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How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule

August 22, 2019

How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule

iStock; realtor.com

They don’t call it a forever home for nothing. Most of us buy with the intent of staying a long time—sometimes indefinitely. But here’s the rub: Things change. Life takes us in a different direction, or the house you fell in love with only a few short months ago somehow becomes your biggest regret. Maybe the neighborhood is changing, or financial difficulties are making it impossible to enjoy your new home.

Whatever the reason, you just might find yourself asking, “How soon can I sell this house?”—mere months after you moved in.

But then there’s that pesky five-year rule that everyone cites. Basically, it says you should never even consider selling until you’ve lived in the home for at least five years. And it’s not arbitrary—there’s good reason for it.

“Unless it’s a superhot market, a seller likely won’t even recoup their transaction costs if they sell within a few years of buying,” says James McGrath, real estate broker and co-founder of Yoreevo.

McGrath, like many real estate professionals, even advises clients to avoid buying a house unless they plan on staying for at least five years, which is the typical amount of time it takes to break even on your initial investment.

But rules are meant to be broken as needed, and sometimes your situation actually requires you to break them. Here are three times you should say to heck with it all and get out of that house.

Exception No. 1: Your property value goes way up

Sometimes the market is so white-hot that it seems like property values jump overnight. This would definitely qualify as one of those times you can get away with ignoring the five-year rule and selling your home, even if you haven’t been in it for long.

But a lot depends on where you plan to go next. Moving to a lower-cost metro? You’re golden. Staying in the same area? You might not be able to get into a nicer place, or end up paying more money for a home much like the one you currently own. Look around and run the numbers carefully.

Also, keep in mind this tactic works only if the profit you make from the sale is really significant—otherwise you might see it eaten up by closing costs and a little thing called capital gains tax.

“Selling a home after owning it for less than a year generates a short-term capital gains tax,” says Denver real estate agent Alex Kishinevsky. “In this scenario, any equity you have accumulated from the sale is subject to taxation as ordinary income, according to the IRS.”

Exception No. 2: The neighborhood is going downhill

A bad neighborhood is bad news, and if there’s a clear downward trend, you’d best get ahead of it. A declining neighborhood could ruin your chances of a profitable sale in the future.

Neighborhoods can start spiraling downward for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when something new gets built—or destroyed—and disrupts the quality of life. We’re talking about malls, prisons, factories, and more.

“How far away are you from the lights and noise it produces? Are citizens concerned about possible pollutants?” asks Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. “Are town hall meetings getting volatile? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be smart to sell early and take a small loss, versus stay and lose your shirt.”

Whatever is changing your neighborhood’s landscape, ask yourself if it devalues your home. If the answer is yes, break the five-year rule and get out.

Exception No. 3: You really hate living there

Although we keep harping on it, making a profitable sale isn’t the only important thing when it comes to deciding where to live and for how long. Your happiness is also significant. If you really, really hate where you live, then you might just need to get out—regardless of the cost.

Depending on your mortgage and home insurance policy, you might even consider turning the house into an investment property. A lot of homeowners choose to rent out their homes when the market is less than stellar but they want to stop living there.

“Allow someone else to pay your mortgage and grow your net worth,” says Seattle real estate agent Tyler Kirages.

No matter why you’re considering breaking the five-year rule, always keep in mind that listing isn’t the same thing as selling.

“Put it up and see what you can get,” Ross says. “Just because you list doesn’t mean you have to sell. Explore your options by finding real values in a possible deal, and do it if it makes sense.”

The post How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

There Goes the Neighborhood: Watch Out for These 7 Red Flags When Buying a Home

January 9, 2019

Jonathan Kingston/Getty Images; realtor.com

Finally, you’ve done it: You’ve scoured the market for available homes—and then some—and found one you can’t stop thinking about. It’s time to make an offer!

But before you put your money on the line, take a peek around the neighborhood. We won’t use a certain cliché, but there is a reason the pros emphasize location when buying real estate. You can change your house—but you can’t change the neighborhood. And if your hood is on the decline, you just might have a helluva time offloading your home when you decide to sell.

A bad neighborhood isn’t always obvious, though; sometimes you need to do a little digging to know if a community is worth buying in. Luckily, we’ve identified seven red flags that should give you pause before you sign on the dotted line.

Red flag No.1: Too many houses are on the market

There’s nothing wrong with two or three listed houses on the same street. But if you see an army of “For Sale” signs, consider looking elsewhere.

