Tax implications of converting your home to a rental …


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Despite the length of this title, today’s post will be really short … because I have NOTHING to add on the subject of taxes. They are something to be paid – or not paid – depending on the advice of a QUALIFIED tax practitioner (accountant and/or attorney) in the area that you are interested.

Personally, I have only a slight hiccup in signing tax checks for over $1 Million (as I have for the last 2 tax years in a row) because it means that I have made a TON more money ūüôā

… and, I rely totally on good advice; but, I pay for conservative, specialist opinion where necessary.

However, I have noticed that I number of my readers (and contributors) have recently converted their own residences into rentals, so I thought that I should perform a Reader Service by pointing you directly towards the excellent Tax Tips Blog so that you can read some excellent advice, straight from the “horse’s mouth”:

Disclaimer: I have NO IDEA whether this is good, bad or indifferent advice … that’s what your accountant is for! ūüôā

But, I would like your opinion

Contrary to popular opinion, paying off your mortgage is the dumbest move you can make …

I wrote a post a long while ago … actually, it was my 5th-ever post¬†– some say that I should have stopped there ūüėČ – about the classic Rent or Buy dilemma for your own home … and, I just (!) received an interesting comment to that Post from Joy:

That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard Рborrow against your house (aquire more debt) to invest??? Paying off your house early and being debt-free allows you to do whatever you want with your income, THAT’s truly the way to wealth.

Now, Joy is not alone: I¬†recently read a post by Boston Gal on her blog that talks about Suze¬†Orman’s¬† advice which also is to pay off your home loan early:

Believe me, I have thought about trying to pay off my mortgage early. But since I have an investment condo which is mortgage free (yeah! paid that one off in 2007) I have been a bit hesitant to use my current excess cash to pay extra toward my primary home’s principal.

¬†Now, this sparked a whole series of comments, including this comment from ‘Chris in Boston’ who said:

This is interesting. Usually you hear from personal finance people that its best to take on the longest fixed rate mortgage you can afford. This allows you to tie up as little cash in a non liquid asset as possible (slowly building equity). Also allows you to protect that pile of cash from the effects of inflation. The house is bought in today’s dollars and paid off over 30 years in today’s dollars.

Sure, when you own a property you have to compare it to owning any other investment – cost/benefit; risk/reward; all the usual stuff. You also need to compare the costs of holding it (including interest) against the costs of investing elsewhere.

But, this last piece in Chris’ comment is¬†THE critical point: “the house is bought in today’s dollars and paid off over 30 years in today’s dollars”.

You see, the one thing that makes owing a property, even your own home, very different to any other investment is that it can be easily financed … almost completely (remember the sub-prime crisis?).

This leads to a whole swag of benefits that I don’t think that you can get anywhere else … benefits that simply cannot be ignored by the typical saver / investor.

Here’s why …

When you mortgage a house, you and the bank enter into a partnership (typically the bank is an 80% partner and you are a 20% partner going in), but you are not in the same position:

1. You have access to ALL of the upside … so as inflation and market conditions push the value of the¬†property upward over time, you gain 100% of the increase, the bank gets none of it.

Let’s say you buy a property for $100,000 today; you put in $20,000 deposit and the bank puts in $80,000 as an interest-only loan (forget closing costs for now) … in 20 years, if it doubles to $200,000, your share of the ‘partnership’ is now $120,000 and the bank’s is still $80,000.

You are now 60/40 majority owner of the real-estate venture! In fact, even as 20% ‘owner’ you have total control over all the decisions related to the real-estate – as long as you pay the bank on time.

2. Sure you pay the bank interest on their $80,000 share … but this is fixed (you did take out a fixed interest rate, didn’t you?!).

At 8% interest rate that’s approximately $6,400 per year … this year.

Why only this year? Because the same inflation that is increasing the value of the house (and you get to keep 100% of that increase) also decreases the effective amount that you pay to the bank; as each year goes by, the bank gets less and less in real dollars and your salary goes up.

The price of bread, milk and gas may go up, but the bank’s interest rate never will because it’s fixed!

3. You either get 100% of the value for the payments that you make to the bank (call it ‘rent avoidance’ if you live in the property) or you take 100% of the income if you decide to rent it out … all as 20% minority ‘partner’ going in. The bank on the other hand, gets their $6,400 and ONLY their $6,400.

4. The government gives you tax breaks and incentives to do all of this!

Here is my advice …

Look at everything that you own as a business: if it’s your own home, separate the ownership of the property in your mind from¬†it’s use …

… for example, even if it’s your own home, treat yourself as your own tenant and figure the rent that you would otherwise had to pay when doing the sums.

