How To Think Like An Investor When Purchasing Your Home
Friends and family come to me all the time asking my advice on how to make sure they are making a good investment when they buy a new home. Some home buyers inadvertently luck out, buy in an area that happens to explode within a few years of their moving there, make a few improvements, and sell their home for twice what they bought it for just a few years prior. This is wonderful when it happens, but it is largely due to luck and timing. Other buyers get the short end of the stick and find that their home has not gained any significant value in the last 4 years and they are hardly going to break even after closing costs.
Many people don’t realize that buying a single family home to occupy is not likely to be an investment per se, meaning you are not likely to actually make much money on it, unless you are smart about it. You can’t control the market, but you can try to avoid making a bad purchase by following a few simple guidelines.
1) Plan to live in it for more than 6 years. If you are not sure you are going to stay long term, it might not make financial sense to buy unless you are doing so simply because you want to have your own place where you are the boss and might have a better quality of life than in a rental property. However, you shouldn’t count on making any money when you sell. Depending on appreciation in your area, your home might not gain value fast enough to make up for the large chunk of money you will spend on closing costs when you sell. Plus you will be spending money on maintenance and up-keep while you are living there—if you don’t, you can certainly expect your home to lose value due to wear and tear. Depreciation is just as real a factor as appreciation.
2) Never buy a $500k home in a town with a median home value of $200k. If you want your home to sell quickly and for a good price, buy at or below the median value for your area. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to sell a home that is too expensive for the average homebuyer. If most buyers in your neighborhood are looking for a 3 bed 2 bath home in the $200k range and yours is a 5 bed 3 bath home for twice as much as the typical buyer in your town can afford, it is probably going to take longer to sell. When you get farther out of the big cities, real estate markets are not so fast and furious and salability becomes a real concern.
3) It is always better to buy the worst house on the best block, than vice versa. As the old adage goes “location, location, location”: if you want your home to gain value and sell quickly for a good price when you move, buy somewhere everyone wants to be. Even if I am a hundred miles away and have never been to any of the towns my friends are considering moving to, I can pull some data on crime rates, appreciation rates, median home costs, school ratings, types of architecture and how educated the population is within a couple minutes and tell you which town is a better bet in terms of resale value.
4.) Finally, buy a house in which value can be added. If a house is perfect already, someone else is making money on you. If you want to think like an investor, buy a house in need of cosmetic updates, or a foreclosure. Plan to do some projects, and while you might have a few more headaches than the buyer of the move-in ready home, you will be glad you did when you make money on the other end.
Happy House Hunting!