How Long Does It Take to Sell a House? (Winter 2023)
How long does it take to sell a house? The answer inevitably depends on both the house itself and on market conditions.
Statistics from the St. Louis Federal Reserve show that homes spent an average 56 days on the market as of late 2022, up from a recent low of 31 days in May 2022. (For clarity, days on market is a metric that tracks the time between when a house is listed and when it goes under contact with a buyer.)
But you also have to consider time to close. If you go under contract with a financed buyer, data from Ice Mortgage Technology shows that the average number of days it takes to close a purchase loan is 50.
From list to close, you’re looking at just over three months (50 days to get an offer, and 50 days to close). And this doesn’t account for any time spent preparing to put the house on the market. Here’s where things stand as of early 2023.
How is the market shift affecting home sales?
With rising interest rates, home sales have been declining. According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales declined by 4% in November 2022 compared to a month earlier. Homes received an average 2.3 offers in November 2022, down from 3.8 one year earlier. In a sign of just how competitive things remain, 22% of buyers waived an inspection contingency, and 16% of buyers waived an appraisal contingency. Both of these represent a decline from a year ago, when sellers found themselves in a stronger position.
For perspective, while the market is slowing from its white-hot status last year, in historical terms things are returning to more normal conditions. NAR reported average days on market in July 2011 was 98 days, and in 2012, it was 68, which at the time seemed quick on the heels of the housing crisis.
Since 2020, low interest rates and other factors caused mortgage lenders to become particularly overloaded. This caused the average time to close to go as high as 57 days for purchase loans in Jan. 2021, historical numbers show. As interest rates rise, time to close has begun to normalize a bit.
Remember, these statistics of days on market and times to close are just averages — some lenders may be able to close faster, in as little as 30 days. Big banks typically have a lot more internal red tape to deal with before they’re able to fund a loan and write a check. On the other hand, smaller local lenders often have shorter closing times because they tend to be nimbler and more adept at navigating the quirks of their local market.
How long does it take to prep the home?
Pennie Carroll, a top real estate agent in Des Moines, Iowa, says the amount of prep time varies based on how much work and maintenance the homeowner has done in the past, but she estimates an average of about a month to get the house ready.
“The process usually starts with the agent coming to the house and providing guidance on what needs to be done — and, more importantly, what doesn’t need to be done,” she says. “Sometimes sellers can waste time on things that aren’t necessary or won’t do anything to help speed up the sale.”
“I can have a house staged, photographed, and listed within 48 hours,” says Jamie McMartin, a HomeLight Elite Agent and top-selling real estate agent in the Houston metro area. “But typically it’s a three- to five-day process.”
McMartin walks us through how she accelerates the selling timeline when appropriate:
Staging, photography, listing description, 3-D tours, and for-sale sign in yard
|3-5 days, but in some cases as few as 48 hours|
Listing goes live, ideally on a Weds., with a day or two buffer to generate showing interest
|Showings and open house: Showings start available starting Fri. with open houses on Sat. and Sun.||3 days|
|Offer review and counter offers: Ideally received by Sunday night and finalized by Monday at 5 p.m.||2 days|
|Inspection period: Inspector completes report and amendments negotiated||5-7 days|
|Appraisal period: Appraiser visits property and submits a detailed report to the lender||8-10 (after buyer pays the lender an appraisal fee)|
|Appraisal-related negotiations (if necessary)||1-2|
How can I sell my house faster?
Whether you’re in a financial predicament or spontaneously moving to Paris in a week, you can always opt to sell your house faster by working directly with a cash buyer.
If you request an offer from an iBuyer company or house buying company without putting your house on the market, you can expect to receive an offer in as little as 48 hours and close in as few as one to three weeks.
Since cash buyers prefer to purchase properties “as is,” sellers can also lop off any chunk of time they normally would have spent on listing preparations.
The use of cash also eliminates any lender involvement, cutting out the lender-ordered appraisal and creating a clearer path to settlement.
See how the main aspects of the timeline compare below:
|Sell directly for cash||Listing process|
|Sale timeline||7 to 30 days||66 day average; 18 to attract an offer; 48 to close the loan|
|Home preparations||0 days||30 days|
|Time to get an offer||As few as 48 hours||18 days|
|Appraisal||0 days||8-10 days|
Interested to request a cash offer? Consider starting with HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, which provides cash offers for homes in almost any condition nationwide. Sellers can receive an offer in as few as 48 hours and close in as little as 10 days. No staging. No showings. No open houses.
One thing to keep in mind is that the offer received from a direct buyer is likely to be less than market value, and sometimes significantly so. So you have to weigh a faster sale against a potentially lower offer amount.
Even with the market moving as fast as it is, you still have to have a house that is not only sellable but picture perfect. To create that buzz among buyers, we make sure the property is decluttered and staged correctly, so that the listing photos draw in the offers and the right buyers.