Then evaluate the investment against any other investment or ‘business’ … and ask yourself:

– What ‘business’ gives you pretty damn close to 100% control for only 20% initial investment?

– What ‘business’ lets you in for only 20% initial investment, but then gives you all of the upside?

– What ‘business’ gives you¬†only¬†one-time multiplier on your initial investment on the downside but a five-time multiplier on the¬†upside?

– What ‘business’ grows in your favor (and not your “partner’s” favor) merely by the effects of inflation?

By all means, pay off you mortgage and your lines of credit as you reach your financial goals and are set to retire …. you have plenty of money and just don’t need the stress, right?

But, if you’re still trying to get rich(er) quick(er)?

If you own a home, don’t pay it off … use the upside to help you buy more and more of these wonderful,¬†one-of-a-kind, almost-too-good-to-be-true¬†‘businesses’ …

If you have other sources of income (businesses, investments) don’t spend it or reinvest all of it … use some of the spare cash to help you buy more and more of these wonderful,¬†one-of-a-kind, almost-too-good-to-be-true¬†‘businesses’ …

That’s my advice to you, and to Joy, but only take it if you want to be rich!

Applying the 20% Rule – Part I ( Your House)

Since my early post How Much To Spend On A House is still one of the most visited posts on this site, I thought that I should write a little follow-up piece that gives some examples on how to apply this important ‘rule’.

First a recap:

You should have no more than 20% of your Net Worth ‘invested’ in your house at any one time; you should also have no more than 5% of your Net Worth invested in other non-income-producing possessions (e.g. car/s, furniture, ‘stuff’). Why?

This ‘forces’ you to keep¬†the bulk¬†of your Net Worth in investments i.e. real assets (stuff that puts money into your pocket … not stuff that drains your finances)!

Warning: most people think of their house as an asset, but by this definition, it most definitely is not … let this be a warning to all those ‘house rich … asset poor’ people out there who think they can retire just from their house.

For those mathematically minded, as a formula, this can easily be represented as:

20% (max.) for your house + 5% (max.) for all the other stuff that you own = 75% (min.) of your Net Worth always in Investments! Simple, huh?

Also, for those who have been tracking my posts, the difference between your Notional Net Worth and your Investment Net Worth will be the Current Market Value of Your House + the Current Market Value of Your Possessions; if you’ve been following my advice this should be no more than 25% of your Notional Net Worth.

Now, you may have noticed something interesting:

The Current Market Value of Your House will usually go up over time (current market conditions aside!)

The Current Market Value of Your Possessions will usually go down over time (collectibles aside!).

Houses generally appreciate … possessions generally depreciate.

This sets up some interesting situations that we should¬†discuss … by no means an exhaustive list:

1. Aspiring Home Owner – The chances are that you have debt (particularly if you¬†were recently a student), little income,¬†some possessions,¬†virtually no savings or investments. You will probably never be able to buy a house at all – or, if you can it may never be bigger than a cardboard box –¬†if you follow the 20% Rule …

… My advice is to buy the house anyway IF you can afford a decent down payment (ideally 20+%) and can afford the monthly payments (lock in the interest rates for the max. period that your bank will allow, ideally 30+ years).

A lot of financial mumbo-jumbo has been written in the press, books, and blogosphere about this … ignore what you may have read: for most people, it’s the only way you will ever get financially free.

2. Already A Home Owner – Revalue your home (be conservative … don’t wear ‘rose-colored glasses’ … check what other houses around you have actually sold for … don’t rely on any realtor’s advice – they may ‘talk’ up the price to convince you to sell – we don’t want to do that, yet!). Do this every 3 – 5 years (yearly is better).

If the conservative value of your house puts¬†the equity in¬†your home (Your Equity = What the Home is Conservatively Worth – Today’s Payout Figure On Your Home Loan) at greater than 20% of your Current Net Worth (you will need to redo this calculation at the same time as you revalue your house), then it is time to¬†extract that¬†‘excess equity’.

What to do with this excess equity? Invest it of course! For example, you could buy a long-term, buy-and-hold, income-producing (get the picture!) rental property … or you could buy stocks … or you could take some risk and buy / start a business … or it’s up to you!

