Q. I own a house in Maplewood, N.J., and am wondering: Does it ever make sense to rent out your house rather than sell it? Are there any advantages to renting? Is there a rule of thumb to decide if it’s worth it financially?
A. Before you crunch numbers, decide if you want to be a landlord. Are you prepared to take a call at 3 a.m. when the heat fails during a blizzard in January? If the dishwasher won’t work properly, you will be expected to fix the problem immediately. If the rent is late (or does not arrive) you will have to chase the tenant for the money, and maybe even take the case to housing court.
“Being a landlord isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants in Manhattan.
Generally, renters do not maintain homes the way owners do. Consider the finicky dishwasher: If you own the house and the dishwasher is on its last legs, you might hold out until you can afford a new stainless steel model that matches the newer refrigerator. But a tenant will expect a functioning dishwasher pronto, and so, chances are, you will swap out the aging one with a cheap white model. Come time to sell the house, the overall condition of your kitchen has diminished.
“I’ve had people who’ve rented their homes and they come back and it’s never the house they left,” said Allison Maguire, a sales associate for Halstead in Montclair, N.J. “No one takes care of a rental as if it’s their true home.”
To make your decision, research the rental market, as its fluctuations are not necessarily tied to the sales market. With the help of a broker, estimate how much rent you could fetch: Would it be enough to cover the mortgage and taxes? Consider other expenses, too, like landscaping services, and insurance. Ask your accountant about tax implications. Factor in vacancies and repairs. You may need to hire a property manager if, for example, you move out of the area.
Tally your estimated profit for the number of years you anticipate renting out the house. Then compare that figure with the cash you would walk away with should you sell your house today. Is the potential payoff worth the headache of being a landlord? It might be. But being a landlord is a job, and you have to decide if it is one you want. With “a long-term hold, generally, you can come out ahead,” Mr. Miller said. “But people don’t factor in the hassle.”
Saturday, November 11, 2017