“This points to illiquidity in the market and pricing pressure, which is a risk for buyers,” says Alison Bernstein, the founder of Suburban Jungle, which helps families find their ideal suburb.

Of course, the hue of this particular red flag depends on the reason for those “For Sale” signs. Perhaps the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and longtime residents have decided to cash in. Or maybe there’s a more sinister explanation, like increasing crime rates. Your agent can help you assess the situation before making any big moves.

Red flag No.2: The schools are enrolling fewer students

Schools in healthy communities should be steadily increasing their enrollment—or at least keeping the population steady, if there’s no physical room to grow.

“Shrinking class sizes are a red flag,” Bernstein says.

There are a number of reasons enrollment might decrease. Your local school might have a reputation for poor management, sending parents fleeing to charter or private options. Or perhaps residents are staying put as their kids grow up, leading to older neighbors and fewer close-by pals for your kids. That may or may not be a deal breaker, but it’s certainly something to consider.

Red flag No.3: The area leans industrial

A nearby strip of cute boutique stores might be a nice selling point, but reconsider the purchase if the closest commercial influences lean toward the industrial.

“Be mindful of any kind of commercial influence on the block, such as close gas stations or anything that could be undesirable health-wise,” says Ralph DiBugnara, the vice president at Residential Home Funding.

Any nearby industrial plants should automatically nix a neighborhood, and think long and hard before buying across from a car dealership or auto body shop, which attract a lot of car traffic.

Red flag No.4: There are lots of empty storefronts

Don’t just stop at counting boutiques versus gas stations. Are the stores actually thriving, or are there lots of retail spaces for rent?

“Empty storefronts can tell you a lot,” Bernstein says. “They point to less disposable income of residents than clearly there once was.”

Why does that matter? Decreased disposable income indicates a neighborhood on the decline. If homeowners don’t have money for dinner out, they probably don’t have cash for upkeep. Shabby homes drag down property values. Meager cash flow can also lead to future foreclosures—and a foreclosed-upon home is a neighbor that no one wants.

Red flag No. 5: The Stepford style is in full force

You might love the homogenous, well-groomed suburban look (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). But take a moment to examine it more closely. Are there any unique decorative doodads dotting each garden, like aluminum chickens or wind chimes? Or is the front porch furniture identical?

If all the neighborhood’s homes (and landscaping) look suspiciously similar, “explore how restrictive the homeowners association is,” says Susanna Haynie, a Realtor in Colorado Springs, Co. “It could be an issue.”

Red flag No.6: There’s no parking

Sure, the property may have a one-car garage—but where will your friends park, and where can you keep your spouse’s car? If the streets have bumper-to-bumper traffic, think twice about buying in the neighborhood—especially if the home lacks a garage or carport.

“I’m always on the lookout for a lack of parking,” DiBugnara say. “It’s best to visit at night or on weekends to really, truly tell what will be available to you once you live there.”

Unless you commute primarily by foot or bike—or you’re OK spending your weekends circling the block—the neighborhood may not be a good fit for you.

Red flag No.7: Surrounding homes aren’t well-maintained

A street in shambles might seem like an obvious red flag. But you also might have heard that buying the best house in the worst neighborhood is a prime opportunity for profit.

Tread lightly here: A street full of run-down homes with overgrown yards and broken fences should set off warning signals. And this has nothing to do with wealth; lower-income neighborhoods can be just as well-kept as more expensive ones. It’s about pride. Neighbors with no pride in their home’s appearance and upkeep decrease property values for everyone.

Plus, problems with the homes next door can indicate that the house you want might have bigger issues than meet the eye. Look at every house on the block for issues such as water pooling in the yards, or flickering porch lights.

“If there are problems such as water pipes or electrical issues, you will tend to see more than one home showing damage,” DiBugnara says. Fixing these major problems “could be a major expense, hassle, or detriment to your value later on.”

The post There Goes the Neighborhood: Watch Out for These 7 Red Flags When Buying a Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Move or Improve? These Scenarios Will Help You Decide How to Spend Your Dough

August 3, 2018

move or improve?

Lex20/iStock; LightFieldStudios/iStock; realtor.com

There comes a time when every homeowner will spread their arms, look around, and say, “This house feels too small.” Perhaps your kids have outgrown their bunk beds, or your partner’s startup blew up, and now every inch of your bungalow is occupied.

One way or another, you need more room. But do you break ground on your current home or break your budget on a new house? The decision to move or improve can be complex and emotional. On one hand, you love your neighborhood and the memories you’ve made. But on the other hand, you love space. So how do you choose?

