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If you currently own a house and you want to purchase a new home, you need to figure out when and how to handle both transactions. If the timing isn’t right, you may find yourself struggling to cover two mortgages at once.

Why It Can Be Risky to Buy a New Home Before Selling Your Old One
You may be tempted to purchase a new house and move into it before putting your current home on the market. That could make it easier to show your old house, since it would be empty, and handling the transactions at different times might feel less overwhelming.

The problem is that if you buy a new house and then list your old one, there’s no guarantee that your current home will sell quickly. If you have a mortgage on your current home, you’ll have to continue making those payments, on top of mortgage payments for the new house, until you find a buyer for the old house. You’ll also have to cover property taxes and homeowners insurance for both houses. 

If you have a mortgage on your current home, it may be challenging to qualify for a loan to buy a new house. A lender will consider your debt-to-income ratio when deciding whether to approve your application. If your DTI is too high, you may not be able to get a mortgage, or you may have to pay a high interest rate. You also may not have enough money to make a substantial down payment and cover expenses for two properties.

Your current home may sell for less than you expect. If you buy a new house based on the amount of money you think you will get for your old one, but you wind up with less than that, you may struggle to afford your new mortgage.

Buying a new house before selling your old one may make sense if you paid cash for your current home or have paid off your mortgage. You won’t have to worry about double loan payments, but you will still have to cover taxes and insurance for both houses.

How to Handle a Home Sale and Purchase
It may be better to sell your old house first and find a place to stay until you buy a new house so you won’t be saddled with a mortgage and other costs for two houses at the same time. You may be able to sell your house and work out an arrangement with the buyer so you can live there and pay rent for a period of time after the sale goes through while you look for a new house. 

Another option is to look for a new home and include a contingency in the purchase agreement stating that the deal will only go ahead if you find a buyer for your old house. While that would protect you, it would be risky for the person selling the house you want to buy.