Home sellers in many areas of the country face a problem that's rather nice to have: They have found a buyer who is eager to move in, and now they must find another property to buy the faster the better.
That's a change from the depths of the housing crisis, when finding a suitable home to buy was easier than selling one.
Here are questions that sellers should ask so they can minimize the squeeze caused by selling a home before buying another.
QUESTION: How long will it take to sell?
ANSWER: Using the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, data, a real estate agent can measure the time it takes for comparable homes to move from initial listing to having a purchase contract accepted to the closing of a sale.
In a pronounced sellers' market, "You might see averages as little as eight to 20 days" for homes to go under contract after listing, said Kristy Gonzalez, agent with ERA Evergreen Real Estate in Hilton Head, S.C.
Another forecast on selling time can be gleaned right after a home is listed. "Certainly you can get an idea of how fast it will sell," said Gonzalez, who adds that on some of her listings, agents were booking appointments for buyers to tour within hours.
Real estate sales are seasonal in most areas, with winter and holiday periods less active. The time-to-sell forecast might be influenced by seasonality, but "the buyers who are looking then tend to be more serious," Gonzalez said.
Q: Is it possible to sell and buy simultaneously?
A: It's never too early to research homes in the neighborhoods you'd like to buy in, said Eric Tan, a Los Angeles agent with Redfin.
Once your home is listed, he said, "luck and coordination" are needed to close on the sale and purchase at the same time.
To have homes pass among various hands in one day, it helps to have the same firm handling the closings, Tan said.
"Different states have different rules," he said. But whether it's a law office, title company or other real estate-related firm, hitches, which come with the copious paperwork, may be resolved more easily with fewer sites involved.
Q: Can you ask your buyer for more time?
A: Because selling first and then buying is problematic in a sellers' market, experts advise taking advantage of your strong position as a seller as you work out the timing of your purchase.
"Negotiate a longer time until the closing," said Raylene Lewis of Century 21 Beal in College Station, Texas. "If closings are normally out 30 days, ask for 50 days so you have more time," she said.
Depending on how home purchase contracts are written in your locale, it might be possible to tell a buyer that you'll accept that offer, but it's contingent on whether you have a home to purchase by a certain date, Lewis said.
On the flip side, as a buyer, you might ask that your purchase offer be contingent upon your home being sold by a specified time. But in a hot market, "it's unlikely a seller will accept such a contingency without at least a purchase contract (pending) on your property," Gonzalez said.