How to Buy a House Before Selling Your Current Home

Originally published on 

You’ve recently decided it’s time to buy a new home. Maybe your family is expanding. Perhaps you’re ready to downsize in your golden years. Or maybe your work has gone remote and you can finally make the move out to an area with more space. So, how do you buy a house before selling your current home?

Can you put in an offer on a new home before you’ve sold your old one?

Yes, you technically can make an offer on a new home before selling your old one – but with a big “but” attached. If you’re like most homeowners, you probably need to sell your old house in order to afford your new home. Unless you’ve been approved to hold two mortgages, you’ll need to include a sales contingency.

Sales contingencies are typically big red flags to sellers. They mean uncertainty, which sellers typically want to avoid. If your old house doesn’t sell as quickly as expected, it could potentially put the deal at risk.

For this reason, sellers often shy away from offers with sales contingencies. If you must include a sales contingency, you might have a harder time getting your offer accepted.

How do you buy a new home before you’ve sold your old one? 

It’s one thing to make an offer on a new home before selling. It’s another thing entirely to actually close on said new home before selling. So can you purchase a new home before selling your old one?

The short answer is – it depends.

If you were to purchase a new home before selling the traditional way, you would need to be able to afford two mortgages at once. For many homeowners, the financial strain of paying two mortgages makes buying before selling the traditional way out of the question.

But let’s assume you’ve saved enough money to afford two mortgages for a period of time and are confident your old house will sell quickly. You’re not out of the woods yet. Your mortgage lender will take your old mortgage into consideration when calculating your debt-to-income ratio.

Debt-to-income ratio is one of the ways lenders determine your ability to afford a monthly mortgage payment. It’s essentially all your monthly debt payments (mortgage, auto loan, student loans, etc) divided by your gross monthly income. If you’re still on the hook for your old mortgage, your debt-to-income ratio will be substantially higher. Your mortgage lender might not approve you for a new mortgage in the first place.

Is selling first a better alternative to buying first? 

On paper, it might seem so. In reality, though, selling first and buying later is a woefully inconvenient experience for many homeowners. Here are a few things you’ll want to take into consideration if you’re looking at selling first and buying later:

Living through repairs

According to the National Association of Realtors, the median time a homeowner spends in their home is 13 years. Over that time, you’ve probably made a lot of memories – and left a few scuffs along the way.

In order to get the absolute best price for your home, it’s recommended to get it in tip-top shape before showing. Depending on the extent of the repairs your real estate agent recommends (they’ll be your expert guide in getting your house showing-ready), this could mean anything from a new interior paint job to refinishing floors to a full kitchen facelift. While an important step in getting top dollar for your old house, living alongside repairs (especially if you have pets or children) can be stressful and inconvenient.

Living around showings

So, you’ve wrapped the last of the repairs and your contractors have packed up their toolboxes. You’re out of the woods, right? Not quite. If you’re selling your house while you’re still living in it, be prepared to live alongside showings.

A critical part of the selling process, showings allow your real estate agent to give tours to prospective buyers, highlight the best features of your house, and gauge their interest. Because most real estate agents recommend the seller not be present during showings, you’ll need to be ready to vacate your house (along with your family and pets) when a buyer wants to stop by.

While your real estate agent will do their absolute best to coordinate with your schedules and minimize inconvenience, buyer interest isn’t always predictable. You’ll need to be prepared to pack up the family (and get your house showing-ready) at a moment’s notice.

Moving twice

Getting the timing perfect when you sell before you buy is a tricky task – especially in this market. Houses are flying off the shelves, largely because inventory continues to be low. This means your old house might sell quickly – but finding your new home might take some time.

Because of this, many people find themselves in homeowner limbo: they’ve sold their old house, but have nowhere to go. Oftentimes, the solution to this problem lies in a short-term rental and paying to move twice.

So, how do you buy a house before selling?

If buying and selling at the same time is a risky endeavor and selling before buying is wildly inconvenient, what’s a buyer to do? Luckily, there are a few solutions out there that can help you buy before you sell.

Secure a bridge loan

A bridge loan is a short-term loan and is most often used to help a homeowner buy their new home before selling. Lenders will typically lend you a percentage of the equity you’ve accrued in your old house, which you can then use for the down payment on your new home.

Bridge loans are not without their drawbacks. First and foremost, they are expensive. Because they are short-term loans, lenders will attach high-interest rates to the loan. Origination fees for bridge loans can also be high – sometimes up to 3% of the loan value.

Finally, they are risky. In the instance that your old house doesn’t sell, you are stuck with the debt – and at a very high-interest rate.

Use the Knock Home Swap™

The Knock Home Swap™ is designed to make buying a home before selling easier. Similar to the concept of a bridge loan, Knock lends you the equity in your current house via a loan called the Knock Equity Advance. You’ll use this for the down payment on your new home.

Knock will also provide you your new home mortgage. This means you’re only working with one lender to receive the two loans. Unlike a traditional bridge loan, Knock’s rates are competitive with other lenders, and repayment on the Knock Equity Advance doesn’t begin for six months. Once your old house sells, you’ll repay the Knock Equity Advance. After that, your only remaining loan will be the mortgage on your new home.

In the instance that your old house doesn’t sell, Knock will agree to purchase your old house from you, so you don’t ever have to be worried about being stuck with the debt of a second loan. Remember, if you were to go the route of a traditional bridge loan, you’d be sitting with that debt regardless of whether your old house sold or not.

With the Knock Home Swap™, you can experience the convenience of buying before you sell without the financial pressures of two mortgages or bridge loans. So, that’s how you buy a house before selling your old home. Happy house-hunting!

As a Knock Certified Agent, I can guide you through this process to make your move as stress-free and successful as possible!

Give me a call at 626.290.1250.

Kate Leggett, Author