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How to Buy and Sell Your House at the Same Time

Oct 28, 2018 | 4 min read | Beth Braverman

Key Takeaways

  • You can buy and sell at once, but it takes planning.
  • Ask sellers if they'll accept a contingency until you sell your home.
  • Use one realtor for both transactions, if possible.


After four years in their starter home in Wind Gap, PA., Samantha and Michael Ondilla were ready to move up to a house with a bigger lawn and a better school district for their two-year-old son.

They started looking at properties in nearby Nazareth, Pa., but they knew they wouldn't be able to put a down payment on their next property without selling their current home first.

 


The couple talked to a lender about getting a bridge loan that would have helped them handle the finances associated with two mortgages for a short period, if necessary. In a bridge loan, a lender gives home buyers a short-term loan based on the equity in their existing home that allows the buyers to make a down payment before completing the sale of their existing house. They rely on buyers being able to pay off the bridge loan once they've sold their house.

While bridge loans allow buyers some more breathing room while buying and selling, they have some drawbacks as well. They typically carry higher interest rates than other types of loans, and borrowers may end up carrying more debt than they planned if it takes longer than expected to sell their homes.

Ultimately, the Ondillas decided they were uncomfortable with that type of financial commitment. Instead, they wrote contingencies into the offers they made on other homes, nullifying the deal if they couldn't find a buyer for their home.

“At first, that just put us out of the running," says Samantha Ondilla, 37. “People were just like, 'no, sorry.'"

Ultimately, however, the Ondillas accepted an offer on their home and found a buyer that would accept their contingency offer. They managed to arrange the closings on both homes on the very same day. To make matters even more complicated, the buyers of Ondilla's home also needed to sell their home the same day in order to complete that transaction.

“I was nervous, but I was optimistic that everything would go well," Ondilla says. “And it did work out."

As the Ondillas learned, buying a new home becomes far more complicated when you also have one to sell. Since most people own one home at a time, attempting to buy a property while selling another is fairly common. If you're able to line up your home sale and purchase perfectly, you'll be able to roll over the equity of your home into your down payment. Last year, more than 70% of sellers were also trying to purchase a home, according to Zillow.

That doesn't make it easy, especially in today's tight real estate market where sellers have less incentive to work with buyers. With some advance planning, however, it's possible to make it work. “You just have to be organized and really follow the timelines that your realtor sets," says Sam DeBianchi, founder of Sam DeBianchi Real Estate.

Here are some more tips to keep in mind:

 

Do some legwork ahead of time

You'll want to do some serious studying of your local market. Make sure that there are properties available that you'd like to move into, and get a sense of how much they cost. Get your mortgage pre-approval, and have your financial documents in order so you can move quickly.

In the meantime, work with a real estate agent to prepare your own home for listing. You'll want to be as realistic as possible in valuing your property, both to ensure it sells quickly and to get a sense of your potential proceeds/shortfall.


Use one realtor for both transactions

Buying and selling real estate is complicated, and when you're doing multiple deals at once, there are lots of moving parts that can throw your schedule off track and threaten the deal. If it's possible, it makes sense to work with one real estate agent for both transactions, since they'll be incentivized to get both deals done on schedule.

Bonus: Some realtors will give you a discount on their sales commission if you use them to help you buy a home, too.


Be cautious about waiving your contingency

The Ondillas' experience illustrates how tough it can be to find sellers willing to accept a contingency clause, making the purchase conditional on the sale of your home. If you're relying on the equity from the first home to finance the purchase of the second property, however, waiving the contingency comes with risks. Without a contingency clause, if the sale of your first home falls through and you're unable to purchase the second property, you could lose your earnest money deposit.

To keep your contingency, you may have to increase your offer price or find another way to sweeten the deal. For example, the Ondillas agreed that if they couldn't complete the purchase, they'd give the sellers $2,000 to put toward mortgage payments while looking for another buyer.

 

 

What you can do next

Do some research on your local real estate market and take account of your own finances. You'll want to know how much potential equity you have in your home as well as other savings so that you can make educated decisions about your budget for the next home.

 

Beth Braverman is a freelance writer covering personal finance, parenting, and careers. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Consumer Reports, CNBC.com, and CNNMoney.com. She lives with her family in Westchester County, N.Y.

 

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