Do you need to sell before you can buy?
If so, you naturally need to know what a new home will cost and whether you'll qualify for the payments. You don't want to let go of your present home only find that you can't purchase a new one!
That said, do a little looking online and speak with a mortgage lender before going any further. Looking online will give you a good idea of pricing on homes of the size you need in the neighborhoods you want.
You'll likely see a wide range, because some of those homes will be in top condition and some won't. Assume that the home you'll choose will be at the high end of the range.
Speaking with a lender will tell you whether you'll qualify for a purchase at that price.
BUT – Don't make the mistake of shopping for that new home just yet!
Unless you qualify for – and can afford - a new loan while still making payments on your present home, wait until you've listed your home and have accepted an offer from a qualified buyer.
Shopping for a new home before you have the ability to make a purchase can only lead to disappointment.
Very few sellers will accept an offer contingent on the sale of a house that is not yet under contract. It just doesn't make sense for them to take their house off the market on the chance that your house will sell and you'll be able to close. Of course, a few will do it if you're willing to put down a sizeable non-refundable earnest money deposit.
Even if you do already have an offer on your current home, sellers are wise to be cautious and will perhaps counter with a "bump clause" allowing them to accept a different offer if you can't close within the specified time frame.
If by chance the seller does accept your offer, you'll have put yourself in another difficult situation – that of needing to sell your present house quickly. That, in turn, means you'll be more likely to accept a low offer just to get it done.
The need to hurry could cost you thousands of dollars.
So what else will happen if you shop too soon?
The worst case: You'll find "the perfect house" and you won't be able to buy it. And after that, no other house will measure up. Even if you find a different home that in reality is a better fit for you and yours, you'll always think the other one would have been better.
My advice: Exercise patience. First, list your home at its current market value. Then do all you can to make it attractive, appealing, and accessible to qualified buyers and their agents. Then negotiate reasonably and get that home under contract.
Once your house is under contract with a solid buyer, start shopping for your new