What factors impact how long it takes to sell?
A number of variables including where you live, supply and demand, buyer preferences, seasonality, and property condition can impact how long it takes to sell a house. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top factors below.
Although national metrics provide a broad indication of how the housing market is performing and whether it’s in or out of balance, real estate varies at a local level depending on supply and demand for the area, housing needs for the area, resident income, net population influx or outflow, and employment opportunities to name only a few factors.
Below we’ve rounded up time to contract data for markets with data taken straight from the MLS so you can see how the numbers compare.
When you have a high supply of homes for sale and fewer buyers, houses generally take longer to sell as buyers can be more choosy and aren’t under pressure to make quick offers.
As of November 2022, the inventory of unsold existing homes was 3.3 months — up from 2.1 months a year earlier, according to data from NAR. For reference, 6 months of supply is considered to be a balanced market. While we’re not there yet, the trend lines are moving in that direction.
With mortgage rates on the rise, it’s possible that demand could cool even more, as more would-be buyers delay their home search due to increased financing costs.
Check your local Realtor® board website for data on current supply levels, local home prices, and days on market trends to give you a more precise gauge of market temperature for your area.
Your real estate agent
Who you select as your real estate agent can play a big role in how fast your house sells. What you want to look at is the agent’s personal DOM. If an agent’s average DOM is lower than average, it’s a good sign that they price homes correctly to attract quick offers and come out of the gate with a strong marketing plan for their listings.
HomeLight’s agent platform tracks average DOM and how agents in your area stack up against their competition. Agents awarded with HomeLight’s “Sells Homes Fast” badge are among the top 5% of agents based on average days on market for seller transactions.
Your home’s condition
“Even with the market moving as fast as it is, you still have to have a house that is not only sellable but picture perfect,” McMartin says.
“To create that buzz among buyers, we make sure the property is decluttered and staged correctly, so that the listing photos draw in the offers and the right buyers.”
If your home is overdue for some repairs or renovations, the lack of maintenance can encourage lowball offers or deter buyers who are looking for a move-in-ready residence.
And if the inspection uncovers serious safety issues or problems with the home that could negatively impact its value, it could lead to price negotiations or delays. Inspection issues were responsible for 11% of delayed contracts and 8% of terminated contacts.
Timing your property to premiere on the market during peak seasons is likely to get your home in front of the right buyers faster.
“When kids are in school our market is usually ready to go roaring,” explains McMartin. Conversely, “When kids are on winter holiday breaks, we’re really pretty slow because the parents are trying to make sure they have fun and family time.”
The Houston-Galveston market also sees increased demand for homes with pools from January through September and an uptick in the search for vacation and Airbnb homes in Galveston during the months of February through October.
“Since it takes 30 days to close on the property, people begin looking in January because they want to be able to move in and enjoy the properties,” she explains. “In warm months, those properties tend to sell quicker and for a lot more.”
What is the best month to sell a house?
Nationally, the best month to sell a house fast is April, where data from HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator shows that homes listed in April sell 6 days sooner than average. The best time to sell a house for the most money looks to be March when homes sell for 2.2% more than the yearly average.
However, due to the seasonal factors discussed above, the best time to sell a house quickly varies from market to market.
|City||Best month to list if you want to sell fast||Average time saved|
|Chicago||March||Sell 6 days sooner|
|Boston||March||Sell 14 days sooner|
|Los Angeles||March||Sell 4 days sooner|
|Tampa||February||Sell 4 days sooner|
|Cincinnati||May||Sell 23 days sooner|
|New York||June||Sell 12 days sooner|
|Philadelphia||May||Sell 6 days sooner|
|Atlanta||May||Sell 5 days sooner|
|Las Vegas||May||Sell 4 days sooner|
|Phoenix||February||Sell 3 days sooner|
Source: HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator
What can I do to sell my house more quickly?
While you might not be able to control things like the weather, a buyer’s financial situation or the state of the market, there are some actions you can take to help accelerate the sale.
Take care of routine maintenance and simple repairs.
Here are some of the typical pre-listing preparations you can get started on right away:
- Reduce clutter.
Consider using a service such as 1–800-JUNK–USA or Junk King to get rid of unwanted items. Take cardboard and other recyclables out to your nearest recycling center. Drop off donations to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. If you have a lot of items you’re not ready to part with, consider renting a storage unit so you can clear them out of your home for showings.
- Make small, low-cost repairs.
In the time leading up to listing, try to knock out as many of the easy, inexpensive repairs and improvements as possible. Replace mismatched cabinet pulls, touch up scuffed paint, or fix leaking faucets. If you have a long list, hire a handyman who can complete the work in one day.
- Crank up the curb appeal.
You never get a second-chance to make a first impression. That goes for property as well as people. So, now’s the time to pressure wash your home’s exterior and mow, mulch, and clean up your landscaping. Consider adding some flowerpots to add some pops of color to impress your open house guests.
