There is a new way to look at your home, and if you do it, you will never make a financial misstep again – at least when it comes to the biggest personal purchase that you are ever likely to take …
… but, I warn you: your wife may not like it 😛
You see, we tend to describe our homes as an ‘investment’ but the reality is far different: we buy emotionally and we justify rationally.
The truth is: we [most of us] want a home … then we want a bigger one … always, just a little/lot more than we can actually afford. And, to be totally truthful … I not only succumb to this line of thinking myself, I actually encourage you to do the same!
I subscribe to the old-fashioned notion that you should buy your own home – even if it means breaking my rules to get into the home in the first place – as a way of ‘forced savings’ …
… but, once you are in your first home, I then want you to rationally examine the true current resale value of your home, and the equity that you have in it (i.e. what the home is curently worth against what you currently owe), at least ONCE EACH YEAR, to ensure:
(a) that you don’t upgrade until you can afford the payments, and
(b) that you put any excess equity to work for you.
But, these rules are only ‘proxies’ for what you should be doing, if you could be trusted to manage your money rationally, instead of emotionally …
… if you could be trusted to treat your home – at, least from a financial aspect – as a house:
You should charge yourself rent!
This is the only way to ‘prove’ that your house is an investment. It lets you know two things:
Am I living beyond my means?
To find out, simply ask yourself these two questions:
(a) How much rent could you get on your house if you rented it out? Ask a Realtor or two … scour the listings in your local paper … look it up on rent.com … do this properly!
(b) What rent can you afford to pay, according to the 25% Income Rule?
If (a) is more than (b) then you have a problem … you are living beyond your means: either increase your means (e.g. get a second job; charge your children board; etc.) or decrease your living (e.g move out; rent out a room; etc.).
Am I investing wisely?
This one is easy; if you charge yourself rent, you can see if your property is positive cashflow or negative cashflow …
You have some ‘advantages’:
– You have a great tenant
– Your tenant has a great landlord
– You get to tax deduct your mortgage
– There’s no tax to pay on the ‘rental income’ … it’s all in your head, remember? 😉
To find out if you really are investing wisely, simply ask yourself these two questions:
(a) How much return on my money (i.e. equity currently in the house) could you get if you sold the house and reinvested the equity elsewhere?
(b) What rent would you have to pay (remember that you want to take the lower of your current rent or what the 25% Income Rule allows) if you lived elsewhere?
If (a) is more than (b) then you have a problem … you are investing badly: either sell your house or see if pulling out some equity and investing helps.
If the answers don’t please you, and you are unwilling to make the necessary changes, then the 20% Equity Rule and 25% Income Rule are still there to stop you from getting into too much financial trouble … make sure you obey them! 🙂