Sooner or later investors will want to dispose of one or more properties in their portfolios. Market conditions and changing personal needs may play into the decision to get rid of a property. Nonetheless, individuals should be guided primarily by their investment plans to determine which properties to dispose of and when and how to do so. This will ensure that the disposal is the right move at the right time.
Disposal of Real Estate: Good and Bad Reasons
There are many good reasons for wanting to get rid of property, such as:
- The property was a fixer-upper that has been rehabbed and made ready for sale.
- The owner of rental property has tired of being a landlord.
- The sale will provide funds to buy other property or invest in other types of assets.
Other valid reasons that may prompt a sale are a divorce judgment calls for the division of a couple’s assets, the desire to finance a luxury such as a first-class vacation or a retirement home, or the termination of the partnership that owned the property.
There are also bad reasons to sell, including that the owner has received an unexpected offer to buy one of the properties. Obviously well-kept properties in acceptable locations will always attract buyers. This does not mean that the owner has to entertain unsolicited bids from buyers. The property is likely a good income producer for the owner and selling it too early may defeat the goals of the investment plan.
Another bad reason to sell is that a property has been owned for so long that it has used up its depreciation under the U.S. tax laws. Again, if the property still offers decent cash flow and is in good condition, it may not be the right time to sell. Investors should never over-rely on the benefits of depreciation when they select a property to purchase; similarly, the existence or lack of depreciation should not control an investor’s decision of whether to sell.
Yet another bad reason to sell is that a property has become rundown and unattractive. Serious investors never allow their assets to lose value through neglect because they know that real estate investment is a business.
Keep Return on Investment in Focus
When owners act impulsively out of a need for instant gratification or fear that market conditions will deteriorate, they risk undervaluing property that they improved and maintained and – if it is rental property – into which they installed good tenants. An impulse- or fear-driven sale also may result in the payment of capital gains taxes that could have been deferred or even avoided. All of this stands in sharp conflict with the ROI goals articulated in a well-designed investment plan.
Another problem is that investors may not have realistic expectations about what their properties are worth. For example, Nancy Newbie from the Northeast may need $350,000 to finance a retirement condo in a sunny climate and the relocation expenses involved, so she puts two of her properties up for sale for a total of $400,000. If the market conditions where the properties are located are such that Nancy will net less than what she wants or expects from the sales, she may choose to dig in her heels and to wait until she gets the price she wants or she may have to postpone or revise her relocation plans. In the meantime, she will have wasted a considerable amount of time, all because she neglected to research her market.
A tax professional or financial advisor can guide the investor through the murky waters of indecision over whether to dispose of property in a portfolio. These pros can also advise the investor whether the exit strategies set out in the investment plan are the best means for reaching the investor’s financial goals.