We want to sell our New York City rental. Should we wait for the tenants to leave before listing the house?

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Dear Big Move,

My husband and I own a home in New York City. We’d like to sell it, but we have to give the current tenants until about the end of the month to move. The home is located in Staten Island. It’s a single-family, fully-detached home with a small fenced-in yard. 

Our question is this: What should we do first? Should we put it on the market now, and tell the real-estate agent about the tenants’ need for a few months, or wait until about a month before they have to leave and put it up for sale then?  

We’ve never sold a house before, and I’m not sure what the best course of action should be. 


The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.

Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Aarthi Swaminathan at [email protected].

Dear Confused,

It depends on how quickly you want to sell the home. Yes, you can sell the home with the tenants in it. But if you are not in a rush, you could wait until their lease is up and clear it out first, then sell. 

But it sounds like you’re keen to explore the idea of putting the home on the market as soon as possible, so here are a few major points you need to consider.

First, you need to make sure that you’ve provided them with adequate notice to terminate the lease. If it’s a month-to-month tenancy, they have 30 days or more to vacate the home, depending on how long they’ve lived there, according to New York City regulations.

Then, talk to a real-estate agent about selling the property. Present all of the facts such as how long the tenants have lived there, how much rent they’re paying, when their lease ends (or when they have agreed to vacate the home), or if they are keen to stay at the unit under new owners. They’ll be able to help you anticipate any unexpected issues when it comes to selling the home.

Third, you’ll have to decide with the real-estate agent if it’s worth vacating the home and having it staged for showings, have it empty, or show it with tenants at home. It may be logistically easiest to show the home without the tenants in it, and it may be worth the home being staged. 

Should you ‘stage’ your home?

“It depends on the current state of the home, it can be good for prospective buyers to see a furnished versus an unfurnished home to get a sense of proportion with furniture,” Adjina Dekidjiev, a real-estate broker at Coldwell Banker Warburg, told MarketWatch, “but if the home is too cluttered they should wait.”

But “if the home shows well, it’s fine to show with as much notice as possible to ensure that tenants have time to clean up and declutter,” Dekidjiev added. “There’s a clause in most leases that allows for owners to begin marketing and showing the home.”

Assess the home and see if it’s worth showing it to prospective buyers as-is. You don’t want a messy home to hurt your chances at selling, or have the bidders put in a lowball offer because they can’t imagine themselves living there in style.

The bottom line: If you’re selling your Staten Island rental, you can put it on the market now with the agent being aware of the tenant situation, if the home is presentable and appealing with them living in it.

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