Deciding Whether to Sell or Rent Your Home When Relocating: A Comprehensive Guide

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Oh my, is PCS season upon us again?!?? Deciding whether to Sell or Rent Your Home During PCS Season

^^^ In case you’re new around here, that’s military-speak for, moving season…

PCS season varies a little depending on your service branch, but summer is typically the biggest time for moves.

Inevitably, as PCS season rolls around every year, one of the most common questions I see popping up all around the community is whether you should sell or rent your home when you move.

This crucial decision can be challenging, but by examining key factors and asking the right questions, you can make an informed choice.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss essential considerations and provide valuable resources to help you determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

Deciding whether to Sell or Rent Your Home comes Down to the Questions you Ask!

Have you started to think about what you are going to do with your home if you relocate again?

The decision to sell your home, or rent it, can be a tricky one to answer and I see this question asked in online forums, Facebook groups, Emails, and everywhere else. 

There are a lot of factors that can and should go into your decision, but here are some guiding questions that should be able to help you make this decision more effectively!

What is the current value of your home? 

Before making any decisions, it’s crucial to know your home’s current market value. You can ask a real estate agent to give you a comparable market assessment or use a service like Zillow or Propstream to see what properties have recently sold for in your area.

You’re going to want to have an idea what the value of your home is currently in order to make the right decision in this scenario.

How much do you have left on your mortgage?

Check your mortgage statement to determine the remaining balance on your loan. Subtracting your mortgage balance from the value of your home (after accounting for a 6% commission for agents) will tell you how much you could walk away with by selling.

For example, if your home is worth $100k, and you owe $70k, you could walk away with around $24k (less closing costs)

  • $100k minus 6% commission ($6k) = $94k
  • $94k minus your remaining mortgage ($70k) = $24k

How much could your home rent for in its current condition?

Estimate how much your home could rent for in its current condition by using a free Rentometer account and use their platform to determine the average rents in your area. 

Another option is to ask a local property manager or research what similar properties are being rented for on platforms like Zillow, apartments.com, or Craigslist.

What are your monthly expenses for holding onto the property? 

A common misconception is that as long as the rent exceeds the mortgage payment, the property will be profitable. However, several other expenses must be considered:

  • Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (PITI) – this is your mortgage, assuming taxes and insurance are held in an escrow account through your lender,
  • Utilities – depending on whether you or the tenant pay these. Usually, it will be the tenant but this is on a case-by-case basis,
  • Maintenance – routine upkeep,
  • Repairs – items that break, or need unexpected replacement,
  • Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) – These are the items that you budget for like refrigerators, hot water heaters, boilers, etc. Items that you know will not make the home more valuable, but will still have to replace over time and can degrade.
  • General property management.

You need to subtract all of your expenses from the amount you’d charge, and then consider renting out your home.

If you bring in more income than the sum of all your expenses, you can afford to rent the home comfortably. If not, it is not a good idea to put your property out for rent. 

If that is the case, and there is no financial safety in rental I would be leaning toward selling the home. Again, the decision to sell should be made after due consideration to the above points.

Do you plan to own other rentals in this market, or in another?

If you plan to continue building a rental portfolio in this market and hold property long-term, you may be okay breaking even for a little while, but a firm long-term strategy will be required.

Do you have a solid team in place to manage your rental? 

Having a solid property management team in your market will make it much easier to maintain your property or properties. If you lack experience as a landlord or don’t have a dependable team, think twice before renting your property without sufficient cash flow.

Is this a market you wish to visit or live in again?

Do you plan to live in this market again? Do you want to have an excuse to visit somewhat frequently? If you own the home, but it isn’t somewhere you ever want to go again, that is something to consider. Tenants or buyers will know if you’re trying to rush them to sell. Be considerate but honest in your approach.

Is the population where the home is located trending upward?

Population trends–and general market dynamics for the economy–are important factors when it comes to determining what you should do with your existing home. You don’t want to hold onto a property in an area that is declining in population or has a failing economy.

If the market is telling you to get out…do!

Could you see this being a “forever home”?

Is this a home that you could see yourself living in for the long haul? Obviously, if the answer is an emphatic “yes”, you shouldn’t sell it.

Cash Reserves

You need to ensure you have a decent amount of money set aside for any issues that arise with your rental properties. My general rule of thumb is to tell people $10,000 is a solid buffer, but it will differ based on the property.

This reserve is your rainy day fund, to cover expenditures in the event of unforeseen expenses, or rough times. I hope that you will never need to use a penny of it.

As they say in the military, better to have it, and not need it, than need it, and not have it!

Tax Implications

Research the potential tax implications of renting versus selling your home, as this might influence your decision.

renting vs selling pros and cons

Pros of renting your home

  • Cash flow
  • Depreciation
  • Appreciation
  • Principle reducation

Cons of renting your home

  • Tenants may damage your home
  • Equity locked up in the home
  • maintenance, cap-ex, repairs, etc.
  • market can change on you, and home may not actually appreciate

Pros of selling your home

  • Can pull the equity from your home to utilize elsewhere
  • No more tenant headache if it wasn’t going to be a solid rental property
  • Can take your lessons-learned and roll them into better deals
  • You can’t go broke taking profit!

Cons of selling your home

  • “FOMO” (fear of missing out) on potential future appreciation
  • “what if” you do end up getting stationed there again
  • Might not be sure what to do with the proceeds from the sale
  • Might blow the proceeds from the sale on depreciating items like cars, or “toys” and other non-investments, which would ultimately be a loss in the long run.

Conclusion: Should You Sell or Rent Your Home When You PCS?

…It depends…

I know, I know…go ahead and throw all the things at me!

In all reality though, I really hope these questions helped you gain some clarity!

Deciding between selling or renting your home when relocating is a significant decision with various factors to consider. By assessing your home’s value, potential rental income, expenses, future plans, and property management resources, you can make an informed choice that suits your unique circumstances.

rent vs sell calculator

I’m not exactly sure I agree with how they figure this calculation, but this is an interesting calculator if you want to play with it to get another viewpoint on whether to sell or rent your home when you PCS.

The main reason I’m not a fan of this calculator–aside from it not taking any intangible factors into account–is that it requires you to predict the future of the market in order to spit out an answer.

TL;DR

I would most likely rent if…

If you plan to own more rentals in that market or desire to live there again–or this will be your “forever home one day”–, or the property produces significant cash flow, it may be a solid one to hold on to.

If, on the other hand, the property doesn’t necessarily check any of those boxes–or you’re just not sure whether or not it does–and you have significant equity, but not a ton of potential cash flow can be forecasted, I would most likely sell.

In fact, in that situation, I would sell the home, and use the money from the sale (the equity) to roll into a more cash-flow-heavy market, or even into some limited partner positions as a passive investor (depending on my W-2 hours)!

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David Pere

David Pere

David is an active duty Marine, who devotes his free time to helping service members, veterans, and their families learn how to build wealth through real estate investing, entrepreneurship, and personal finance!

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