Ideally, moving to a new home is a clean jump from one nest to another, with all three parties—you, your old home buyer, and your new home seller—ready to schedule a synchronous pair of closing dates.
Reality, however, often includes overlapping negotiations and conflicting needs. Many sellers are stuck with a gap between living spaces and need to find a third spot to lay their heads.
To figure out where to live between selling and buying residential property, take a look at our round-up of options below.
The Challenge of Timing in Real Estate Transactions
Listing a home for sale (versus accepting a cash offer) comes with uncertainty, particularly around timing. Some sellers land an excited buyer within days of a property listing, while others will list and relist their home over months.
How long it takes to land an acceptable offer after listing depends on many factors, including:
- The price, style, size, acreage, and features of your property
- House condition: repair, renovation, and cosmetic needs
- Interest rates, lending conditions, and economic factors such as runaway inflation
- Local market conditions: jobs, cost of living, housing prices, home value and real estate market trends
Then, the time from offer to closing date often depends on buyer contingencies, particularly inspection (and additional negotiation thereafter), financing, and sale of a buyer’s current home.
All told, your “I’m outta here” moment could come in as little as a few weeks with a quick-closing cash offer or take several months for a traditional sale during a slower market. The 2023 nationwide days on market (DOM) average is 50 (from listing the property to signing a sales contract), and the average closing period (from sales contract signing to closing date) is 57 days.1,2
If you’re a seller who’s then looking to buy, you’ll need to double that timeline.
When you shift from seller to buyer, you’re dealing with another set of contingencies, another outside party’s situation and preferences, and another gamble on how long it’ll take to find, negotiate, and close on a home.
The odds are likely that you’ll need to come up with a place to stay between homes.
Where to Live Between Selling and Buying: 5 Options
Negotiating for the best deal on both a home sale and a home purchase means offering flexible timing that suits your old house buyer and new home seller. Have a plan in place for interim lodgings, such as:
#1: Your Own Home with a Sale-Leaseback
When it comes to selling your home while living in it, the number one solution to tricky sell-and-buy timing is a residential sale-leaseback. Instead of listing your home through a real estate agent and waiting for a buyer, you can skip directly to a short closing—and you won’t have to move out until you’re ready.
A sale-leaseback pairs the sale of your property to an investor-landlord with:
- A lease agreement at an agreed-upon rate
- The opportunity to convert your home equity to cash
- The legal right to remain as a renter
- A landlord who takes over covered repairs, property tax, and insurance
- No need to stage, show, or remodel your property
There are many sale-leaseback benefits. Instead of rushing to the door, you stay in your own familiar environment and put all your energy into monitoring the housing market and negotiating a new home purchase. Your position as a prospective buyer is stronger because you:
- Don’t require a sale contingency
- Will be a cash buyer
- Can offer a closing period that best suits a seller
Compared to three and a half months (50 DOM plus 57 days to close averages), you can complete a sale in as little as four to six weeks with a reputable sale-leaseback company.1,2
#2: Short-Term Rentals and Temporary Housing
If not your own home, how about someone else’s? Short-term rentals of furnished apartments, condos, or houses can offer:
- Full kitchens and dining spaces to eat at (your temporary) home
- Multiple bathrooms and bedrooms
- Room to spread out for different activities
You can look for short-term rental properties that:
- Include laundry room access
- Allow pets
- Provide luxury fittings, unique features, or interesting decor
For a 30-day stay, the average Airbnb daily rate is $169 (vs. $213 for seven or $314 for one day), but your cost will vary based on location and property choice.3 Be sure to check for cleaning and other fees that can bump your rate up before committing to a rental property. If you’re considering a short-term rental option, make sure to explore the advantages of renting.
#3: Extended Stay Hotels
How about a stay that includes daily housekeeping service? An extended stay hotel can provide:
- Suites with multiple sleeping zones
- Kitchenettes with appliances, dishes and basic cookware, and table seating features
- Living room areas with televisions and seating for the whole family
You can also find extended-stay hotels that:
- Offer full, hot breakfasts
- Allow pets
- Provide pools or hot tubs
- Have on-site laundry rooms for guests
For a 30-day stay, rates vary by location from about $1,163 to $4,360, with a national average of $2,681 (about $90 per night).4
#4: Staying with Family or Friends
If you have a favorite aunt and an open invite to her luxury pool house, then you’re all set—but for the rest of us, staying with family and friends can be a mixed bag. While the biggest draw is usually the possibility of free lodgings, space limitations and conflicting expectations can be challenging.
