- Courtesy Kelly Burch
- When I decided to move, I needed to choose whether to sell my first home or rent it out.
- I crunched the numbers, and selling it would allow me to wipe out almost all my other debt.
- If I kept the house, it would take about 10 years to make the profit I could earn from selling.
- Still, I ultimately chose to rent the home out, knowing that it aligned more with my long-term financial goals.
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Earlier this year, my husband and I sat over breakfast at a local cafe while our baby crawled around the otherwise empty room.
Instead of our normal breakfast banter, we were engaged in an intense discussion about whether to sell our home or list it for rent. Between us was a crumpled white paper where we had jotted down the financial implications of both options. We were determined not to leave the table until we had made a decision.
We had bought the house with the goal of renting it out when we moved; we chose it specifically for that reason. Yet, now that we had an offer in on another home and were serious about moving, we had cold feet about becoming landlords.
When we left that table, though, we were committed to renting it out. Here’s how we decided that the risk of becoming landlords was worth it.
Looking at the numbers
If we sold our home, we would have likely made about $50,000 in profit. That may not be a massive sum to others, but for us, it would have been life-changing money.
We would have been able to pay off all our non-mortgage debt, a total of about $40,000, which includes student loans, credit cards, and car loans. Essentially, selling would have allowed us a clean financial slate as we moved into our new home.
That was incredibly tempting. I had never lived without debt as an adult, in part because of student loans from my private university. And yet, we weren’t sure if a clean slate aligned with our long-term goals.
If we rented out the home, we would pocket about $500 each month in profit. It would take roughly 10 years to earn as much as we could profit from selling. But at the end of that time, we would still own the home and have it as a financial asset.
If, during that time, we decided being landlords was terrible, we could still sell, likely at a comparable profit.
We decided over breakfast that we were in this for the long game. We wanted to be landlords. Yes, we could start building our rental property portfolio after wiping out debt, but this house was a great opportunity.
It was in an appealing area, and we had put just 3.5% down since we were first-time homebuyers. Even with no debt, it would take us a long time to save the 20% down that you need when buying an investment property that you won’t be living in.
Making sure we were safe – enough
Some people would say that it’s foolish to have a rental when you also have non-mortgage debt. I don’t claim to know better than those experts.
However, I knew that we had a few things going for us: our incomes were increasing, and we were already aggressively paying down debt.
Even without selling our home, we could likely be free of debt (other than our mortgages) within about two years by working hard to pay off what we owe. At that pace, it seemed silly to me to give up an asset that we could utilize for decades just to make debt payoff happen 24 months earlier.
In addition, we had an emergency fund that could cover any maintenance issues at the rental. This gave us peace of mind that we would never be in a bind over issues at the rental.
To make us feel even better, we made sure that we would also be able to pay the mortgage and utilities on the rental if it were not rented for any reason. If that happened, we would have to divert money from debt payoff, but we could make ends meet.
Finally, we knew we likely wouldn’t have any trouble finding and keeping renters. The town that our rental is in has a thriving rental market, and we received about 30 responses when we listed the home. Judging from that, it’s unlikely that the home will ever be empty for long.
Betting on the big picture
The real deciding factor for us was that renting out our property aligned with our goals. My husband and I dream of being financially stable without having to work 9-to-5 jobs. We’re on our way already, since I make a great income working for myself. However, my husband still works a regular job where he’s paid hourly.
We hope that eventually he can transition from that to fixing up homes that we buy cheap in order to rent out. While working and saving is one way to get to financial security, we believe property has the power to really change our economic status.
My husband and I hope that in the long run, we can have many rental properties that help build our net worth, a tangible foothold in the middle class that we can leave to our daughters.
Taking the first big step toward that by deciding to rent our home, rather than sell it, was scary. However, it was also invigorating to take that leap. I can’t say for sure that our goal of amassing wealth through rentals will pan out in the long run, but I’m glad that we’re at least giving it a try.