How long will it take me to sell my house?
That's a "how long is a piece of string?" question, because it can be done quickly or it can take more than a year, depending on your circumstances and the decisions you take. However, if you move methodically along the timeline, you will maximise your chances of a successful transaction without crises and without stalling. For instance, if you get all your documentation and any legal issues sorted out before the house goes on the market, you won't hit problems once you've exchanged contracts; and if you take time to choose the right agent and select the right approach to marketing the property, you should attract interest and offers quickly.
Usually, the timeline tends to speed up as you proceed, though sometimes it gets bogged down. For instance, in a slow market, sometimes a property might sit on the market for a while without buyers showing much interest. If this happens, you might want to talk to your agent about kick-starting the marketing campaign or even changing your strategy completely.
Making Your Decision
Sometimes, the decision to sell your house is made for you. You get a new job the other side of the country, or there's a new arrival in the family. But sometimes, you might want to think about it for a while; you might want to move, but wonder whether it's the right time. Or you might need to think about whether it's better to extend the house, or to move to a larger one.
Once you take the decision, the clock starts ticking, so it's time to start contacting agents and preparing for a sale. You might want to wait for the best time to start actively marketing the house; there's often a key selling season and you'll have a better chance of getting the right price if you wait to put the house on the market. But don't wait till then to talk to agents, assess the market, and start getting the property and paperwork ready.
Speed and money have an interesting relationship. Sometimes, there's a trade-off; a quick sale might mean you're forced to accept a lower price, and if you want to get the best price for your home, you might need to wait. (Again, an agent can tell you whether you're in a buyers' or a sellers' market and advise you accordingly.) But auctions and sealed bid auctions can create a sense of urgency that sometimes gets both a quick sale and top pricing. Bear that in mind when you're thinking about your timeline.
Get the Property and Paperwork Ready First
Once you've made the decision to sell, take a long, hard look at your property. Even before you call an agent, think about tidying up, de-cluttering, repairing the things you've meant to get round to (and never did), and generally refreshing the place. Make your place look its best. Think about what potential buyers–and agents–will see when they arrive; make the driveway, the front of the house, the front door and the hallway look their best to make a positive first impression. If your property is in reasonable shape, you might still budget between $500 and $1,000 for a quick smartening up and a few repairs; that could give you a quicker sale and a much better price.
You might think you'd want to choose an agent first. But if agents turn up at your house and see the place not looking its best, they may feel it's not worth as much as a better maintained, fresher looking property. It's in your interest to impress them before they decide on a valuation.
Start getting your paperwork in order, too. You'll need all kinds of documentation, such as warranties for any work you had done, certificates of compliance, your purchase and finance documents. Start a file now; it will save you so much time later.
Educate Yourself Before Choosing an Agent
This step could take you a weekend of disciplined work or several months of relaxed accumulation of information. You could, of course, go straight to the next step of choosing an agent, but the better you understand the property market in your area, the better your chances of selecting the right agent. Check out your area; look at the market as a whole, to understand the most desirable areas and the highest and lowest priced properties, and then you can see how your property relates to others. Don't just look at prices, but also at amenities; what is the average number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Is having a pool exceptional, or the norm?
You now know not just what kind of price you might expect for your home, but also if it has any atypical features that might justify a premium price, or present a marketing problem.
Choose an Agent and get Your Legals in Place
For a vast majority of people, the next step is choosing an agent (see our separate guide for how to interview agents and make the best choice). Of course, you might decide to market your home yourself–in which case your timeline will have some different activities (taking photos, drafting particulars, and advertising).
Some states also require you to choose a solicitor or conveyancer before you put your house in the market. Others don't. But we would advise you not to delay till you want to exchange contracts. By the time you need a lawyer's involvement, you want to get on with the sale; you don't want to spend more time contacting and choosing a legal professional. Also, the earlier a conveyancer is involved, the more likely it is that they will spot any problems with the documentation which could hold you up.
Choosing an agent will depend partly on how quickly you can make appointments and how quickly you want to take the decision, but it shouldn't take more than a week or two.
Now the Hard Work Begins
Working with your agent, you need to choose how the property is going to be marketed, as well as at what price (or guide price and reserve, in the case of auctions). If you go to auction, then your timeline will be driven by the date of the auction; however, if you choose to used a sealed bid auction, you set the date yourself. Auctions can create a sense of urgency for buyers, and that might lead to a good price as well as a quick sale–but take your agent's advice.
Your agent will probably need at least two weeks to prepare the property for sale. That will include preparing the particulars, photography, and floor plans; some states have particular requirements (such as a Zoning Certificate and drainage diagram, if you live in NSW, though you won't need it in Queensland).
Time for the Marketing Campaign!
A sales campaign can take a single day, or several months. That will depend on your property, the state of the market, and your own needs, as well as your agent's advice. Even if you get an offer made on your property quickly, you may decide to try to negotiate a better price, or wait for a higher offer.
If you accept an offer, you now need to move on to exchange of contracts. At this point, things speed up considerably.
Exchange of Contracts to Completion
You now have, usually, 4-6 weeks to move from an exchange of contracts to completion, though a different time-scale can be agreed, for instance where a buyer needs to complete on their own sale before they can fund the purchase. (Some states have a 5 day cooling off period for the buyer, which you'll need to take into account.)
This is when your buyer will need to finalise their finance, and when any legal loose ends get tied up. If you got all your paperwork together earlier on, this phase should hold no terror for you - on the other hand if you left it till now to find vital documentation, it may be panic stations!
And … Breathe!
At the end of the process, everything happens at once; the sale goes through, the money comes through, you hand over the keys, and it's time to crack open the champagne.
You did remember to buy a bottle of champagne, didn't you?
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