How to Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time—Without Losing Your Mind

How to Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time—Without Losing Your Mind


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Ah, to be a first-time home buyer again: How easy it was to buy a home when you weren’t carrying another mortgage on your back!

If you’re looking to graduate from first-timer to repeat buyer, you know things are about to get much trickier. Unless you’re a bona fide house collector, you’ll have to sell your home in order to buy anew—adding a whole separate layer of anxiety to what you already know is a stressful home-buying process.

In an ideal world, you’d buy a new home, move, and then, and when all the dust settles, deal with the turmoil of selling. But for most people, that’s totally unrealistic. Not only does it cost significantly more, since you’ll be paying two mortgages, but sellers might be quick to judge if you’re holding on to your current home.

Drew Snyder, a Realtor® with Snyder Sutton Real Estate inTopanga, CA, says one of his clients had difficulty getting sellers to “take them seriously unless the house was on the market or in escrow. As soon as we put it on [the market], they were considered as serious buyers.”

You can do this! If selling and buying simultaneously is the only way to go, here’s what you need to know to make sure both processes go as smoothly as possible.

Know the market first

Before you start seriously searching for a new home—or put your current home on the market—make sure you have a solid understanding of the housing market in your area (and the area where you’re planning to buy). Is the market weighted toward buyers or sellers?

Only then will you be able to fully strategize. As is so often the case, the best plan of action may differ depending on exactly who has the power.

That doesn’t mean to find one house you like and call it a day: Find multiple suitable options. That way, you’re less likely to find yourself in trouble if your purchase falls through—your newly sold home won’t leave you stranded.

Similarly, make sure to hire an appraiser and price your old home fairly. Now is decidedly not the time for delusions of grandeur: Two extra months on the market because you couldn’t humble yourself to lower the price means two months you’ll be paying double mortgages. Two very long months…

Plan your schedule carefully…

Should you buy first, then sell—or vice versa? Both have their risks and rewards. Selling first makes getting a mortgage easier, but it also means you’ll need to find a temporary place to live. Buying first means moving will be easier, but it also skews your debt-to-income ratio, making it harder to qualify for a new mortgage—not to mention the difficulty of juggling two monthly house payments.

“It’s walking a tightrope,” says Gary DiMauro, a Realtor in New York’s Hudson Valley. And he’s not just talking about scheduling: Your finances will be on the highwire, too. When determining whether you should sell or buy first, think beyond “How can I make the move as easy as possible?” Instead ask: “Can I handle two mortgages? What if my home sells for less than its listing?”

Whichever option you choose, make sure you’re prepared to accept the consequences: having to store your stuff and rent temporarily, or undergoing the financial burdens of dual mortgages.

… but don’t rely on timing

When buying and selling a home simultaneously, “there are so many external circumstances,” says DiMauro. “I’ve yet to see it really work smoothly and efficiently.”

Remember: You’re not the only party in this equation. For every seller there’s a buyer, for every buyer a seller. While things might appear to be working smoothly when viewing your master plan from above, that doesn’t take into account the variabilities of other people. Closings are rife with delays. Your buyers might have difficulty securing their mortgage; your home inspector may bring up issues that need to be fixed before you can move in.

“You’re relying on the seller of the place that you’re buying to be ready to move in concert with the buyer of your house,” DiMauro says.

So even if you’ve planned to sell your home first and are prepared to rent while buying, know that even the best-laid plans go awry—and you might end up juggling both mortgages. Preparing yourself for this (however remote) possibility ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition.

Know your financial solutions

For those who choose to sell first, the process is relatively straightforward other than the additional cost of a rental between homes. However, there is the option of a rent-back agreement, where you negotiate with the lenders and buyers to be able to remain in the property for a maximum of 60 to 90 days—often in exchange for a lower selling price or rent paid to the buyers. This can relieve some of the pressure of finding a new home, giving you additional time to house hunt.

