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Ask an Expert: Should we sell now, or wait until the spring?

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Q. My husband and I are thinking about selling our one-bedroom apartment and looking for something bigger. Should we list it now, before interest rates go up too much, or wait until the spring, when more people will be looking?  As far as finding a two-bedroom apartment, will we be better off looking now or next year?

A.  There's rarely been a better time to sell--or a worse time to buy a two-bedroom. Here's how our experts break it down:

Jonathan Miller, real estate appraiser and market analyst, Miller Samuel: "Absolutely don't list now before you find something to buy. Inventory is near historic lows and you will likely sell your home before you find one to buy, unless you'd opt to rent until you find something.  While renting in the interim sounds good on paper, the rental market is also historically tight and rents are near record highs.  It's a catch-22.  The rationale of waiting to sell until you buy is part of the reason inventory is so low but I believe it's still a prudent strategy."

Deanna Kory, real estate broker, Corcoran:   "The market is the market, and whether or not it goes up or down, you will be buying and selling in the same market.  We are experiencing a strong market that I believe will last through the spring. The hardest thing is to find the right property and sell concurrently.  

I suggest getting an estimate on your current home, then looking at the two-bedroom market.  If you are seeing properties that fit what you want, I would think about listing your home sooner than later.  Why?  Mainly because when more people come to the market you will have a harder time to buy as the competition will be greater.  And buying is sometimes the harder part of the equation especially in the two-bedroom market.  

As long as you assume a very realistic sales price, selling should be easy, so take advantage of a (only slightly) less active two bedroom purchase market now. I had clients looking at two-bedrooms in the spring and summer and they lost bidding war after bidding war.  They just now have an accepted offer--so I say, go for it!"

Shirley Hackel, real estate broker, Warburg Realty:  "While spring is the acknowledged traditional season for residential real estate, transactions occur year round....List now. There’s a real shortage of inventory, so why wait?  If what you’re selling is a premium property, you’ll probably have the upper hand, so try to negotiate a flexible closing date with your purchaser, and maybe even terms for a post-closing possession, so you’re not homeless.

If you’re selling now, don’t wait another season, and certainly not another year, to make your next purchase.  It’s too risky.  I’ve been helping buyers and sellers since 1980 and have seen many cycles.  In my view, it’s important to buy and sell in the same market.  Rates and prices should remain level in the months ahead.  You’d need a crystal ball to forecast much further down the road."

Roberta Axelrod, real estate broker and asset manager, Time Equities.: "The answer depends on what you paid for what you have now and what you intend to do with the money once you sell. If you are going to buy a larger apartment, you may want to buy it before the market goes up.  If you are buying a smaller unit or going to rent, you may want to wait for the market to continue to rise."

Gordon Roberts, real estate broker, Warburg Realty"There’s much to do to prepare a property for sale – from interviewing at least three different brokers, studying the market to see where your property might fit, getting an idea of a realistic price, and getting the property in tip-top shape,  ready to show.    If you and your husband are both working or have other demands on your time, this process in itself could take six weeks or more. So, if you ‘re just beginning to think about selling at the beginning of November, you’re already in the 2014 market.   In terms of timing, I would try to get your apartment on the market in January and sold in time for you to buy in the spring.
 
That said, the concept of spring and autumn selling seasons is increasingly obsolete, especially in a market of tight inventory. There are buyers waiting in the wings for the 'right thing' to come along, or highly motivated because they’ve lost out on other properties they bid on. They (or their broker) have signed-up online for auto-notification of new listings that fit their criteria, and are ready to act regardless of season.
 
Historically, some sellers will temporarily withdraw their property from the market during the end-of-year holiday period -- Thanksgiving through the New Year’s --simply because they don’t want to be bothered with showings. Buyer inquiries tend to taper off during that period, anyway. Conversely, as I’ve advised some buyers, the holiday period can be a good time to look for end-of-year deals with less competition."


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