Should You Sell or Rent Your Home? (Part 2)

This is the second part of a 2-part blog post that discusses the decision many homeowners face in today’s market. “Should You Sell or Rent Your Home? (Part 1) discusses advantages and disadvantages of selling and renting. Part 2 talks about the 3 factors you must consider to determine the best option for your situation.

3 things to consider to decide if you should rent or sell your home

In addition to understanding the advantages and disadvantages, you must consider other factors before deciding to sell or rent your home:

Can you afford the payments if you decide to rent the home?

One of the most important things to consider when making the decision is whether you have the ability to cover all the expenses on your home (with or without the help of a tenant).

When figuring out your payments, make sure you factor in utilities, lawn care, taxes, insurance, as well as your mortgage payment. A good tenant can cover a significant portion of these costs, but you need to be prepared to cover the expenses while the home is vacant.

Keep in mind that the amount of rent you can collect has nothing to do with the amount of your payments. Your payments depend on how much you borrowed, the interest rate, and the repayment term, as well as your property taxes and insurance premium. The rent is solely determined by what the market is willing to pay and that depends on how many homes are available for rent and how many people are looking to rent homes (supply and demand).

If your payments are higher than what you can afford over the long term, you should strongly consider selling your home. It does not do you (or the tenant) any good to struggle making payments for a year or so only to face foreclosure some time down the road. We’ll discuss selling even if you have no equity in the next section.

What financial resources do you have available to induce a sale?

Selling a home costs money. Real estate commissions, repairs, upgrades, closing costs, holding costs, etc. can add up to thousands of dollars. If you have significant equity at today’s market value, you should be able to sell your home and cover all selling expenses with the proceeds of the sale.

If you do not have equity, you would need to use other financial resources to induce the sale. The most common case is bringing cash to closing in order to supplement the proceeds of the sale to pay off the mortgage and cover selling expenses.

If you don’t have equity or financial resources to sell and cannot afford the payments, you should consider contacting your lender to discuss your options.

If you want to stay in your home, your lender will consider modifying your loan to lower your payments. But if you really have to move out and you cannot afford the payments, the lender will most likely agree to take a short payoff on your mortgage (also known as a “short sale”). Essentially, the lender will agree to take less than what’s owed to allow the sale to happen and avoid having to “take the property back”. To approve a short sale, most lenders will ask to see proof that you do not have the resources to continue making the payments.

Another alternative is offering the home to the lender in lieu of foreclosure. Most lenders will prefer to go with a short sale as they do not want to own any more houses.

Keep in mind that not paying your mortgage in full will damage your credit. Bad credit can prevent you from borrowing money, especially at good rates, and could hurt your ability to rent the best homes or even get a good job. Walking away from a mortgage can be the only solution for some people, but they should exhaust other options as the consequences of this alternative are lasting.

If you decide to rent your home, the rent you receive may or may not be enough to cover your expenses, depending on how big your payments are. Keep in mind that even if the rent does not fully cover the expenses, paying a small amount of money each month on a home you are not enjoying is not ideal, but doing so may allow you to keep your good credit and move on with your life.

Is your home in good condition?

Your home must be in good condition in order to rent it. Good tenants usually do not rent homes that are in bad shape. Many people make the mistake of renting a home that needs work to the first person that is willing to rent it. Tenants who do not mind the condition of the home are likely to be trouble in the future. This does not mean your home has to be perfect or that it has to have the latest updates, but your home must be fully functional and safe for the new occupants.

If your home needs work, you can either fix it or sell it in its current condition. Fixing a home to rent is cheaper than fixing it to sell. Buyers are much more selective than tenants because the risk of buying a “bad” home is much higher than the risk of renting one.

If you decide to sell a home that needs work, you must be prepared to discount it significantly. The pool of buyers who are willing to buy a home that needs work is much smaller than that of buyers looking for homes in good condition. The amount of discount you must offer will likely exceed the cost of fixing the home.

In summary, renting out your home can be a good option if you can afford the payments and if your home is in good condition (or you have the resources to put it in good condition). If you cannot afford the payments and really have to move, makes sure you discuss your options with your lender.

Questions? Please post them in the comments below.

Should You Sell or Rent Your Home? (Part 1)

This is the first part of a 2-part blog post that discusses the decision many homeowners face in today’s market. Part 1 discusses advantages and disadvantages of selling and renting. Should You Sell or Rent Your Home? (Part 2) talks about the 3 factors you must consider to determine the best option for your situation.

Many homeowners in the Memphis area are unable to sell their homes for a reasonable price. This situation puts significant financial and emotional burdens on many families.

Some families have already moved out, but continue to make payments on a vacant home nobody is benefiting from. Other families are “held hostage” by their home and cannot move on with their lives until their home sells.

At some point, most homeowners in this situation think about renting out their home as a potential solution to their problem. But renting is not for everyone.

So when is renting a better option vs. waiting for the home to sell?

Let’s start by looking at the advantages of selling:

  • Can give you peace of mind: If you no longer need your home and dislike the idea of keeping it as an investment, selling your home will likely give you the peace of mind of knowing you don’t have to be concerned with tenants, maintenance, vacancy, and other home expenses.
  • Can produce cash: If you have equity in your home, selling will unlock your equity without borrowing. Having cash on hand can be useful (although not essential) to purchase another home.
  • Can be a tax free move: If you have lived in and owned your home for at least 2 years out of the last five and can sell at a profit, you may be able to benefit from section 121 of the Internal Revenue Code which allows you to exclude up to $500,000 from your taxable income connected with the sale of your home. You can still take advantage of this exclusion if you sell within 3 years of moving out. Consult your tax advisor for more information.

The main disadvantage of selling in today’s market is that you may have to sell at a loss. Also, if you have located the ideal home for your family, waiting to sell your current home can result in your losing the opportunity to buy that ideal home.

Now, let’s talk about the advantages of renting:

  • Can be more profitable in the long run: 
    • Renting your home for some time can be more profitable than selling it in today’s depressed market since good homes will likely appreciate over the long term.
    • Even if homes do not appreciate, the fact that the tenant is paying down your mortgage will likely result in a larger profit when you sell.
    • Rents from your home can supplement your income, especially after the mortgage is paid off.
    • In many cases finding a good tenant is easier than finding someone to buy your home and cash you out. This translates into lower expense if you are dealing with a vacant home.
  • Can provide tax benefits: Owning rental property can provide tax benefits that lower your taxable income and thus how much tax you pay. Also, if you are faced with selling a home at a loss, converting it into rental property could allow you to write off the loss against your income, which would not be possible if you sold it as your personal residency. Make sure you discuss your situation with your tax advisor to understand how these things would apply to you.
  • Can help you move on with your life faster: Since renting a home takes less time and financial resources than selling it, you can move on with your life faster if you rent. This means you can join the rest of your family if they have already relocated or take a job offer if you have been waiting to sell. Keep in mind that the fact that you own a home does not necessarily mean you cannot purchase (finance) another one. The income from your rental home may help you qualify for a loan to buy the new home.

The main disadvantage of renting is that you do not get relief from the responsibility of owning a home (payments, maintenance, etc.). This, however, can be mitigated with good tenant and property management practices.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss 3 factors to consider before you decide to sell or rent your home.

What are other reasons to sell or to rent? Please post your comments below.