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Seller’s Remorse?

Zach Blattner  |  June 22, 2017

AS I PREPARE to move from Philly to Boston this summer, I’ve struggled with how to handle my home. Do I sell the place and pocket the profit—or keep it as a rental property for future income and price appreciation? A quick Google search provides plenty of good reasons to choose either option. But when making a decision of this magnitude, what really matters is your personal situation—and that prompted me to sell. Here are my five reasons:

  1. The financial benefits of renting out the place don’t outweigh the costs. I could probably rent my house for $500 a month more than my mortgage. But all it would take is a few months with no tenant to leave me in a financial hole.
  2. Over time, greater maintenance spending will be necessary. I’ve been lucky to avoid significant repairs on my air conditioning, water heater and major appliances in the seven years I’ve lived in the house. But all these systems will eventually require work.
  3. I don’t have the time to do it right. I currently find it challenging to schedule maintenance work and find high-quality, trustworthy contractors. I know this will be exponentially harder when I’m living a plane flight away and still working fulltime. The same goes for finding and screening trustworthy tenants. I considered having a close friend manage the property, but that means mixing my friends with my money. That’s usually not a great move—and it would reduce my profit margin.
  4. The market is in the right place. My neighborhood has been rapidly expanding and developing over the last seven years, as larger homes nearby dwarf mine and new retail and restaurant space sprout up close by. I might make more if I held onto the place for even longer and the surrounding area continued to improve. But my home has some limitations—small kitchen, limited closet space, overall low square footage—that will prevent it from ever commanding top dollar. Furthermore, I’m trying to remember that the ever upward feeling that exists in the market now can quickly change. It feels right to lock in my profit while low mortgage rates buoy property prices and my house is still in good condition.
  5. I’m sick of owning. I’ve written about the challenges of owning a home before. I’m excited about getting to call a landlord when something goes wrong and locking in a two-year lease, with no worries that I’ll be hit with a big increase in property taxes or homeowner’s insurance premiums.

I’m sure I could list just as many reasons I shouldn’t sell. Part of me wishes I could keep the place, because I’m so emotionally invested in my house and what it represents. But selling now will allow us to buy another home someday—and that flexibility is priceless.

Zach Blattner’s previous articles include Too Trusting and Land Grab. Zach is a former teacher and school leader who now teaches teachers across the Philly/Camden region as a faculty member at Relay GSE. He is a self-taught finance nerd who dispenses advice to his wife, friends, family and anyone else willing to listen.

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