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Current Trends: How Long Does It Take to Sell a Home?

written by: NicoleHarms•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 6/30/2011

Learn the factors that affect the average time to sell a home, and steps you can take to improve your chances of a quick sale. These factors include your geographic location, economic factors in your area, the way your home is staged and the pricing strategy you use.

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    The Time Necessary to Sell a Home Varies Tremendously

    Putting a number on the length of time a home will sit on the market is difficult because so many factors play a role in this. Geographic location, the condition of the home, the asking price and even the local job market all impact the length of time it sits on the market. In a high demand market with a home that is priced well, the time between listing the home and receiving an acceptable offer takes between 10 and 21 days, but this number is a “best case" scenario. Most sellers will find that it takes a bit longer. Understanding the factors that impact this time will help you sell your home more quickly.

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    Condition of the Home

    The condition of the home will impact the length of time it sits on the market. A home that is in move-in ready condition is going to sell faster than a similarly priced home that needs a lot of work. In a market where foreclosure and deeply discounted short sales are common, which applies to many areas of the United States in the 2011 economy, a home needs to be in pristine condition to sell quickly. Those who are looking to put in work are looking to buy one of the discounted properties.

    The condition of the home doesn’t just refer to the siding, flooring and paint job. According to MSN Money, homes also need to be staged to sell well. Staging a home refers to making it clean and uncluttered, removing personal décor and making it look as neutral as possible.

    The idea behind staging is that the potential buyer should walk in and picture the home as his or her own, not feeling like an intruder on your personal space. Stagedhomes.com indicates that 94.6 percent of homes that an Accredited Staging Professional stages sell within a 33 day time period. This is in contrast to an average time to sell a home of 196 days when they are not staged. This is 83 percent less time.

    While not all homes require the help of a professional stager, this statistic shows that neutralizing, de-cluttering and staging your home makes a big difference in how long it sits waiting to sell

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    Price

    The price of your is, perhaps, the single most important factor in the length of time it takes to sell. For many sellers, this becomes a tricky balance, because they want their home to sell quickly, but they also want to get enough money from the sale to support their home buying goals when they move.

    Pricing a home requires understanding the local market. Buyers do not care how much you paid for it or how much you owe. They want to see that they are getting a fair price compared to the similar property down the street. A market analysis performed by a real estate professional can help you see what similar homes in your area are selling for, and you can make a determination on price based on this information.

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    Other Factors

    Other factors that affect how quickly a home sells may include your geographic location, the local job market and the number of foreclosures available. Homes in some areas with little to attract new residents may sit on the market longer simply because fewer people are moving there. The local job market affects the process because people do not tend to buy homes when they have insecurity in their jobs. If a large number of foreclosures are on the market, you may find your home sitting as buyers take advantage of the low prices on the distressed properties. Staging your home and pricing it properly can help counteract some of these, but you may be in for the long haul if all three of these factors are against you.

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    The Length of the Actual Sale

    Once you have staged your home, priced it properly and put it on the market, the next step in the process is accepting offers. Accepting an offer does not mean that your home has sold. The actual sale takes place at the closing.

    The average time to sell a home between the offer and the closing is 30 to 45 days. During this time the lender will finalize all aspects of the loan. If the loan is denied, then the contract between the buyer and seller is void and the seller can accept other offers. This is also the time in which the appraisal and any required inspections occur.

    Some things can delay the closing. If there are any clouds on the title, new liens or judgments filed against the seller or updates to the buyer’s credit report, the lender will need time to evaluate the situation. Sometimes the lender will require updated documents, like bank statements or paycheck stubs, that can cause a delay. Mistakes or a low appraisal can also cause problems. But for the average buyer and seller, the timeframe is around a month to a month and a half.

    What happens if you need to speed up this process? Having a loan pre-approved can make the closing easier. Buyers who pay cash do not require the help of a lender and can also close quicker. These expedited closings can often occur within one or two weeks, provided all required documents are in place.

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    References

    Yeager, Bill. LendingTree.com. "How Long Does It Take to Sell a House?" http://www.lendingtree.com/real-estate/advice/selling-a-home/how-long-does-it-take-to-sell/

    MSN Money. "How the Pros Sell Their Own Homes," http://money.msn.com/home-loans/how-the-pros-sell-their-own-homes-investopedia.aspx

    Styled, Staged, and Sold. "Staging a Home to Sell Faster and for More Money," http://styledstagedsold.blogs.realtor.org/2011/03/21/staging-a-home-to-sell-faster-and-for-more-money/

    Realtor.com. "Understanding the Closing Process." http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/pre-funding-closing/understanding-closing-process.aspx

    Image: Ranch House by BrendelSignature under GNU Free Documentation