This is a common question that people have when they have a home to sell. Should we find a home first, or sell ours first? I understand the worry that you won't find the right home, but in reality that is very rare. Especially today with our current listing inventory in Edmonton we always find a good home if we give ourselves enough time (60-90 day possession on your existing home). I always recommend to sell first. There are quite a few reasons but the biggest is money. Financially you can lose money by buying first. To explain this, when you are buying you are emotionally involved. When you are selling it is much more of a logical (have to do) process. I've seen many people buy first and overpay for their new home (emotional) then they "dump" their home and sell at a low price in order to get into the next home. Not to mention, it almost always puts you in a bad financial spot when you are covering two mortgages for any period of time.
Some people try to buy subject to their home selling and this may not put you in a bad position immediately (covering two mortgages), but your negotiating power is lessened when you have this condition on your offer. So, you still end up overpaying for the new home. This is also a real roller coaster emotionally. If you can't buy the new home outright and have to put a subject to sale condition in your offer, the seller of the new home will always put a time clause on the condition. What that means, is that if another offer comes in on the new home, the seller has the right to serve you with 24, 48 or 72 hours notice to either remove all your conditions (ie own both homes) or withdraw your offer. So, you end up back in the bad financial position by removing conditions, or you back away from the offer and lose your dream home. Not fun.
The last remaining problem is that pricing your existing home is not an exact science. Nobody, including appraisers, can tell you exactly what your home will sell for. We as professional Realtors can educate you on what your home should sell for, but until we actually have a buyer offer on your home and remove conditions, we are only working with hypothetical numbers. Not to mention the market can change while you are trying to sell. For example, 5 of your neighbours can put their homes up for sale, a local company can lay off 1000 workers, interest rates can go up etc. You get my point. You are in a much better position when you know exactly what you are netting out of your existing home.
That is why I always recommend you sell first.