The answer depends on your neighborhood, your budget, the housing market, and (sorry) your mom. Here’s how to tell whether you should start over in a new place—or transform your existing property.

First, ask yourself the tough questions

You might be salivating over the houses for sale or dreaming of your double-size, custom-built master bedroom—but don’t make a snap decision based on a fantasy.

Instead, start by making a classic list of pros and cons. What is it about buying a new home that tickles your fancy? Or does the process stress you out? Are you pumped for renovation—or would you rather ditch the dust?

“Essentially, these are two different paths to the same destination: a home to love,” says Michael Hausam, a Realtor® in Irvine, CA.

Hausam suggests that the mere act of listing your ideas might make the decision. Maybe your “move” column vastly outweighs your “stay” list—but you want that new bedroom, dammit! Then you have your answer.

And if you’re struggling still? We’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Take a peek at the following scenarios to determine whether you should move or improve.

Move: If your city gives your plans the thumbs-down

You’ve drawn up elaborate plans for popping the top of your two-bed bungalow. But your city might not be on board. Before breaking ground, find out if your proposed idea meets zoning requirements.

“The local government is where you’ll need to go to find out if you can even expand your current living space,” says Realtor Kaylin Richerson of Prime Real Estate in Valparaiso, IN.

To figure out if your new expansion will pass muster, you’ll need to gather a pile of documents. Plan to get a property survey and detailed drawings just for the permit alone. And if your city says no—well, it’s time to start house hunting.

Improve: If your home is unique

Your first house hunt was hard enough. Now you want to do it again? Oh, but where will you find the perfect home? You need only an indoor-outdoor shower, built-in library (of real mahogany), and double-vanity bathroom for the kids.

If your current home already comes with the special features you require, add on instead of buying new.

“The more unique the needs and requirements, the more difficult it may be to find another home with those features,” Hausam says.

Move: If your current home is in a seller’s market

The best part of being in a seller’s market is taking advantage of the seller’s market. If your home has dramatically increased in value during your tenure, it could be “more beneficial to sell your home and buy a bigger and better home than to expand,” Richerson says.

But make sure to check with a local real estate agent before finalizing your decision.

“In certain areas and price ranges, some houses are sitting on the market a bit longer,” she says. If that’s you, a renovation may be in order.

Improve: If you love your location

Time for a caveat: Just because your home is in a seller’s market doesn’t mean you should always sell. If you love your location and home prices are skyrocketing, remodeling may be the only way to stay put in your neighborhood.

After all, if your home increased in price, every other house in the area did as well. You might be profiting $100,000 by selling your place—but good-stinking-luck finding anything else in your price range, especially if you want to upgrade. Adding a wing might be the cheapest way to get space without sacrificing your A-plus location.

Move: If renovating will be an ordeal 

Say you’re snug in a three-bedroom ranch, but you’d like at least five bedrooms and a new playroom. That’s a lot of work. Figure out how big the gap is between what you have and what you want. If it’s enormous, undergoing a massive renovation might not be worth it.

Start by considering remodeling costs, the length of time your home will be under construction, and whether you plan to live in the home during construction, Hausam recommends.

“A significant remodel project is an extremely big deal—far more involved than would be packing up your things and moving them,” he says.

Improve: If your parents want a say

“But my folks don’t get a say in my house!” you might be thinking.

Except when you need additional space to accommodate aging parents. You’ll likely be looking for an in-law unit—which can be tricky to find on the market, much less one that said mother-in-law actually likes.

“We deal with many people struggling with this decision,” says Christina Souretis, a Realtor in Duxbury, MA. “The ones that decided to expand usually have parents that need to move in with them, so there are more people involved in the home-buying process. Not everyone can decide on a house.”

Expanding makes it much easier to take your parents’ taste into account by designing an add-on specifically for them.

Move: If you’d be building the biggest house in the neighborhood

Take a look around. Have a lot of your neighbors expanded? Or are they mostly chilling in the original square footage?

“Before expanding, families should make sure they’re not adding on in a neighborhood with smaller homes,” Souretis says.

Why? When it comes time to sell, unloading the priciest home on the block typically will be a challenge. If you expand and decide to sell in the future, you might be restricting your buyer pool. So before you make any decisions, think about the long-term consequences—not just what makes you happy right now.

The post Move or Improve? These Scenarios Will Help You Decide How to Spend Your Dough appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.