Is now a good time to sell a house?

The housing market is starting to plateau due to rising mortgage rates. If you're thinking of selling your home, would it be better to wait or should you take the plunge now?

For Sale estate agent sign displayed outside a terraced house in Crouch End, London
(Image credit: VictorHuang)

You’re probably wondering if now is a good time to sell a house if you're thinking of moving house. 

House prices slowed for much of 2023 as buyers were affected by rising mortgage rates. While the property market had a boost at the start of 2024 - average UK house prices jumped 0.7% in February, according to Nationwide - they are now starting to plateau.

Property price inflation remained relatively static last month, with prices increasing by just 0.1% in April, according to Halifax.

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Mortgage rates have been on the rise in recent months, despite Bank of England bank rate remaining frozen at 5.25%. The average two- and five-year fixed rates increased by 0.11% and 0.09% respectively over the past month, according to Moneyfacts.

This has caused a drop in buyer demand. The latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) notes that the number of new buyers fell in April, after three months of rises.

However, on the brighter side, RICS said that property listings increased in April, and there is a strong feeling that housing market activity will pick up in the latter part of the year and into 2025, regardless of any political uncertainty around the general election.

Estate agency Knight Frank previously predicted a 4% drop in house prices for this year, but has now changed its forecast to a 3% rise.

So, what does this all mean if you’re thinking of selling your home? It can be tricky working out the right time to sell a property, especially in an uncertain housing market.

(If you’re thinking of buying a home, check out our guide to Is now a good time to buy a house?.)

We explore what’s happening in the housing market right now, and things to consider if you’re planning to sell a house.

Is now a good time to sell a house?

The answer to whether it’s a good time to sell a house comes down to your own personal situation, as well as economic factors - although these relate to the future, and no one knows exactly what could happen and when.

Karen Noye, mortgage expert at the wealth manager Quilter, tells MoneyWeek: “It is likely that many people who were considering buying a new home are sat patiently in ‘wait and see’ mode. Though the Bank of England is unlikely to announce a rate cut as early as June, we could still see one materialise later in the year.”

Lower mortgage rates should prompt more demand from buyers, potentially boosting house prices.

And if you’re planning to buy a new home (as well as selling one), cheaper mortgages could save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.

Noye adds: “However, while it may pay to take a wait and see approach, not everyone’s situation will allow for this. If the property you are looking to buy is likely to also cost less due to the current market conditions, your finances add up, and it is the right property for you that ticks all the boxes for both now and in the longer term, then it may make sense to sell and make that move. 

“But if you do not intend to buy after you sell, holding off might be a better option as house prices are likely to rebound in the longer term given the continued lack of supply.”

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, warns that there are no guarantees that falling mortgage rates will encourage more buyers back to the market. “Those who don’t need to sell in a hurry may be tempted to wait,” she says.

“But there’s the chance that rates only start falling later in the summer, and even then, they may only move very fractionally until at least the end of 2024. In the interim, if house prices keep rising, it could mean buyers remain priced out of the market.”

Are you planning to step up or downsize? 

The question of when to sell also depends on if you are buying another property at the same time - and whether that costs more or less than your current home. 

Coles explains: “If you’re selling and buying at the same time, you can trade the loss of a premium on your property for being able to drive a harder bargain where you’re moving.

“The exception to this is for those who are downsizing. A buyers’ market - which it is right now - could make a significant difference to how much you get for your home, and you stand to gain far less from a discount on your purchase, so if you can wait a few months, you might want to.”

If you’re thinking of selling you’ll also have to consider the costs involved. This can include estate agent fees, legal fees, stamp duty, and capital gains tax

So, if you’re selling because you would like to free up some money, weigh up whether it will be worth it after costs.

Sellers must price their property “keenly” 

If you do want to sell your house now, think carefully about your pricing strategy.

According to Coles, anyone who needs a quick sale will have to “price their property keenly”. 

She comments: “This is not the time to go with the highest estimate from the pushiest estate agent, because there’s a risk you won’t get any viewings, and you’ll squander the initial interest when the property first goes onto the market.”

This is echoed by Rightmove research that suggests pricing "temptingly" rather than just testing the market, is the best way to attract buyers at this time of year and in this economic climate.

What’s happening with house prices? 

All house price indexes measure growth differently, and this year we’ve seen little consistency between them.

For example, while Halifax recorded house price growth of 0.1% last month, Nationwide reported a 0.4% fall. 

It also depends on where you look in the UK. According to Zoopla, house prices continue to rise in northern parts of the country, but properties in the south of England are losing value. Northern Ireland scored the biggest annual growth in March, of 4.4%.

Coles comments: “House prices have been rising very slowly and unevenly through the first few months of the year, and there’s every chance we could see this continue to the end of the year, until we get some significant movement on mortgage rates.”

In terms of forecasts, Knight Frank expects average property prices to rise by 3% this year.

But this seems to be an outlier. Halifax expects house prices to fall by 4% this year while Nationwide is also anticipating a single-digit drop.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts that by the end of 2024 prices will have fallen by 2%, which is at least less drastic than the 5% it previously predicted.

Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is an award-winning financial journalist with more than 15 years' experience of working on national newspapers, websites and specialist magazines.

She is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, while also serving as a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.