Before you make their casa your casa, discuss:
- A timeline and whether you have a plan if there are further delays to your move-in date
- Expectations of schedules, meals, chores, use of rooms, utilities, features, etc.
- Boundaries such as privacy or family rules and traditions
You may want to consider covering the cost of groceries and higher utility bills during your stay and finding ways to offset the extra housekeeping required when hosting guests. If your hosts decline cash, you can sneak in a gift card or another practical way to thank them.
#5: Vacant Houses on the Market
Another option may be hard to find but provides mutual benefits: finding a house that’s for sale with a homeowner willing to do a short-term rental. It’s an unconventional arrangement because run-of-the-mill renters have little incentive to keep a home showcase-ready. Plus, some states have tenants’ rights laws that make it difficult to ensure a renter is willing and able to leave quickly if the home sells.
However, for a home that lingers on the market after its owners have moved elsewhere, having someone willing to rent for a month at a time can help them avoid the downside of an uninhabited house. Instead of potentially pesky tenants, pitch the possibility as a caretaking arrangement with a willingness to:
- Maintain a living presence that protects the property
- Keep the home ready for showings and leave for an hour or so when they arise
- Sign a strict month-to-month or even week-to-week lease
- Agree to forgo a notice-to-vacate delay period
With these benefits to the owner in mind, you may be able to pay less than the market rental value of the home. In major cities, you can look for a home caretaker organization that can help you find a situation.5 Otherwise, check with your real estate agent(s) to see if they have any leads for a vacated home that’s struggling to find a potential buyer.
Preparing for the In-Between Period
Depending on how long you’ll be living between homes, you may need to deal with belongings, service providers, and mail and package delivery as a three-step dance instead of moving from point A to point B.
Store Your Belongings
When you have a gap between exiting your old house and moving into your new house, juggling belongings can be a hassle. You’ll need to split them between packing for your temporary stay (clothing, toiletries, food, bedding, etc.) and for the new home. Depending on the amount and value of your items, you could:
- Rent a temporary storage space
- Hire a moving company that can store your items between pick-up and drop-off
- Borrow a friend’s garage or basement space
Set Up Mail Forwarding
Even if you’re accustomed to handling your affairs digitally, important snail mail may be headed your way after real estate transactions. To ensure you don’t miss out on essential communications, plan out a timeline for your mail delivery to:
- Submit a forwarding address to the post office
- Notify all lenders, banking institutions, and service providers of your new address
- Arrange for mail to be held at the post office if needed
- Ask a neighbor to collect anything that arrives while your old house is unoccupied
- Make sure the buyer has your contact information and an easy way to forward your mail
Just like with mail, check your calendar and plan a timeline to cover all utilities. Coordinate with your old house buyer and new home seller to ensure there’s no break in service. Check well in advance of how long it may take to schedule things like internet providers or cable installation. You’ll need to stop and start accounts to cover:
- Trash and recycling
- Internet and phone
- Cable or satellite
Planning for temporary housing between a property sale and a new home purchase increases your bargaining power. There are multiple options to choose from including extended-stay hotels, short-term rentals, vacant houses on the market, and lodging with friends or family. You can also choose a sale-leaseback, which allows you to remain in your home as a renter after completing a sale. Plus, it also positions you as a cash buyer with greater flexibility and negotiating power for a new home purchase, ensuring a smooth transition from selling first to ownership of your new property.
- Realtor.com. October 2023 Monthly Housing Market Trends Report. https://www.realtor.com/research/october-2023-data/
- ICE Mortgage Technology. January 2021 Origination Insight Report. https://static.elliemae.com/pdf/origination-insight-reports/ICE_OIR_JAN2021.pdf
- NerdWallet. Airbnb Pricing Statistics: 2023. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/travel/airbnb-pricing-statistics
- UponArriving. How Much Are Extended Stay Hotels Per Month? (Prices & Rates) . https://www.uponarriving.com/how-much-extended-stay-hotels-per-month/
- Realtor.com. Could You Rent Out Your Old House While Trying to Sell It? Should You? https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/rent-out-your-house-while-trying-to-sell-it/