The real estate market is way up, even where I live in Springfield, Missouri. We've seen a 16% increase in median listing prices in the past year, along with a 35% decrease in available listings.
I bought my home seven years ago in a different market, where there were plenty of houses to choose from at rock bottom prices. So, you can imagine how much Zillow (Z -2.12%) wants to pretend my house has gained in equity (but we've seen how well that's going for the company...).
On the surface, it sounds insane that I'm not planning on selling my house in 2022. Or ever, really. After all, why not recapture all that sweet, sweet equity?
What happens when you sell in a chaotic market
There's no better description for the market we have right now: It's chaotic. Nothing makes a lot of sense, prices far outpace the economic realities they exist within, and listing shortages persist. It's a giant tornado scattering all common sense to the four corners of the Earth.
Selling in a chaotic market makes sense for some people; for example, if you need to move to another city, or you've had another child, or you need a much bigger place because your parents are moving in. These people are forced to flail wildly within the vortex of the real estate market we have now because they can't wait for the real estate market they deserve.
It's not any more fun for sellers. Quick turnarounds, unpredictable appraisals, backlogged inspections, and impossible-to-schedule seats at the closing table are the norm now. Sure, maybe you walk away with a bunch of cash, but the amount of stress you have to swallow will immediately age you 40 years.
One valuable secret I learned as a Realtor
I have a little secret that a lot of people don't even know about. It's something all Realtors know, though, and I'm going to share it with you now: You don't have to sell your house just because you may have unrealized equity gains. You don't. There's no rule. If you like your house and nothing about your life is changing, you can continue to repaint the walls and redecorate the living room for the holidays and watch the seasons change from your kitchen table indefinitely.
Even some life changes can be accommodated with some construction work, though this will depend largely on your house, how it sits on the lot, the zoning rules in your area, and what kind of budget you've got. But for me, it's simple. I don't have any life changes.
I live in a home that's ridiculously large for just me and four dogs. But it has an office that's apart from the main house, where I've FINALLY positioned my desk just so (I think) for working on articles like this one. I have a room that's perfect for a home gym -- I can even set up my bike indoors when the weather is terrible. I have a kitchen that's far from perfect but has enough counter space for all my plants.
My number one reason for not selling
The point is, I have a house that's mine. One that I'm slowly rebuilding from years of abuse and neglect. It had been a rental for many years; it was even abandoned at one point and started melting into the bushes. And, so, it needs a little bit of everything. But it's also an opportunity for me to put a lot of myself into something and choose materials that will age with me.
Even if I were interested in bringing on the nightmare that is selling a home with four dogs living in it, it makes zero financial sense in the current market, if I'm only after unrealized equity.
Unlike in a normal and stable market, where you can realistically expect equity gained over a number of years to be able to move you forward on the housing ladder, I'm not sure that's what a lot of buyers are seeing, and certainly, that's not what's happening in my own market.
Between ridiculous bidding wars and housing costs appreciating violently day by day, the house I list today for $120,000 may be the house that I have to buy in a month for considerably more. And, since I'm not interested in a different sort of house, I'd really just be spending a lot of money and effort and energy and time to possibly stay right where I am equity-wise.
If my real goal was to tap my unrealized equity, getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC) would be cheaper and easier, and the repairs and upgrades I'd make would also likely be a better investment.
But, at the end of the day, I'm not selling my house in 2022 because I have other financial priorities right now. I'm at an age where I'm starting to think about retiring, and having an affordable home that I can pay off before retirement is absolutely the sexiest thing I can imagine right now (sorry, boys).
Call me a square all you want, but sometimes, the smartest answers are the simplest ones. Besides, where am I going to find another house that has enough bedrooms for all my dogs?