October 14, 2016 in Real Estate

Dear Real Estate Adviser,
I will be retiring in 28 months and presently live in Virginia. I’m trying to determine when the best time of year is to list my house for sale.

I’ve done all the upgrades. My intention is to move to South Carolina, so I don’t want to have to travel back for closing, etc. How should I time this?
— Leontyne M.

Dear Leontyne,
Congratulations on your impending retirement. And kudos on your far-sightedness in planning your home sale.

In your state, as in most, data show that the best time of year to sell is early March through June, a period when parents are trying to get their families relocated in plenty of time for a fresh start in the fall semester at the new school. Many buyers also have their tax refund checks in hand in this period.

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To drill down a bit deeper, a study by Zillow, the real estate database, released in spring 2016 found that homes listed between May 1 and May 15 sold an average of 18.5 days faster than homes not listed in that span, plus they sold for 1% more than average, translating to a value-add of roughly $1,700 on a $170,000 home.

The 2nd-best time to sell a house

The September-to-October period typically brings another short spike in home sales, but it’s is a distant second to spring when the buying universe is larger.

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In your case, listing your home in early March of 2019, at least based on present market conditions, would seem to be optimal for a home sale because it coincides perfectly with your retirement timeline. Additionally, there are fewer homes for sale in March than April and May, yet there are early birds out looking, especially in heated markets, as well as a subgroup of motivated buyers such as people relocating for a job who couldn’t find the right house during the winter due to low inventory.

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How to handle the closing

Realize that market conditions could well change in the next couple of years, with some predicting a mild downturn.

As for the closing, you needn’t be present for it, unlike the buyer. State laws vary slightly, but typically you’ll be allowed to presign any transfer documents, including the deed.

Alternatively, you can opt to give your agent or lawyer the power of attorney to sign most documents, including those last-minute ones sent to the escrow holder. Or, you can opt to sign any of these documents from a distance as long as they are witnessed and/or notarized. The sales proceeds would then just be wired directly to your bank in South Carolina.

By the way, I advise against signing an agent listing contract for any longer than 60 days if the market is still hot. That demands performance in a time frame that’s fair for both parties, plus you can always sign an extension. By contrast, it’s much harder to walk back a 90-day or 120-day contract of a poorly performing agent.

Good luck and happy retirement.

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