Real estate has had a good run since 2010.
It can be tempting to cash in profits.
Financial Case Study
My neighbor is just about at the point where he can net $1,000,000 dollars on the sale of his house. He’s retired and this represents a very substantial sum for him. One million dollars is also kind of a magic number emotionally as he never expected to be a millionaire.
For him to net $1,000,000 he will need to sell his place for about $1,067,500 gross.
He bought the house many years ago so, even after his primary residence exclusion, he’s going to have a tax bill of $70,000.
There will be other costs (moving, cleaning, etc…) adding up to $2,500.
So his certain costs today are $67,500 + $70,000 + $2,500 => $140,000
Putting this into his personal context…
Having paid off his mortgage by the time he retired, he has the ability to live on $1,500 per month. So he’s looking at a certain bill that’s worth 7 3/4 years’ living expenses.
He’s also a young retiree, with parents still alive.
So he might be living another 30+ years.
How might the switch make things better? Whatever they are… they are uncertain benefits to be weighed against certain financial costs.
How will surplus cash be invested? Given the choice between prime residential real estate and an investment account… most retirees prefer the hidden volatility of real estate.
Do I want to leave my community? When I left Christchurch (NZ), I left behind a fantastic group of people. Community has a far stronger association with a meaningful life than cash in a bank account.
Certain types of people make new friends easily. I’m not one of those people! What type of person are you?
What Can Go Wrong
Bull Markets — Assume that you can only “move out of town” once. In our case, we lack the financial resources to repurchase our existing real estate at current market prices. If we sell, and prices rise, then we will be priced out of the market.
Neutral Markets — Real estate is expensive to transact. In the example above, the vendor is paying 13% of gross proceeds in commissions, taxes and expenses. In any new purchase I assume that I “lose” (on paper) 10% of the gross purchase value at completion. In other words, I am going to need a 10% market increase to get my money back.
Bear Markets — Can I afford to be locked into this market for many years? Vacation markets, cities reliant on a single industry (oil and gas) and secondary locations… buyers can be locked in for five plus years. Am I OK with that risk?
The Good Enough Portfolio
There’s a lot to be said for an attitude that an existing position is “good enough.”
Each time I make a choice, change or modification it’s an opportunity for expense and error.