There is a lot about simple finance that ought to be taught in high school, but it isn’t. It irritates me to hear the phrase “paying rent is throwing your money away.” That phrase has sold a lot of real estate in California when in actuality renting in our area is cheaper than owning.
The basic thing that never enters the question on home ownership is the cost of money. You borrow money to buy a home from the bank. After 20 years the home is paid off and you have no more payments, Right??? You’re wrong. Take a paid off home financed for 200K. Figure interest rates at 6% not the ridiculous current 2 percent. The interest generated by 200k at 6 percent is about $12,000 a year. This is what a paid off homeowner’s hidden costs are. The cash in his home is not paying him $12,000 a year, that’s his cost of ownership plus $2,000 in taxes plus about $2,000 in upkeep. So the paid up home owner is paying about $16,000 a year for the privilege of living in that home. Divide that by 12 and you get monthly “rent” payments of about $1334 a month. Everybody pays rent.
40 years ago you might have heard the phrase, “A home is the most worthless investment you will ever make, but a necessary one.” The reason being, it was a savings plan for young people starting a family and a long term hedge against inflation. Plus it had always been cheaper to own a home than to rent. Renters paid more for the freedom to pick up and move. The real estate bubble trashed that well tested concept and replaced it with two new ones, “Real estate always goes up,” and “Buy now before you get priced out of the market.” Everyone that ever wanted a home bought one and now this bubble has collapsed leaving our government (you and me) holding the bag.
Rental real estate may again become a viable investment option in certain parts of the country. A single family home purchased for 100 times its monthly rental, should have a very nice return. For investor owned real estate, the banks want 20 percent down. A 100k home, that can be rented for $1,000 a month, will cash flow nicely. Figure a down payment of 20k plus 6k in closing. If bought right, you could take $200 a month off the top for 20 years and then after that, you’d get a retirement check of $1,000 a month as long as you own the house. One thing to realize, landlords don’t set rental rates, the market does—the higher the rate, the more months the unit sets vacant.
Don’t go to Las Vegas and buy a home in one of those 4,000 house developments that has only 4 families living in it. The current tenants are probably busy recycling the copper and appliances out of the other 3,996 homes.
Fannie and Freddie ought to be offering some good deals in the coming year. The extra dollars they give you for buying a stripped out house, you can shop Craig’s List and buy back the water heater, furnace and dishwasher.
Cash held in the bank right now is taking a real beating. As a rule of thumb, a home is the equivalent of 150 ounces of gold. Not only that, it provides shelter, is a hedge against inflation and the banks will loan you 80% of its value as an investor, more if you decide to live in it. Maybe the investment tip for the New Year is; “Buy and hold things the government can’t print.”
So in the coming year if you have an extra 25k rotting in the bank, do you buy a new car or dabble in a rental? In 10 years, your wheels will then be worth $500 or you could have had 50k in tax deductions depreciating your rental. A lot of people in this country work full time for the car industry without even knowing it. So investing 20K and waiting 20 years, do you have the time to spare? At age 65 I keep asking myself, why didn’t I buy two instead of just one when I had the time?