop of your day-to-day life, with all the feelings moving brings.
Millions of American homeowners are taking the first steps in this process. Just over 12.1 million homeowners — 16% of them — plan to sell their primary residence within the next 18 months, according to a new survey of over 1,400 homeowners commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll.
Their motivations for moving are mixed, but some sellers point to a changing market. More than 2 in 5 (44%) of those planning to sell in the next 18 months say recent shifts in the housing market have them selling sooner than initially planned — but a larger share of future sellers (56%) say those changes have not expedited their timeline.
“Homeowners can see that we’re moving away from a strong seller’s market in many areas. So their feelings and motivations are shifting, too,” says NerdWallet home expert Holden Lewis. “Also, selling your home is an emotional decision as well as one of dollars and cents, so it’s unsurprising that people have a variety of motivations and sentiments.”
No matter their motivations, home sellers will face a similar journey. We’ve matched our survey results with tips for future sellers to make the process easier.
1. Ready your home for the sale
You should definitely do the dishes before your open house, but what about fixing the drafty front door or the roof leak? Roughly three-quarters (76%) of homeowners who plan to sell their homes within the next 18 months say they’ll be spending money on major repairs and renovations to make their homes more appealing to buyers, according to the survey.
“Homeowners preparing to sell should make their renovations count, spending where they’re most likely to increase home value and get a good return on their home improvement investments,” according to Lewis.
Start by evaluating your home’s curb appeal, says Lewis. This can include keeping landscaping well-maintained, tidying your yard or porch, and power-washing or painting your home’s exterior.
“After that, your best return on investment comes from freshening up the kitchen and bathrooms if they’re outdated,” he adds. “There’s no need to go overboard. New flooring, updated fixtures and refaced cabinets might be enough.”
2. Get to know your local market
Nationally, monthly year-over-year growth in active listings has been positive since October 2018, according to data from Realtor.com. This reverses a trend; it hadn’t been positive since August 2014.
But housing trends are largely localized.
Knowing your local market can help you gauge the right time to sell, how long it could take to close a deal and the amount of money you might get out of your home.
Use online real estate sites to see what comparable homes are doing in your area. Keep tabs on how long they’ve been on the market, whether their prices have been adjusted and how their final sale prices compare to what you think your home is worth. If you’re using an agent, tap into their local expertise to get a better handle on home sales in your neighborhood.
3. Know what your home is worth and price accordingly
Many of those planning to sell in the next 18 months have become more pessimistic over the past year — 16% of that group believe that their home value will decrease within the next two years, when they previously didn’t or were unsure.
Tracking your home’s estimated value can help set realistic expectations in real time. Use a home value estimator to get an idea of your own home’s value and how it’s been changing. Pairing that information with what you know about your local market and your listing agent’s expert input, you can begin to set a listing price.
“It’s important to keep track of your home’s value and that of neighboring homes,” says Lewis. “With this information, you’ll have a better shot at setting an appropriate asking price when you do put your house on the market.”
You’re not only setting a price for your home based on its value; you’re pricing it to meet your goals for the sale, too. For example, if your priority is a quick sale, you may keep the price low in hopes of getting several early offers. Your listing agent can help you settle on an appropriate price.
4. Plan to compromise
More than half (58%) of all current homeowners don’t believe they’d have to accept an offer below their listing price if they were to sell their home in the current market, according to the survey. But knowing that such a compromise is not only possible, but probable, can take some of the stress out of the bidding and bargaining process.
Those planning to sell within the next 18 months may be more realistic about the possibility of accepting less than what they hope for. Over 4 in 5 (84%) of those planning to sell in the next 18 months would be willing to accept less than asking price if their home was taking longer than expected to sell. Of those, more than half (58%) would be willing to accept 10% or more below asking price.
The home selling (and buying) process is all about compromise. Closing costs, property repairs, the closing date and the sale price are just some of the knobs that can be adjusted to keep all parties on board. Knowing what you’re willing to budge on — and by how much— sets the parameters for an easier negotiation.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from April 11-15, 2019, among 1,438 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are homeowners, among whom 213 plan to sell their home within the next 18 months. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Thomas McLean at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the report, “future sellers” refers to survey respondents who plan to sell within the next 18 months.