On MP Garth Turner’s blog, a recent post about housing entitled “Jim to Jason” has generated over 100 comments so far. Here is the question that was posed to Garth by a constituent Jason (Jim is a reference to finance minister Jim Flaherty from earlier in the article):
I live in a townhouse in your riding that I bought with 15% down three years ago (10 years at 5.15%)…my wife is staying at home to raise our two children. We live modestly and don’t over-consume. My gut feeling is to sell the house (and realize the 70K gain), rent for a year or two and then buy back into the market when prices have depressed. My wife thinks I’m crazy….is she right?
Here is Garth’s response:
To Jason I would say, simply, there is only one reasonable course of action, which is to list the house as soon as possible, hope a hungry buyer comes along, and pocket the seventy grand. Go and rent a similar home for (likely) a lower monthly cost, and wait for the inevitable winds to howl through. Odds are the house will be worth less in a year than it is now, and a seller’s market will have turned into the same buyer’s feast that currently exists to the south.
In fact, you might want to question the whole notion of home ownership for a while. Consider that you face large, non-deductible costs of land transfer tax, mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, insurance, plus hefty commission when you sell, and the lost earning potential of the money you used as a down payment. The only way to break even if is a substantial capital gain can be realized.
Given all that, you can often improve your cash flow by renting, rather than owning. Plus, if you do own a home and the market turns, you’ll find real estate to be an illiquid investment. You can always sell a stock or mutual fund with a single phone call, while it can take months to unload a home, with its value falling every day. In fact, this is already happening in spades to more expensive homes in the region – months on market, and offers for $100,000 or more off the asking price.
By the time your neighbours understand what you have just realized, it will be too late to take action.
I don’t think Garth is saying that everyone whose home has increased in value should sell and rent instead. He’s basically just saying “No, you’re not crazy, if you feel like selling and renting a comparable place I support your decision. For the most part the comments seemed to involve telling Jason he shouldn’t sell and although there were some good arguments, most were not, and involved things that surely Jason has already thought about.
One commenter mentioned that “for folks who have little ones, slipping from rental to rental, should the owner have to sell, is very hard on young families.” True, although I would argue that in this case the transition to the new place should be easier given the fact that the wife stays at home to raise kids. But whatever, Jason can deal with these issues on his own he doesn’t need anyone telling him that the move will be hard on his family.
Another comment said:
When you consider what it would cost them in realtor fees, lawyer’s fees, moving costs, and house rentals, is uprooting the family worth the hassle? . . . Sure, he can sell the house and gamble on the market–like playing the stocks–only with his home. Jason’s wife has obviously made a commitment to stay home to raise the children. In the present situation, she knows where she stands. If Jason sells the house out from under her–trouble. Just my 2 cents.
True, Jason must consider the costs involved with selling the home and the costs involved in buying a home, should he wish to buy again in a few years. Here are some supportive comments for Jason:
Garth has given you very good advice, should you and your wife decide to sell, invest your money well, do not take chances, plain simple interest (GIC’s) always go up and during troubled times you will sleep well.
Renting,…you will find a nice place and your costs for shelter, will be defined allowing your wife to set a planned budget in place, then in a couple of years or so you can look for nice home that is ready set go that meets your needs not your wants. By this time you will have over 25% to put down beating that deadly government mortgage insurance costs. If you can stay without any strain on your family or regrets when things go south, then do it. . . Bon Chance, good luck…..for starters you were wise to ask….so me thinks you and your family will do just fine.
There are a lot of silly comments too…
One person wrote that “Jason, your house is a home for your family, not an investment.” First of all I think Jason realizes that and probably never intended on selling but in light of the increase in his home’s value, he is weighing his options. Secondly, how is a rental property less of a “home for your family?”
Another said “renting is simply paying some person’s mortgage for them! At least if this family stays put and rides it out, they are investing in their own equity every month.” If the house goes down in value over the next 2 years, all the equity that has gone into the house in those 2 years will have gone down in value. Also, of course renting might be paying the mortgage for someone else (or providing someone else with income) but it may also be providing you with more money every month to invest (if your rent is lower than your mortgage was) or to spend.
Yet another said “I can’t believe that you, Garth, would giving such an advice. Renting only makes others richer.” This is the biggest renting vs. owning fallacy out there. Someone backed up the comment with “renting means money out the window. While paying mortgage, most is interest, but some comes off the principle. Whereas rent is all gone.” C’mon people give your head a shake! In general, rent ≠ mortgage payment, mortgages make others richer too (banks), and rent does go out window (just like interest does) but you can invest the difference (between what a mortgage would be and what your rent is (if lower)).
One last comment: “Jason you have to choose whether your house is a home or an investment. It can’t be both.” I don’t really understand what that means, but I can only assume that what this person means is that by selling the home you will no longer have a home (because you’ve treated it as an investment and it can’t be both!) and that a rental is somehow not a home, and that selling a home and moving to a rental is somehow “investing”? I don’t get it…why are people making this so complicated? He’s not losing a home here, he’s just changing homes and pocketing $70k?!