How Long Does It Take to Sell a House?

Location, price, and other factors can affect your home sale

Couple unloading boxes from moving van
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One of the first questions many real estate agents ask sellers is how quickly they would like to sell their homes. It's no secret that an overpriced home takes longer to move, and it might eventually sell for a lot less than market value.

On average, most homes stayed on the market for 68 days in 2018, according to Zillow. This is way down from 140 days in 2010 on the heels of the mortgage crisis. Thirty days are built into this time frame to account for the period between the seller accepting an offer and closing, so sellers waited about five weeks for the right buyer to come along.

Calculating Average Days on Market

Most real estate agents know the average number of days on market by heart in their neighborhoods, so all you have to do is ask. But you can calculate yourself by figuring out the day each home goes on the market in any given month, then counting the days to pending to determine the number yourself.

Add those days together and divide the total by the number of homes.

What Makes a House Sell Quickly?

Sometimes there's no logical reason for how long it takes to sell a house. It could happen quickly out of sheer luck—a buyer is in the right place at the right time. Your house might come on the market the same day a specific buyer is looking to buy exactly the house you're offering for sale. But more likely, it depends on one or more factors.

How Much Are You Asking?

Some agents will price the house a little under market value to entice multiple offers, which ultimately tends to push the price higher. More than one offer tends to drive up the value because competition breeds desire.

Price range makes a difference, too. Homes in lower price ranges often sell faster than those in higher price ranges simply because there are more buyers who can afford lower-priced homes.

Passionate, determined buyers will often pay more than the asking price.

Location, Location, Location

The old adage "location, location, location" is true. There will be more demand for a home that's located in a highly desirable neighborhood near excellent schools than for a property that's located on the wrong side of the tracks near a toxic dump.

Homes that front the freeway involve their own particular set of challenges. The sellers who own these homes have often become oblivious to the location because they've simply adjusted to the noise and the view. But a new buyer sees the situation clearly and might logically be turned off.

The Home's Condition

Homes in tip-top shape that sparkle and shine sell much faster than homes that need repairs or are cluttered. Homebuyers have to be able to imagine how they'll live in that house, and they'll have a hard time doing that if the home looks like it belongs to you or if it's a mess.

A quick solution to this problem involves clearing out half the furniture. Large pieces can overwhelm a space and make the area seem smaller. You might want to tuck away those family portraits on the walls, too.

Market Temperature Also Affects Time to Sell

Homes tend to sell faster in sellers' markets because there are more buyers than sellers. This increases competition among buyers. A bidding war can result with offers coming in above list price when more than one buyer is trying to buy the same property. It's not unusual for a house to sell in less than a week in this type of market. 

Buyers have more choices and can take their time in buyers' markets. A buyer will pass over a not-quite-perfect property and keep looking. Patience is key if you're a seller in this type of market.

Buyers will often attempt to offer less if a listing lingers on the market longer than 30 days, erroneously believing this gives them cause to low ball.

Seasonal Factors

Days on market can also depend on exactly when you list your house for sale.

Most people aren't actively looking to buy a new home during the December holidays, and the weather can be a factor in some climates at this time as well. You might have to tack on additional time until January or even February, but spring often causes a spike in sales as families' kids are finishing up their school years. Summer is a preferred time to close and move for families with children.

Conversely, this doesn't always hold true in states like Florida and Arizona where summers tend to be sizzling. Winter can be perceived as the time to pack up and move in these areas. There's no firm or fast rule for all 50 states, but do take the season into consideration for your locality.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, Cal BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.