But if you’re buying first, talk to your Realtor about ways to decrease your financial burden and risk. Here are the two most popular options for buyers:

Contract contingency: Buyers can request that their new home purchase be dependent on the successful sale of their old home. If you’re looking in a competitive market, this may not be a good option; however, if the seller of your intended home has had difficulty attracting interest, this may be a good deal for all parties involved—assuming you can convince them that your home will sell quickly.

Bridge loans: Bridge financing allows you to own two homes simultaneously if you don’t have deep pockets for a second down payment. This option is especially attractive if you’d planned to sell your home first and use the proceeds to buy the second. It functions as a short-term loan, intended to be repaid upon the sale of your original house.

Don’t let fear rush you

If your home has sold but you haven’t found a new place to live, don’t let anxiety push you toward a bad decision. DiMauro usually recommends that his clients pre-emptively plan on a short-term rental “so they don’t feel stressed or pushed into something that they would not normally be interested in,” he says. “They shouldn’t make a purchase because they felt like they were pressured from the time constraints.”

Found the perfect home right on schedule? That’s great. But don’t feel like you have to compromise on things that are important to you just because you need to find a home. Conversely, don’t accept a bid that you feel is too low just because your finances are strained by two mortgages. If you have a temporary apartment set up, you’re less likely to compromise.

Certainly, selling and buying a house simultaneously will be stressful—but carefully considering and planning for the risks and hurdles can mitigate the stress.

The Surprising Things Your Movers Won’t Move

The Surprising Things Your Movers Won’t Move

Items movers won't move

propane tank: NoDerog/iStock; nail polish: Ruslan Dashinsky
scuba gear: ridgers/iStock; plant: vspn24/iStock

Let’s face it: Moving companies can be lifesavers. They’ll carry everything you own, they can handle three flights of stairs, they don’t flinch at bad weather, and they’ll move you any distance. Hey, is there anything they won’t do?

Well, yes, actually. Movers draw the line on certain things, and if you don’t know about it ahead of time you might end up out of luck on moving day. So here’s a handy no-go list.

Hazardous materials

OK, it may not come as a surprise, but “federal law bans moving companies from transporting hazardous materials,” says Lindsey Schaibly, operations coordinator of Two Men and a Truck, a franchised moving company based in Lansing, MI. This is probably a good thing.

That list includes the obvious things like propane tanks, gasoline tanks, and ammunition, but it also includes some things you might not expect.

According to Atlas Van Lines, these items can’t go on the truck:

  • Car batteries
  • Charcoal
  • Darkroom chemicals
  • Batteries
  • Nail polish
  • Scuba tanks
  • Liquid bleach

If you do have anything hazardous—or even vaguely toxic—your best bet is to dispose of it properly before you move and restock once you’ve landed at your new place.

Household plants

If you’ve invested in potted plants, brace yourself—this might sting a little.

“Plants are tricky,” says James Sullivan, president of Humboldt Storage & Moving ofCanton, MA.

While a few moving companies might be willing to toss a plant or two on the back of the truck for a short move, most won’t allow any on local moves. And that goes double for intrastate and cross-continental moves. You may just have to bite the bullet and transport your cherished domestic vegetation yourself.

“Some states are really sensitive about plants,” Sullivan says. “Officials are afraid of bringing in bugs or other problems into the state.”

Food and pantry items

When it comes to all that stuff clogging up your pantry, there’s a simple rule: Nonperishable foodstuff can be transported but perishable items are a strict no, Schaibly says.

Keep in mind that anything open is considered perishable, no matter what the expiration date is. So it’s better to play it safe and pack only sealed food with a long shelf life—like canned vegetables, boxed cereals, and jarred spices.

Outdoor equipment

Lawn and pool equipment can quickly become a source of stress on moving day.

Generally, any pool paraphernalia  that could pose a danger—such as acid or other treatment chemicals—will have to be disposed of. Same goes for weed killer and other pesticides. However, you can move the actual equipment—such as your lawn mower or generator—as long as you plan ahead.

