To Sell or Not to Sell

Is this a good time to sell your home? Experts say it depends largely on whether you plan to stay in the region.


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Redfin Real Estate Agent, Jana Cloud

Photo by Richard Lomibao

With home prices soaring and a red-hot seller’s market, many East Bay homeowners — especially those with lots of equity — may be wondering, “Should I put my house on the market?”

However, just because the market is hot doesn’t mean it’s a good time for a given individual to sell, said Jana Cloud, a Redfin real estate agent in Oakland.

“You need to consider your unique situation,” Cloud said. Major considerations include where you intend to live after selling; the home’s condition; and costs you might not have anticipated.

With regard to the first consideration, “Once the house is sold, if you’re intending to live in the Bay Area, you’re now on the wrong side of the seller’s market, competing with a lot of other buyers for highly priced homes,” noted Tim Manni, home expert for NerdWallet, a personal finance website.

Even if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity, unless you’ve gotten hefty raises over the years, you may not be able to qualify for a big enough mortgage loan to buy up. Many folks will only be able to afford a home the same size, in a similar neighborhood. Of course, if you’re planning on leaving the region, you’ll likely have a much better shot of buying a new home in a less-competitive market.

Home condition is another consideration, Manni said. “In order to sell your home for top dollar, or at all, often it has to have certain upgrades, things people are going to expect. You might have to invest in repairs or renovations,” Manni said. As any homeowner already knows, these costs can run in the tens or even hundreds of thousands.

Unanticipated costs can be a real issue, according to Manni. “When you sell your home, you are responsible for paying the Realtor commissions and there are closing costs you will pay as a seller,” Manni said. Also, many homeowners forget to factor in moving expenses, which can be sizable for those who have accumulated quite a few belongings.

There are strategies to cope with some of these stumbling blocks, Cloud said. One way around the high home prices in the Bay Area is to look at up-and-coming places — neighborhoods where prices are still relatively affordable but gaining in value.

“East Contra Costa County got hit hard by the mortgage meltdown, but they’re coming back,” said Cloud. Towns like Antioch and Pittsburg are examples. Other up-and-comers are Benicia, Mare Island, and the Richmond Marina, according to Cloud.

Cloud said Oakland neighborhoods on the upswing include the Dimond and Fruitvale districts. Millsmont, the Mills College neighborhood, is still comparatively affordable, she said.

When considering upgrades, consulting with a real estate agent as to which renovations will boost the price is a good idea. Sometimes a few judicious changes, such as an inexpensive coat of paint, can do the job.

“It’s all about a winning strategy for the individual,” Cloud said.

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