Get good guidance for that tough question: Should I sell my Kalamazoo home at a loss or rent it out?

image depicting a Kalamazoo house for sale and one for rent
Which is RIGHT FOR ME?

Kalamazoo homes and real estate. January 2013/ The real estate climate forecast for the coming year is partly sunny — and warming up!  Yet, with no double-digit appreciation in sight, some who plan on selling a home in town face the very practical question: is the winter of ’13 the right time to sell?

For those who stand to make a gain from selling their greater Kalamazoo area home, the decision often boils down to convenience. Whether sale prices rise or fall, the cost of their next home will probably move in the same direction.

But what about those who suspect that the overhang from the financial crisis will probably result in some degree of net loss? How do they decide whether it makes more sense to sell and take the loss, or to rent — and wait? Emotions aside, the financial impacts can be examined. If you are considering selling a home in the area and don’t stand to make a profit, asking yourself some questions can help reach a decision:

  • Can I afford to take a loss on the sale of my greater Kalamazoo area home?  For many people who don’t need the cash from the sale of their house in order to  purchase a new house, taking a loss on the sale may be more than offset, by the gain you receive in the purchase of your new house (more house for less money.)  In addition, when you factor in the potentially HUGE interest savings you will incur by today’s low interest rates, taking a loss on the sale of your house will be more than offset by gains.  
  • If I have to take a loss, will there be a tax advantage to doing so in 2013?  Check with your CPA to see if this year’s the right time to benefit from a tax advantage from the loss.  This would be a great time to offset any other major income gain that you might incur if, for example you expect to sell a business or come into any other form of extra income during this tax year.
  • If I choose to rent my greater Kalamazoo home, am I prepared to be a landlord?  Are you willing to be on call 24-7 as a landlord and are you  up-to-date on applicable federal and local fair housing ordinances and tenants’ rights issues?  If not, it’s practical to factor in the cost of a property management agency (usually 7 – 15%) and the costs of owning, maintaining, cleaning and upgrading the house.  In addition to the financial implications,  are you willing to give up the time it will take to be a landlord?  (If you do decide to hold onto your home for a while as a rental and do purchase a home using the Veenstra Team as your buyer agent, we will provide a handbook and all the paperwork needed to become a landlord.)  
  • If I choose to rent my greater Kalamazoo home, and I am willing to take on the added responsibility and time of tenants, will I be able to break even or show a positive return?  When you are running the numbers, don’t forget to factor in a time of vacancy between tenants, all the costs of advertising for tenants, setting up an LLC to shield yourself from liability, higher insurance costs, house upkeep, doing the deferred maintenance that may be necessary to attract tenants, higher tax rates on the home (because of non-homestead rating), lawn and snow removal costs, regular maintenance and repairs, cleaning and repainting after each tenant.  
  • Am I prepared to wait it out?  If you decide to rent a local home and wait for the market to catch up to your profit goals, are you prepared to wait 5-10 years before selling?  That is the estimate many economists have made for most home prices to recover.  Most economists also believe that we may be at a unique period in history regarding interest rates.  They may never again be as low in our lifetime, as they are right now.  Be sure to factor interest cost savings into the equation when you think about what you will “lose” on selling your home for a loss.    

Selling a Kalamazoo home vs. renting it out is a decision only you can make — that is why starting with accurate information is so important. We will be happy to meet for a confidential consultation to provide the value of your local home in today’s market. It is a very good place to start.  Don’t depend on the on-line estimates of pricing that you get on websites like Zillow or others.  All of those sites rely strictly on market data and are not able to take the features and condition of your home into the mix.  We base our estimate of your local Kalamazoo home value on the same market data available to those online companies AND our ability to make in person visits and realistic comparisons of actual homes.  This makes a big difference.

Your neighbors and trusted advisors in Kalamazoo real estate,
David Veenstra and Jason Veenstra