A seller asks: What happens if my house sells before I have found a new home to buy?

Does anyone actually like moving? No, not living in a new place — most people love that — but actually moving. I can’t think of a single person who has professed a love of sorting through years of accumulated stuff, throwing some of it out, recycling what can be reused, packing up the rest, moving it out of one home and into another, then unpacking your whole life in that new home.

So when property owners need to sell their current home in order to qualify for the purchase of their next home, what are their options? As with most situations in real estate, it depends on a few factors.

In San Francisco, even in today’s more balanced market, it’s not likely that an owner who makes an offer on his next property will get a contingency for the sale of his current property. There are exceptions to this: if the property has been on the market for a long time and the sellers are more willing to look at a contingent offer, it’s worth trying. But because it’s not common for sellers to accept sale contingencies, we can’t count on this working out.

A better option is for a seller to ask his or her buyers for a rent-back. This allows the seller to stay in the home for, say, 30 days after the close of escrow, during which time he pays the new owners at their monthly rate for PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance — and HOA dues if it’s a condo). This works well if the seller has identified a new property to buy and can get the purchase closed and move during the 30-day rent back period. (By the way, if you are either a buyer or a seller and are considering a rent-back, talk to your insurance agent to make sure you are covered correctly.)

Going back to the premise that everyone hates moving, the unfortunate reality is that sometimes it’s necessary to move into a short-term rental situation after closing on a sale and prior to closing on a new home. This can be a hassle (who wants to move, much less move twice in a few months’ time?) but it can also give people time to breathe, find the right home, and not suffer the stress of fighting the clock at the end of a 30-day rent back.

A few suggestions to make your short-term rental a little easier:

1. Put stuff that you don’t use often in storage. There’s no point in unpacking and repacking the things you don’t use regularly.

2. Consider a furnished rental. Depending on timing, it could be cheaper to put your entire house in storage than to move all your furniture twice.

3. If it’s time to ditch the futon you got in your senior year of college and the bookshelves that you got from Uncle Joe, maybe this double-move is an opportunity to lighten your load and sell what you don’t want to take to your new place. Or donate it.

As Tim Gunn would say, make it work!

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