Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time – 5 Different Options

One of the most frequently asked questions of me and other real estate experts goes something like this: “I am buying and selling a home at the same time, how can I do this without ending up with nowhere to go?”.

This is a valid question. Unless you are buying your first home or decide to be a landlord, chances are you have a property to sell as well.

The biggest fear most people have is not knowing where they are going to live next. But sometimes, that fear can cause homebuyers to weaken their negotiating position by trying to account for this risk.

And weakening your negotiating position can mean less money when you sell, and paying more when you buy.

But for some, certainty is more important than money.

So what is the best way to handle buying and selling a home at the same time? Like most important topics in real estate, there is no single answer for every situation (wouldn’t that be nice).

I wrote this so you can see some of the most common scenarios, and the pros and cons of each approach.

1. Buy a Home First then Sell Your Existing Home

Ok so this is not technically “at the same time”. But it is the same concept, as you are making two transaction with the goal of getting into a new home.

Some people tackle this problem like this: Buy a home, move in and then immediately get their existing home ready and list it for sale.

Before you do this there is one obvious thing to consider: affordability. Can you afford to own two homes at once, even if it is just for a couple of months?

Another important question is, will a lender give you mortgage if you still have to pay carrying costs on your other property?

Pros:

This is the cleanest, most cost efficient way to sell a home when you need to buy another.

First of all, you can move your things into the new home. This sets you up to stage the home you want to sell, do repairs and not have to leave for showings.

It also means you will not have to attach any contingencies to your contracts. In most cases, attaching contingencies in your offer means you will have to sacrifice somewhere else (like price).

Cons:

The big, glaring drawback to this approach is that you may not be able to swing this financially. It may either be financially impossible for you or put too much strain on your finances.

You (hopefully) have a nice amount of equity in your home you are selling. Most times you will want to use that to buy the next home. Using this approach you will not be able to.

2. Use a Home Sale Contingency

A home sale contingency says this in contract speak: “I will buy your home, IF I can sell mine first in _____ amount of time”.

Many Realtors think “Home Sale Contingency” is a very bad thing to hear. And there are reasons for that. But in some market conditions and price points they are more common.

If you cannot sell your home in a reasonable time frame, you are able to void the contract on the home you are trying to buy.

Most real estate contracts will specify a certain timeframe for you to remove your home sale contingency. And many times it also discloses what price you will list your current property.

You can either do a simultaneous closing date, or even easier get a short rent back period once you sell the first house to move into your new home.

Pros:

This eliminates the risk of selling a home and not having somewhere to move next. It also allows your lender to account for the sale of your home when considering your debt to income ratio.

You can use the equity in the house you are selling to qualify for the new home.

If you price your home well and write a strong offer to a seller, this can be an option.

Cons:

A home sale contingency weakens your negotiating position when you are buying. A seller will want a strong offer to make up for the uncertainty of whether or not you will actually be able to sell your current house.

If there are multiple offers, it is difficult to get your offer chosen if there is a home sale contingency. It is possible, but again you have to incentivise the seller in other ways (money, money, money).

If you are looking at new construction homes, many builders will not take a home sale contingency.

The drawbacks of using a home sale contingency become even more glaring in a hot seller’s market, where there are not many homes for sale and lots of demand.

3. Use a “Home of Choice” Contingency

This basically says, “I will sell you my home, if I find somewhere else to live”.

You sign a contract with a buyer on your existing house, and then you have a period in which you can void the contract, or remove the contingency.

Essentially, this is the opposite of the home sale contingency, and puts a contingency in your contract with the buyer of your home.

Pros:

Again, this protects you somewhat against selling your home and not having anywhere to live after it closes.

A good option to not have to use the home sale contingency in your purchase contract.

In a hot real estate market, this could be a better option than a home sale contingency.

Cons:

A home of choice contingency will narrow your buyer pool on the home you are selling.

Buyers who absolutely must find a home (which is your ideal market as a seller) are often turned off by the uncertainty.

Can affect either your bottom line or other contract terms because you will have a smaller buyer pool.

4. Get A Contract On Your Home First

The more that you are willing to ignore that little voice that says “you will not be ok if you do not find a place to live”, the easier time you will have in the real estate market when buying and selling a home at the same time.

Getting a contract on your home before you write a contract on another changes your contingency from a “home sale” to a “home settlement”.

The wording may differ in different areas but the idea is the same: in this scenario your home already has a buyer, you are just waiting to go to closing.

Then, you go into the market looking for a home to buy. You still will need the funds from your current property to close. But there will be more certainty that you will have those funds shortly.

Pros:

Easier to get your offer accepted as opposed to a home sale contingency.

Your buyer is already identified and you all have a contract, which gives the sellers of the home you are buying more certainty.

Better for planning purposes, you will have a settlement date on your current home to know when you need to have another place.

Cons:

It is still a contingency, so in a competitive market may hurt your chances against other offers that do not have this contingency.

You will need to figure out the time between closing on your current home and closing on your new home (rent back or temporary housing).

5. Sell Your Home First Then Buy A New Home

Ok, so again, this one is technically not selling and buying at the same time. But it is the same concept so it passes.

This is another great way to make sure that you have negotiation leverage both as a seller and as a buyer. Why? No extra contingencies are needed.

You will list your property, close and get your funds and then go look for your next home to write an offer on. From there, you can either find temporary housing or rent your property back for a time from the buyer of your home.

Pros:

Just like option #1, you do not have to use extra contingencies.

You keep your negotiating power in tact, which is good in a competitive market.

This option is more financially doable for more people than buying a home first then selling later.

Cons:

You will have to figure out temporary housing, or get a buyer that will give you a rent back period.

Potentially having to move twice, if you do not get a rent back.

Finding a temporary place to live can be a bit difficult if you do not have an option to move in with friends or family. (AirBnB? Long term hotel?)


More Tips

Here are some general tips on successfully buying and selling a home at the same time.

Have a backup plan

Many of my clients who have successfully sold a property to buy another have used one of the approaches above, but then either switched to another plan or had something else as a backup.

For example, you can start off writing offers with a home sale contingency while you are preparing your home for sale.

However if you do not have success, once you get a contract on your home you can write an offer contingent on settlement.

Get Clear on Your Goals

Communication is key, and your real estate agent will need to know exactly what your timeframes and expectations are. Then you can work with them to figure out which plan will work best for you.

Moving Out of State

Moving out of state adds another challenge, but the concept is still the same. You will have two real estate agents (one selling your house, one helping you buy).

Experienced agents will be able to easily navigate this with you. There will often be some communication between your two agents with updates on your contract if you have a contingency of some kind.

Listen to Other Options

These 5 tactics are not the only possible options you have.

If your Realtor, lender or someone else you trust has an idea of how to get your new home hear them out.

Trust and Accept

People in all real estate markets buy and sell at the same time frequently. Not only can it be done, it is common.

It can also lead to some stress. If you hired the right Realtor, just trust that they know they process and that it will work out how it should.

There are frequently bumps in the road, some bigger than others. But if you are patient and diligent, and do your part to make the transaction go along eventually you will get into your new home.

Conclusion

One of the biggest stressors in your lifetime will be moving. If you are buying and selling at the same time, it can add another layer of trickiness.

But the truth, with the right approach and a good plan it does not have to be. There are many ways to approach your transactions some of the most popular we discussed above.

Have a question? Reach out below!

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.