Real Estate

Can You Buy a House Before Selling Your Own?

By Tom Burchnell
buy house before selling

If you’re planning to move, you may be figuring out how to bridge the gap between when you buy a new house and selling your current one. Read on for solutions.

Moving is stressful, no matter how you do it. But when you need to buy another house before selling your existing home, it gets even harder.  If you are thinking of “can I use home equity loan to buy another house?”, there are a few solutions that can help.

Owning real estate means that you’re a bigger risk to lenders as well as sellers. So the question is, how to buy a house before selling your own? In some cases, you might need to agree to sell your current home before your purchase goes through. In others, a mortgage lender might ask for proof that you can afford your existing house as well as your new one.

It can be a sticky situation, but sometimes it’s inevitable. It can even be desirable if you know how to handle this type of real estate transaction.

Benefits of Choosing to Buy a House Before Selling Your Own

Lenders and sellers usually prefer home buyers to have sold their current house before buying their next one, unless it’s intended as an investment property. But that’s not always how life works out. Maybe you …

  • Found your dream home and know that if you wait to sell the house you’re in, the new one will be off the market. 
  • Want to act on a short sale or another great deal that arises due to seller circumstances. These kinds of deals go quickly, and you need to act fast as a potential buyer.  
  • Live in a seller’s market where your current home is almost certain to sell within days of listing. If you sell in the seller’s market before you have a new home to move into, you could end up with no place to live.
  • Got a new job and need to start right away. Sure, you could get a rental in your new location, but then you’ll be dealing with multiple moves at the same time as you’re trying to get acclimated to the new company. 
  • Have extenuating personal circumstances, such as divorce or an ill family member, and need to relocate urgently.

Your reasons are probably good ones, whatever they are, but lenders don’t usually take that into consideration. They just focus on the mortgage loan you already have and the one you want to take out

The Challenges of Choosing to Buy A House Before Selling

If you want to buy a house before selling your current one, most lenders will look at the new house as your primary residence and consider the old one to be an investment property. When they calculate your expense-to-income ratio, which is how they decide if you can afford the mortgage loan, they assume you’ll be making payments on both properties. (Yes, even if you’ve told them that you plan to sell.)  

Maybe you can carry two mortgages and you can prove it. That’s great, but you probably won’t get approved for as much as you can actually afford. This will limit the purchase price that you can offer, and that will hurt you if you end up in a multiple-offer negotiation process.  

If you can’t afford to buy another house before selling yours, though, your only recourse is to make an offer that’s only good if you sell your current home. These are known as contingent offers. Some sellers can be reluctant to accept them, especially if those sellers have unrestricted offers coming in.

How to Buy a House Before Selling Your Old One

You may decide to make a contingent offer if you find the house you want. Once you do, the listing agent or home seller might remove the property from the real estate market and wait for your sale to go through. In other cases, though, the property could stay on the market, and the seller might get a better offer from another potential buyer.

This is known as the first right of refusal offer and it means that you’ll have 72 hours, or perhaps less, to remove the home sale contingency and buy the property with your existing home unsold. All of the conditions involved in purchasing a second property will apply, and you might not get approval. The home seller would probably then refund your deposit and demand cancellation of the contract.

You may also be able to use a bridge loan to buy a house before selling your old one ,which uses your current home as collateral to let you buy the new one. You don’t have to have a home sale contingency clause in place, but your interest rate could be up to a full percentage point higher than a standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. 

And you’ll still have to qualify for two mortgages.

The Sale-Leaseback Alternative

Another strategy, if you’re looking to buy a house before selling the old one, is the sale-leaseback. This alternative option lets you sell your house to a company that then rents it back to you.

A sale-leaseback can be an alternative to bridge loan lenders, letting you convert a percent of your current home’s equity to cash by selling the property. You can rent the property back and you can use your equity to put down more money on your new home and closing costs, make improvements to your current property, or even just take your time to get the best possible offer.

Key Takeaways

Buying a house before selling your current one isn’t something you want to rush. If you’ve found your next home, you shouldn’t have to pay a mortgage lender exorbitant fees or hear that you can’t afford it when you can. You have options, and a financial advisor can help you figure out what solution will work best for you.

Tom Burchnell
Written by Tom Burchnell
Director of Product Marketing

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