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March 1, 2018

Afraid of Selling Your Home Too Soon—and Missing Out on Tons of Cash? Consider This

If you sold your home at a good price, you’d be thrilled, right? But what if, a year or two later, you check in on your old home by idly punching your former address into realtor.com … and discover that its value has shot up even higher? In other words, had you only held onto this property a little longer, you could have made a real killing?

Welcome to home seller’s remorse—a rampant affliction among home sellers across the country. It can hit at any point after a home sale, where, akin to tossing a winning lottery ticket, home sellers torture themselves with fears that they’ve sold their home too soon, thus losing out on tens of thousands of dollars. Home seller’s remorse can even kick in before a sale, stressing out homeowners who are thinking of selling but are worrying that they could be pulling the trigger too early … and missing out on the windfall their home could become.

Sound painfully familiar? In the strong seller’s market we have now, where prices are rising across the country, it’s understandable.

“Sellers tend to think that if they just wait a little longer, they can sell for more,” says Boris Sharapan Fabrikant, a real estate agent at Triplemint in New York. (Of course, he adds, the same is true of buyers: “They tend to think they could have bought for less earlier.”)

Yet real estate experts insist that home sellers should stop second-guessing themselves and make peace with when they sell, and for how much. Here are some reasons you should never worry whether you’re selling your home too soon.

Reason 1: Just as with stocks, you can’t time the housing market

Have you ever heard how you can’t time the stock market? Pretty much the same thing goes for selling a house. Clairvoyant powers or a fully functional Magic-8 ball would be needed to know exactly what home prices will do next; even economists and real estate agents wouldn’t dare make predictions with any level of certainty.

So as a home seller, you shouldn’t beat yourself up; hindsight, as they always say, is 20/20.

To snap yourself out of this mindset, remind yourself that home prices could also drop—in which case you will be thanking your lucky stars that you sold when you did. Or, if home prices do indeed rise a year or two later, it can help to take a step back and consider the long-term perspective.

“When you look back 10 years from now, it is unlikely that you will be as upset about the marginal difference,” Fabrikant says. “What looms large today will likely seem insignificant several years and several other curveballs later in life.”

Reason 2: If you wait, the price of homes you’re buying could rise, too

It also helps to see the trade-offs, says Shannon Boudreau, sales director at a new development, 389 East 89th Street, in New York City. Some of her clients are downsizing from a large house to an apartment in the city.

“Sure, potentially, if these home sellers held onto their house another year, they would have possibly gotten a higher return on their investment,” she concedes. But at the same time, the prices of homes they were buying would have risen, too.

“The likelihood of values increasing elsewhere, in a nearby neighborhood, is also high,” says Boudreau.

So it’s a wash. As such, “I would never advise someone to wait, because values are increasing everywhere,” says Boudreau. “The more you make on your home sale, the more you’ll probably have to pay for whatever you buy.”

Reason 3: Odds are, you sell when you have to

Last but not least, homes aren’t abstract, tradable commodities like stocks, where the only thing that matters is the stock’s price. Homes are homes, and as such, have to fit your life circumstances—meaning that they need to be large enough to raise your family, to offer a convenient commute to your office, to be situated in a good school district, and more.

So if you’ve changed jobs, or are expecting a new family member, or your eldest just got accepted to the top magnet school across town, then the question of when to sell your home may not truly be an option. You really can’t wait!

“Sometimes, sellers have to sell immediately,” says Triplemint agent Gina Ko. So when clients fret that they might be selling their property too soon, Ko reminds them of the big picture.

“Whether it’s to be closer to family in another area, preparing for a baby to arrive, or setting themselves up for a better job opportunity, these life shifts are opportunities for bigger and better things to come,” she says.

So you can stop worrying and torturing yourself. Trust that, in the long run, you’ll sell at just the right time.

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