How long does it take to sell a home?

Peter Warden
Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports Editor
September 16, 2018 - 5 min read

In this article:

How long does it take to sell a home?

  • That depends a great deal on your local market. You can find “average days on market” for your city or zip code on many real estate sites
  • Your selling time depends also on how competitive your price is and how motivated you are
  • Many real estate experts say that a correctly-priced home should get into escrow within 30 days

Home selling times depend on supply and demand. Most home appraisals include a section that indicates if the market is balanced, and how many months it would take to sell the listings currently available.

How long does it take to sell a home? It’s up to you

The state of your local property market plays a huge role in determining the time it will take you to sell your home. But, arguably, you play an even bigger part.

Related: No-commission real estate services sell your home at a fraction of the cost

How competitively you price your property may be the biggest single factor in getting you a quick or slow sale. And very nearly as important is the effort you invest in staging your home so it’s attractive to buyers.

But let’s explore those in a minute, along with some ideas for making your place more marketable. First, we need to consider the influence of your local market.

Your local market

If you live in a sellers’ market, you’re lucky. The answer to “How long does it take to sell a home?” is “not long.” That is because there are fewer properties available than wannabe buyers. So people will be tripping over each other in their rush to view your home. And you may well receive multiple offers, some of which may exceed your asking price.

You might be able to set your price a little over the amounts recently paid for comparable homes. Prices are rising so quickly, you’ll soon get the sum you want. And you can relax a bit over staging. In such markets, buyers must be less demanding and choosy. How long does it take to sell a home? No time in this sort of environment.

Related: Selling a home without the hassle (full-service home prep available)

However, be careful not to get too greedy or lazy. Buyers quickly grow wary of homes in hot markets that have been listed for a long time. And a well-staged home pretty much always commands a premium.

That’s especially important if you’re moving to a home within the same or another hot market. Prices will be rising quickly there, too, and you’re going to need every cent you can get.

Selling in a buyer’s market

A buyers’ market is the opposite of a sellers’ one. There are more homes for sale than buyers wanting to purchase them. And that makes selling much more challenging.

Related: Staging your home helps it sell 73 percent faster

You’ll either have to set your price at a very competitive level or endure weeks or months with zero serious viewings. And you’ll need to present your home in its best possible light: clean, neat, fresh, tasteful, uncluttered and well-maintained.

The trouble is, almost every other homeowner in your neighborhood will be doing the same things. Absent great luck or a ridiculously low asking price, you’ll probably have to learn to be patient.

Your real estate agent

Using a good real estate agent can make a big difference to the price you get and the speed with which you sell. This applies to buyers’ and sellers’ markets.

Pick one with extensive local experience and contacts. He or she also needs to have an impressive record for selling homes in your price range.

Related: Should you sell your house or rent it out?

Once you’ve chosen the best, listen to your professional’s advice, including the optimum price point for your home, depending on how urgently you need to sell it. And ask what to do to your home to make it more attractive to buyers.

Of course, you don’t have to take that advice. But your agent should be someone whose instincts you trust.

Getting your price right

“But I need to get $x to be able to afford the home I want to buy.” If real estate agents received a dollar every time they heard that, there’d be no real estate agents. Instead, they’d all be retired and sunning themselves next to pools in exotic locations.

The value of your home is entirely unrelated to your personal financial circumstances and hopes. It’s down to only one thing. And that’s how much a buyer is willing to pay.

Related: What’s my house worth? 4 ways to find your property value

Your chances of finding a buyer who’s going to pay significantly more than someone else recently paid for a similar home nearby are roughly similar to the chances of your winning the lottery. So you need to base your price on those comparable homes.

Of course, you need to vary your asking price depending on whether your home has a better or worse location and more or fewer rooms, square feet and amenities than your comparables. But you’re unlikely to get much more than the fair market value those comparisons reveal.

Get your staging right

How long does it take to sell a home? A lot less time, if you invest effort and a little money in making it more attractive to buyers.

And the “little” in “little money” is important. Very few major projects will add more to the sales price than they cost.

You’re looking for quick, cost-effective hits that may well cost less than $1,000 in total. Consider investing in things like:

  • Colorful plants and shrubs — Create “curb appeal” by making your front yard neat and attractive
  • Paint — Freshen up your interiors and exterior with soothing, neutral colors
  • Cleaning — If you lack the time, ability or inclination to do it yourself, get in a professional crew
  • Storage — Declutter your home and get rid of any bulky furniture that makes it feel small
  • Power washer rental — Make your sidings and patio/decking look like new
  • Maintenance — Catch up on the chores you’ve been meaning to do. Replace that cracked pane, fix that slipped shingle, clear those blocked gutters ...
  • Decorator’s touches — A throw here, a cushion there, maybe a new light fitting somewhere else

Related: Selling a home: improvements to get top dollar

Of course, if your home has any serious structural defects, now’s the time to fix them. And that may cost well over $1,000. But it’s hard to sell a property that’s obviously flawed.

If you really can’t afford to carry out necessary repairs, consider commissioning a home inspection before you list. Because it’s better for a buyer to know what’s required than to imagine a bottomless money pit.

So how long does it take to sell a home? Well, that’s going to depend on you, your local market and your choice of real estate agent.

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