While many homeowners reach a point where they decide to sell their place, here’s an alternative I’m considering for my own home: Rather than sell, I may rent it out instead says Jillian Pretzel.
When I bought my condo three years ago, I knew it was only a starter home. My one-bedroom, two-bath condo was the perfect space for me at the time, but I knew that as I got older, got married, and started a family, I’d need to move up, and out.
For a long time, I assumed I would just sell my current house, but it has since come to my attention that it could be smarter to hang on to this property instead. Here are four times renting out your house might make more sense than selling it—take a look to figure out whether it might make sense for you, too.
1. You don’t need to sell your house to buy your next one
“The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘Do I need to sell this house because I need the money for something else?'” says Emily White, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty.
Many homeowners sell their current house to finance their next home, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe you paid off your old house long ago, and you have the funds upfront to get a new mortgage. Or, maybe you’re planning on renting your next place and you don’t need a lump sum from your home sale for a down payment.
If you don’t need to sell your house to get into your next one, you might consider renting it out for a while so you can enjoy some passive income—then sell later when the time feels right.
2. You’re able to qualify for a second mortgage
Even if you don’t need to sell your current home to buy your next, the question remains: Can you qualify for a second mortgage?
After all, when you apply, lenders will consider any standing mortgages in your application, and if your debt-to-income ratio is pushing the limits, you might have no choice but to sell before you buy your next place.
Not sure where you stand? One way to gauge that is to seek mortgage pre-approval, where you meet with a lender who then crunches the numbers on your finances to see how much you can afford to borrow.
3. It’s a bad time to sell your house in terms of the market
Another bonus to renting rather than selling? It can give you the opportunity to be strategic with the timing of your sale, which is important because if you list your house at the wrong time, you could be risking big money.
If you haven’t been in the house very long (so the investment hasn’t had time to appreciate) or if the market isn’t good when you decide to sell, you might not be making the profit you could be getting if you wait for a better time.
To find out if you’ll make money off the sale if you list your house now, check out the value estimate of your home and find out what comparable houses in your area have been selling for. Of course, home estimates and comp prices are no guarantee of what your house is worth, but they will help you get an idea of what ballpark figure you’re looking at.
Then, calculate how much it will cost to sell the house—you’ll want to factor in repair fees, lawyer fees, plus the fee for a real estate agent—and see how much of a profit you’ll actually make on the house. If you won’t be making much, or if you come out at a loss, you might consider renting it out for a while instead.
“The good thing about renting out your place is that, in some regard, you can time the market to see when the best time to sell would be,” says White.
Renting it out for a year and taking a look at the market and your home value later could make this waiting game pay off.
4. Your house is in a good renter’s area, and renter-ready
If you’re in a big city where lots of people rent, or near a university where plenty of students are looking for off-campus housing, you could make a good amount of money renting out your place. So much of real estate is about supply and demand, so if there’s a big market, your home could be a great cash cow for years to come.
Next, ask yourself if your home would be attractive to renters. Some features could make your home especially valuable as a rental property, while those interested in buying may have different needs.
For example: While a buyer may want some good outdoor space and won’t mind mowing a lawn, renters might prefer a condo with a simple patio so they don’t have to worry about upkeep. While buyers might be OK with doing some updates and personalizations (after all, they’re probably planning on being there for a while), renters prefer a turnkey home.
Even furniture could be a big factor. While buyers are likely going to come in with their own stuff, some renters might pay extra for a fully or partly furnished home.