“We ask customers to remove as much gasoline from engines as possible before we can move the item,” Sullivan says (rather sensibly).

Rickety or scary stairs

Once you’re packed, there are still a few potential snags to watch for. Most moving companies will do anything they can to move you, but everyone has limits.

“Each mover is probably a little different,” Sullivan says. “But we do everything we can to get a customer moved in, even if we have to hoist furniture over the balcony.”

But don’t expect that to be the norm. Many moving companies won’t risk rickety stairs, tight spiral staircases, or narrow balcony walkways. Trust us, we know this from experience! If you know your new place might pose a problem, tell the movers about it ahead of time.

Remember: Companies can simply decline to move you, even if you’re scheduled to move that day. It’s better to play it safe and be honest about any potential problems beforehand than to be stuck without a mover on moving day. Come clean: You’ll thank us later.


We have even more moving tips—go on, check them out!

Trashy Love: Upcycling Your Garbage Into Something Great

Trashy Love: Upcycling Your Garbage Into Something Great

A municipal landfill


Your garbage might pile up faster than you think. In 2013, Americans created 254 million tons of waste, an average of 4.4 pounds per person every day, according to theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While some of that refuse—1.51 pounds per person, per day—is recycled, the majority ends up in landfills, adding to an ever-growing ecological nightmare.

But there is an alternative: upcycling. It’s easy! It’s good for the environment! And it’s fun. Really.

OK, hear us out on this one: Converting your used or unwanted junk into newer and infinitely more awesome stuff is a truly rewarding way to spend a weekend. And you don’t even have to be all that crafty to pull it off!

What you can upcycle

A broken vase, a carton of past-their-prime eggs, and even a stack of way-past-their-prime CDs from the ’90s can be repurposed into gorgeous and functional home décor.

Take those eggs, please (we’re here all week, folks!). The cleaned, empty eggshells can be turned into miniature planters for succulents, a project we found in “Make Garbage Great,” by Tom Szaky and Albe Zakes of the recycling company TerraCycle. And those deeply unwanted Limp Bizkit CDs can be used to supply some colorful pop to a room divider. More? You can even make orange peels into candles, a bicycle inner tube into a wallet, and a plastic bottle (and spoons) into a bird feeder.

DIY projects, clockwise from top left: Fork place-card holder, leftover-glass candlesticks, wine-cork board, eggshell planters


make garbage great


Our favorite projects

Some of our favorite DIY trash projects from “Make Garbage Great” are modern takes on furniture and home décor items that look remarkably similar to pricier pieces we’ve seen in places such as Restoration Hardware and West Elm.

“My favorite is the pallet table,” says Zakes. That’s a side table made out of a wooden shipping pallet. “Pallets are really easy to get your hands on, and you can make these cool tables yourself for next to nothing.”

Zakes’ wife, who isn’t quite the environmentalist he is, loves the fork place-card holder, a project that turns unwanted silverware into kitschy table décor.Us? We love the simplicity and beauty of the glass candlestick. The project takes bits of broken or unwanted glass items to create a modern-looking, shabby-chic candlestick with very few tools or know-how required.

Keep on dumpster diving

If you find a project you love but don’t have the materials to make it, don’t let that stop you. Zakes recommends looking beyond your own garbage bin to what you can collect from friends, neighbors, co-workers, or even nearby businesses.

“A lot of times you see a project you want to do, like making a room-dividing screen from old CDs, and you wonder, ‘Where am I going to get 100 CDs from?’ But if you think a little bit outside of the box, all of these things are pretty accessible. You could go to a flea market and pick up a crate of unwanted CDs, or even send out an email at the office,” Zakes says.

Upcycling can be educational, too.

“You can learn a lot about the history of mankind by looking at garbage over the years,” Zakes says.

All photographs from “Make Garbage Great.” Published by Harper Design; © 2015 by Tom Szaky and Albe Zakes.