Do You Really Need to Sell Your House?

By Eric Tyson, Ray Brown

Although spending your entire life in the first home you buy is an unlikely prospect, some people do end up living in the same home for 10, 20, even 30 or more years. If, like most prospective house sellers, you have a choice between staying put and selling, not selling has clear advantages. Selling your house and then buying another one takes a great deal of legwork and research time on your part. Whether you sell your house yourself or hire an agent, you’re going to be heavily involved in getting your house ready for sale and keeping it pristine while it’s on the market.

In addition to time, selling your house and buying another one can cost serious money. Between real estate commissions, loan fees, title insurance, transfer tax, and myriad other costs of selling your house and then buying another one, you can easily spend 15 percent or more of the value of the property that you’re selling (see the bar on the left in the following figure).

sellhome-trading
Trading homes can cost you big bucks.

Fifteen percent sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, consider this: Unless you own your house free and clear of any mortgage debt, your transaction costs are going to gobble up an even larger percentage of the money you’ve invested in your home.

Check out this scenario: You’re thinking about selling your $240,000 house. If selling your house and buying another one costs you about 15 percent of the first house’s value, then you’re taking $36,000 out of your sale proceeds. However, if you happen to owe $180,000 on your mortgage, your equity in the home — the difference between the amount the house is worth ($240,000) and the amount you owe ($180,000) — is $60,000. Therefore, the $36,000 in transaction costs devours a huge 60 percent of your equity (see the bar on the right in the figure). Ouch!

Before spending that much of your hard-earned money, make sure you give careful thought and consideration to why you want to sell, the financial consequences of selling, and the alternatives to selling.