Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Renting is a Smart Financial Decision

The current edition of Forbes magazine has an intriguing story. It is a wakeup call that the path of homeownership is not always financially wise. The house was purchased for $922,500 in 2004 and now, it is pending at $849,000 price. It is likely that the offer maybe less than the listing price. After 5 years of homeownership, the seller is losing money, not only the equity, but also the $60K every year that she spent for mortgage payment, taxes and insurance. Had she chosen to rent similar house, she would only pay $36K each year. True, that mortgage interest and property taxes can be deducted from your taxable income, but remember, the higher the salary, those deduction will phase out.

As everyone tried to be homeowner, in the past few years, I heard this all the time: “Why do you want to make your landlord rich?” Now imagine if Ms. Seaman was renting the house at 1233 S Curson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019, instead of owning it. I would not ask her, the renter, “Why do you want to make your landlord rich?”, but I would ask her landlord instead, “Why do you want to fund your tenant’s lifestyle?” Yes in this story, it is smarter to be renter in West Hollywood neighborhood.

Of course, our lives are not based on financial alone. There are things in life that can’t be measured by money. So, it is OK to own a home in affluent neighborhood as long as you can afford it. What I mean by that, for the super wealthy people, it doesn't matter to spend a lot money every year for the house they like, or these people may buy the house in cash, since they have excessive cash anyway.

You may have wondered, why would I bring up that renting can be a smart financial decision, considering I am in the real estate investment business? There are two reasons. First, I am blatantly honest here and I like to speak out my mind. Second, if you live in expensive neighborhood like Ms. Seaman does, you’d be better off by renting there. Instead of using the money for down payment, mortgage, property tax, and maintenance of a house in West Hollywood area, you can invest that money to buy residential rental in different area, or maybe out of state, and pocket cash 6%-10% every year. Especially right now, you can find many houses that are 70% off from the peak and houses that cost less than their construction cost (you get the land for free). This way, you fund your retirement portfolio. This is not for people who have nothing, and have no choice other than renting, rather for people who have choices on what to do with their money and choose to rent because by renting, they will be better off financially.

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