They say that owning a home is “The American Dream”. And owning a home really can be a dream – as long as you aren’t suffocating under a huge mortgage payment. In cases like this, “The American Dream” can turn into something that’s more like a nightmare. And when you’re in this situation, what do you do? It really depends on the person. Some decide to stick it out and do whatever it takes to pay their mortgage. And others decide to get out from under their dream turned nightmare by selling their home and moving.

But what a scary decision! Most of us have been taught that a home is the most important investment to make, and so making the decision to sell can be really hard. This is why it’s so important to do your homework before you decide to sell. First and most importantly, you’ll want to find out how much your home is worth, and compare that to how much is left on your mortgage. This is something you can do on your own, by getting a comparative market analysis. Most real estate agents are licensed to do these, and generally charge around $150.

What a comparative market analysis does is tell you what you can expect your house to sell for, based on different things like where you live, what other homes in the area have sold for, and what else is on the market. A realtor will use one of these to help you decide how much to list your house for anyway, so by getting one done yourself, you can decide if selling your house will actually help your finances. To figure this out, compare the expected selling price (which comes from the comparative market analysis) to the pay off statement for your mortgage.

If the expected selling price is enough to get you out of your mortgage, plus pay for closing costs and realtor fees, then selling is a good option. But what comes next? If and when you decide to sell, before doing anything you need to decide what you want your housing situation to look like once your house sells. Do you want to buy a home that will have a more affordable mortgage payment? Do you want to rent for a few years while saving money or looking for a better job? Do you want to live with family for a while you figure things out? Before you put your house on the market, you really need to have a place in plan for what will happen once it sells.

Once you decide what on a plan, the next step is getting your house on the market. Here you have two options. You can sell your home on your own, and save yourself from paying a realtor 5% in commission fees (or more). Or you can get help selling your home from a realtor. Both options have good and bad points. Realtors are experts at selling homes, but you pay a lot for that expertise. And selling your house yourself can save you a lot of money, but it takes a lot more work too. But if you’ve done your homework and have a follow-up plan for when your house sells, either option can help you achieve your goal. And the goal is to get out from under a huge mortgage payment that you can’t afford, and into a better financial situation.