Why Do People Sell Their Homes?

The Top Reasons Homeowners Make a Move

Family playing on bed

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Americans move an average of 11.7 times during their lifetimes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are many reasons why people sell their homes, ranging from personal relationships to physical surroundings.

A home that no longer is a good fit for one family can be a dream home for another. Here are some common reasons why people sell their homes.

Key Takeaways

  • People who move for home-related reasons might need a larger home or a house that better fits their needs, or they might have a preference for a different neighborhood.
  • Financial reasons for moving include wanting a nicer home, moving to a newer home to avoid making repairs on the old one, or cashing in on existing equity.
  • People move for personal reasons as well; you might relocate for a new job or to be closer to family, or you might simply want a new house to fix up and flip.
  • Different stages of life require different needs from your home; those who are recently divorced, widowed, or retired might move to a new location.

Home-Related Reasons

People who sell houses may be motivated by the residence itself or the area around it. This doesn't always mean there is something wrong with the home or the area, but the situation for the homeowners may have changed, requiring something different.

The Home Is Too Small

Increased family size is a common rationale for why people sell their homes. First-time homebuyers often outgrow their starter residences. As kids grow, many homeowners need a larger place. Homeowners are also increasingly looking for multi-generational homes to accommodate aging parents or adult children moving back home.

The Home Doesn't Meet Their Needs

Maybe they thought they could get by without a front yard, but the noise from the street is just too much. Maybe the pool is a pain to maintain, and they never use it anyway. Perhaps they're sick of tripping over the steps to the sunken living room. Whatever the reason, homeowners might believe they made a mistake when purchasing their present place and want out.

The Neighborhood Has Changed

The neighborhood might have changed. Perhaps the overall area has developed in a way that's not to the residents' liking. For example, it might have grown too commercial, too busy, too young, or too quiet.

Financial Reasons

Money matters are another common motivation for moving. Not only do people's incomes change over time, but the values of homes also change over time, introducing another factor.

Upgrading the Home

People outgrow their homes in a figurative sense as well. Their careers are flourishing, or they've come into money and can afford a bigger, grander, more-expensive residence.

Deferring Maintenance

Some people don't want to put on a new roof, replace the siding, or buy a new furnace, so it's easier to buy a newer home. When you figure that the life of most residential infrastructures is about 15 years, it could make sense to get out before it's time to spend a lot on repairs.

Cashing in Equity

Some homeowners become frustrated because their home has equity, but it's a challenge to tap into it. Home equity loans and lines of credit involve taking on more debt, which isn't appealing to everyone. Rather than stare at four walls with empty pockets, they find it more financially expedient to sell and use the funds for other things. They cash in, taking advantage of the appreciation in property values.

Personal Reasons

Life changes in many ways that have little to do with money or the size of one's family. When owning a house is the only thing keeping a homeowner tied to a specific area, it might be time to consider cutting ties to the home.

New Job or Transfer

Obviously, work-related relocation makes it necessary to pull up roots, and it doesn't have to be a full-fledged move to another town or state. Many people draw the line at a commute that exceeds a certain distance, especially if it means driving in heavy traffic.

See Family More Often (or Less)

People frequently move to be near relatives, especially as they age. Conversely, some homeowners move to put distance between themselves and their kin.

Need a New Challenge

Some people enjoy fixing up a home, spending time, money, and effort on remodeling, but once the work is completed, they become restless, because they have nothing left to do. They like nothing better than selling up and moving on to the next fixer-upper.

Different Interests and Priorities

Some folks are simply tired of owning a home and would prefer to travel, pursue a hobby, or be less conventional. For these people, homeownership loses its priority status, and selling a home turns into the ticket for realizing dreams.

Life Cycle Reasons

As people reach significant milestones in their lives, their residential preferences and needs often change.

Changes in Relationships

Moving in with a partner or getting married usually means selling for one or both of the homeowning parties. Conversely, breakups are also a common reason for people to sell homes. One party may need to buy out the other and not have the cash available, the place might not be affordable to sustain on a single income, or the home may simply hold bad memories.

Empty Nest

Downsizing a home is another key reason why empty-nesters move. The kids have grown up and moved out, and now the parents want a smaller place. Plus, the older you get, the harder a big house is to maintain, and the better an apartment or townhouse may look. Physical ailments make it difficult to climb stairs, walk long distances, negotiate narrow spaces, or do yard work. Since refitting can be expensive, it's often more expedient to move to a place with a preferable layout or a condo complex with maintenance staff.


Active-adult communities are attracting many buyers over age 55. These planned communities have golf courses, clubhouses, workout and recreational facilities, social gatherings, and health and medical facilities, making it easier to age in place.

Death in the Family

When half of a couple dies, the survivor may find the home too big or too full of reminders to remain there. Maybe grown children find the familial home impractical to keep after their remaining parent goes. Estate planners often recommend that homeowners transfer title to a property into a trust, which allows their heirs to avoid probate proceedings and sell a home more easily.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I sell my home without a real estate agent?

You can sell your home without a real estate agent. This is known as "for sale by owner." It can save you money, as you will not have to pay a commission to a listing agent. However, you will have to do more work on your own. You will likely still need to cover the fee of a buyer's agent, even if you do not have a listing agent working for you.

How can I sell my home quickly?

In a seller's market, your home likely will sell quickly. However, if properties are sitting on the market for a while in your area, you may be able to trade it in or use an iBuyer. You might not make as much profit as you would on a traditional sale, but you can get an offer and sell quickly. You may also be able to avoid many costs typically associated with selling.

What do I do if my home isn't selling?

If your home isn't selling, you may be able to rent it out for a short while until the market improves, or offer prospective buyers a rent-to-own option. If you are relocating for a job, you can also ask your new employer whether they have a guaranteed purchase program. If you have some flexibility in your timing and finances, you can take your home off the market, wait for conditions to change, and then list it again and see whether you have better luck.

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  1. Census Bureau. "Calculating Migration Expectancy Using ACS Data."

  2. National Association of Realtors. "Highlights From the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers."

  3. National Association of Realtors. "2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report." Page 11.

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