Stay or Sell: How to Know When It's Time to Move

5 factors to keep in mind when deciding whether to sell your home or stay put

Of all the decisions to be made when buying and selling a home, the most difficult may be the very first one: whether or not it’s time to move. Setting aside the myriad financial calculations, potential sellers have to weigh their emotional investment in their home and become experts in a range of subjects like local housing markets, equity, mortgages and a host of other complicated and crucial circumstances.

As with any big decision, it can be helpful to start with a list. So ESTATENVY put together this list of five essential factors to review when considering whether to sell a home or stay. Of course, there’s no easy math to making the decision, but in accounting for each item on this list, anyone considering selling their home should be well on their way to coming to a conclusion.

1. Size

Is your home still big enough to accommodate your family? If not, your options are fairly limited. You can move or renovate. As far as renovations go, adding space tends to be one of the costlier procedures, but it may still prove less expensive than moving if you are hoping to swap out your two-bedroom starter for a sprawling manor. That’s assuming you have the property to accommodate an annex. If you don’t, then it’s likely time to move.

2. Neighborhood

Location is one of the biggest determining factors in the value of a home. If your home is in a high-value location whose benefits don’t apply to your lifestyle, you are essentially paying for unused amenities. Maybe you live in a bustling downtown location but you are more of a homebody; it may be time to find a larger space out in the burbs. Or maybe you live in a top-rated school district but don’t have any kids; you might fetch a high price from an eager family. Evaluate exactly what you want from a neighborhood, and think about what your home has to offer potential sellers with different lifestyles. If you’re not getting the most out of your neighborhood, a move could prove lucrative.

3. Timing

Do you have to sell? If so, congratulations, you no longer have to make a decision. Otherwise, you’re in a better position than you may realize. Most realtors recommend decreasing a home’s asking price by roughly three percent every three to four months, but without the pressing need to sell, you can list your home for a higher price than its objective value and wait for a buyer for whom your home is perfect. In the meantime, you can keep your eye on the market and wait for your perfect home to come along.

4. Costs

Buying a home is expensive. Frustratingly, so is selling one. Even if you are downsizing or moving to a less desirable location and the price you get for your old home is higher than the cost of your new one, that difference may not be enough to offset the costs—in money, time and energy—of moving. Do your research. Make sure you understand all of the costs involved, then figure out if a move is in your budget.

5. Renovations

Consider what’s lacking in your current home. If your gripes pertain exclusively to the home itself, not to the location or property or neighbors or anything else outside of the building, you may be able to solve those problems with renovations. If you picture yourself preparing extravagant meals for dinner parties but your kitchen is too small to cook in and you don’t have a proper dining room, talk to a contractor. You may be able to create the cooking and entertaining venue you’ve dreamed of by knocking down one key wall. If your home is plagued by other, less cosmetic structural issues, like a leaky roof, drafty windows or a moldy basement, you’ll likely have to take care of those issues even if you do decide to sell.