To sell or to rent. It’s a tricky question, especially in a down market. If you are relocating or just ready to move on from your ball and chain of a house, renting might make more sense than selling. Here is a quiz to help you decide whether you should sell or rent your home.
Can You Afford to Sell Your Home?
Here’s an example of a situation where a couple had to examine how affordable it was for them to sell their house. The couple knew they wanted to move to a new home, but they live in an area of Florida where houses have halved in value since the peak in 2006 – the same year their house was purchased. As they debated whether to sell their home, they realized that if they chose to sell, they would be forced to take a $150,000 cash loss, not including closing costs. They looked at the numbers and decided they could not afford to sell their home. For them, it made more sense to rent their home and purchase a second home that then became their primary residence. When you rent, you may take a loss on a monthly basis, but you do not have to come up with the cash to satisfy the loan immediately upon sale. If you sell at a loss, then there is no tax benefit.
Can You Afford to Rent Your Home?
Research the going rents in your market using tools like the MLS listings and craigslist.org. Look for comparable properties in your neighborhood or similar neighborhoods to get sense for what your home might bring in as a rental. It is important to take features like square footage, number of rooms and upgrades such as granite kitchen counter tops, location and proximity to desirable schools into consideration while looking for comps. You can also talk to real estate agents and property managers to get their take on pricing. If it turns out that you can’t cover your mortgage with the projected rent, then calculate how much of a loss you can take to still be able to afford to rent the house.
Do You Need Tax Deductions?
You can often take losses and costs from rental properties as tax deductions. In addition to deducting the cost of your mortgage beyond the rental income, landlords can often deduct all expenses associated with the rental, including property management and maintenance fees. Consult your accountant to ensure that you know what the costs and benefits will be from a tax perspective before you make the decision to rent rather than sell your home.
Can Your Credit Take the Hit of a Short Sale?
If you don’t mind sacrificing your credit score for a few years, you can’t afford to rent and you really need to get out of your house, then a short sale is always an option. A short sale is a real estate transaction in which the bank agrees to accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage to release the owner from their financial obligation. For example, if the mortgage on a home is $200,000 and a buyer makes an offer for $150,000, the bank may accept this offer and forgive the additional debt. Besides mucking up your credit, a short sale can also contribute to your tax bill. Often, the forgiven amount (in this case, $50,000) can be added to your tax bill as taxable income. It is important to consult a lawyer or accountant so that you know the details of how a short sale will impact your taxes and your credit before you move ahead.
Should You Sell or Rent Your Home?
Depending on your immediate financial situation and long-term outlook, it can make more sense to rent rather than sell. In some cases, a short sale is the best remedy for escaping an underwater property and moving on with your life. Before you make any decision about renting or selling, be sure to consult a lawyer or accountant for customized consultation so that you fully understand the tax ramifications and benefits given your unique situation.