Find a top real estate agent.
Carroll says this is the most effective tool you can have in your selling arsenal: an agent who knows the local market and can help you sidestep the common obstacles that can slow down the process. Be sure to check a prospective agent’s average DOM and compare it to local averages to gauge their track record for successful sales. You can contact a Realtor as early as three months before listing.
Resist the urge to do major renovations.
Spending time and money on major upgrades has been shown to not yield a higher return on the final sale price. Remodeling Magazine reported that the average payback for 22 common professional remodeling projects in 150 major U.S. markets was only 58.93% in 2022. That means your renovations likely won’t translate into a dollar-for-dollar increase in home value. So, if your bathroom remodel cost $25,000, you may be looking at more like a $14,000 increase in property value.
Enlist any contractors early, if necessary.
Renovations cost not only money but time. Talk to your real estate agent about what your home needs; however, keep the estimated length of your project in mind:
|Kitchen remodel||6 weeks|
|Bathroom remodel||4.5 weeks|
|New roof||5 days|
|New siding||2 weeks|
|Wood flooring||1 week (+3-5 days for wood to settle)|
|Exterior house paint||1 week|
Source: HomeAdvisor data collected from thousands of users / homeowners nationwide
In addition, rising material prices have hiked remodeling costs to the tune of 35% for some popular selections, while shipping and permitting delays have added weeks to most renovation timelines.
Fortunately, supply chain-related price increases have begun to abate going into early 2023, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders.
If you’re planning for any work to be done to the house, line up any necessary contractors as soon as you decide to sell.
Make sure the baseboards are showing.
Buyers like open, spacious rooms that are easy to navigate. With this simple tip, Carroll encourages sellers to declutter and edit rooms with too much furniture crammed into the space.
Consider a pre-listing inspection.
A pre-listing inspection provides the opportunity to identify any potential issues early on, so you can get a head-start on any necessary fixes prior to the buyer’s inspection.
Since sellers pay the inspector for this pre-listing evaluation, consult with your agent to determine whether a pre-listing inspection is a worthwhile endeavor and a necessary expense.
Get the price right.
How you price your home will in large part determine whether your home flies off the market or sits without interest for months. Price your house too low and you could undersell it to a great degree. Price too high and you may miss out on buyer interest while your listing is fresh, leading to a drawn-out sale and eventually a discounted offer.
Not sure what your home is worth? Start with a free price check from our Home Value Estimator tool. Then, follow up with the opinion of a top local agent.
To determine home value, your real estate agent will conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) that analyzes local comparable sales or “comps.”
Comps are homes similar in size, amenities, structure, and age to your own that recently sold in your area. Real estate professionals and home appraisers use comps as a reference point for the subject home and then make dollar adjustments based on competitive differences. The analysis will take into account significant features that drive or reduce value.
Be flexible with scheduling.
If you want to sell fast, Carroll suggests accommodating any requests for open houses, showings, inspections, and appraisals.
Keep emotions at bay.
“It’s really easy to be very emotional about a property — especially if you’ve lived in the home a long time,” says McMartin. But, once you decide to sell, it’s important to view your home as a business asset to be leveraged rather than a family heirloom to be preserved or passed down.
“You want to stage, price and get your house into the market at a time and in a condition that attracts buyers,” she says. “So, take your seller hat off and put your buyer hat on.”
FAQs about the time it takes to sell a house
How many showings does it take to sell a house?
Real estate experts estimate most homes are shown between 10 and 25 times before they sell. Because buyers are scanning MLS for new listings in hopes of snapping up a great property in a market with limited inventory, your home may require fewer showings or the viewings may take place over a weekend or only a few days.
How fast can you sell a house?
If you need to sell faster than the average 65 days from list to close, an alternative is to request a cash offer. By using a platform such as Simple Sale, you can answer a few questions about your home and get an all-cash offer on your house in as few as 48 hours. If you choose to accept the offer, sellers have the ability to close in as little as 10 days.
How long does it take to sell For Sale By Owner?
According to NAR, about 7% of homes were sold For Sale By Owner (FSBO) without the assistance of a real estate agent in 2020. FSBO properties sold a week faster than agent-listed homes, largely because 57% of FSBO sellers already knew their buyer as a friend, neighbor, or relative. FSBOs also statistically sell less than agent-assisted sales. Last year, the median price of FSBO homes was $260,000 compared to $318,000 for agent-listed homes.
Homes are still selling even as the market shifts
The decision to sell your home usually starts with where you’re going next. Maybe you’re upsizing to accommodate a growing family or multiple people working from home, or retiring and moving to be closer to the grandkids. In other words, people will always be looking to move as their needs change. So firm up those plans for your next destination, and get ready to move!
Header Image Source: (Trinity Nguyen / Unsplash)