But, if you locked in your home mortgage at a cheap interest rate, you probably don’t want to refinance¬†it, so be sure to ask a¬†professional about suitable options for you (second mortgage; use your home’s equity to ‘guarantee’ the loan on another, etc.) … just be sure that you can afford the loans on both your house and your investment/s … make sure you have a cash [AJC: better yet, a Line of Credit]¬†buffer against emergencies (loss of job, loss of tenant, etc.).

¬†3.¬†Right-Sizing Home Owner – Again, revalue your home …¬†but, of course you can down-grade (let’s say that you are retiring or the kids have moved out) – but just because you have freed up some equity and can easily fit into the 20% Rule doesn’t mean that you can slack off on your¬†Investments.

ADD the freed up amount of equity to your Investment Plan … it will help you retire earlier and/or better!

Remember, your Investments should¬†be a minimum of 75% of your¬†Net Worth … you can and should invest more wherever and whenever possible!¬†

Again, if your original house is rent-able, and you have locked in a cheap interest rate (like I told you), you may want to keep it as an investment … consider doing so!

Now, buying houses isn’t always about making the right investment choice; there will be times in your life when you have to consider changing houses whether it fits within the 20% Rule or not (one obvious example was our First Home Purchase) …

… most likely, this¬†will be¬†at major life changes (marriage, divorce, babies). So be it!

Remember our Prime Directive: Our Money is there to support Our Life … Our Life isn’t there to support our Money (that would be just plain sick)!

Just make sure to revalue every year at first, then every 3 – 5 years min. and try not to get off-track, but if you do, simply realize if you are off-track financially¬†and that you just have to get on-track at the first opportunity …


PS You may want to bookmark this post (using the convenient links below) and review at every major ‘house change’ decision!

Calculating your Investment Net Worth

I found a site that I really like; it’s called Net Worth IQ and it’s a social network around calculating (& sharing if you feel so inclined) your net Worth.

 To be conservative in calculating your Net Worth, you should LEAVE OUT:

a) Any ‘equity’ in your house that you NEVER intend to release as investment (i.e. borrow against for purchasing, when the timing is right, income-producing-buy-and-hold-investment-real-estate).

b) Any supposed ‘equity’ that you have in your business.

Let’s call the result your INVESTMENT NET WORTH …

¬†It’s the only one that matters!


Well,there are only TWO reasons to even bother calculating your Net Worth:

1. To ensure that your ‘portfolio’ matches the Rules of the Rich (e.g. the 20% ‘rule’ on home equity that I talk about in a¬†recent post), and

2. To check whether your INVESTMENT NET WORTH (which should be in passive income-producing investments by then) can FUND your ideal retirement with at least 99% chance that your money won’t run out before you do.

I must confess that for the purposes of¬†the Net Worth IQ¬†site … I broke those two rules, so I should lower my Net Worth by approx. $2.5M, and I may make that change later – I haven’t decided yet.

BUT, I have already done the calcs and am acutely aware that my INVESTMENT NET WORTH can EASILY fund my retirement starting next year (I’ll be 50 … now, that’s old, Man!).

If this makes sense to you … check out some Tips that I have already left on that site and this¬†blog.

Now, what’s YOUR Investment Net Worth … more importantly, can it fund your IDEAL retirement?

Is your home an asset? A simple question with a not so simple answer …

According to an asset is:
Any item of economic value owned by an individual or corporation, especially that which could be converted to cash.
Examples that they give include:
Cash, securities, accounts receivable, inventory, office equipment, real estate, a car, and other property.
Now, here’s a definition that I like even better …
…¬†it’s Robert Kiyosaki’s definition of an¬†asset from Rich Dad, Poor Dad:¬†

Poor Dad vs. Rich Dad

My Poor Dad Says   My Rich Dad Says
¬† “My house is an asset.” ¬† “My house is a liability.”
¬† Rich dad says, “If you stop working today, an asset puts money in your pocket and a liability takes money from your pocket. Too often people call liabilities assets. It’s important to know the difference between the two.
I don’t always¬†agree with Robert Kiyosaki, but to me, this nugget is one of the best pieces of financial wisdom ever written (and, I have HIGH standards). Why?
Because, I have seen TOO MANY people base their¬†ENTIRE financial strategy on the VALUE OF THEIR OWN home …¬†
But, your own home is ONLY A PLACE TO LIVE!
It’s only BECOMES an asset when you either (a) sell or (b) put the equity to work for you … until then, it’s just a piece of paper (title deed).Let me share a¬†true story from my own family:
In the 60’s my Grandparents bought a 2-story downtown property with some friends … over the course of 40 years it became old, underdeveloped compared to the multi-story buildings that had sprung up all around, and simply didn’t bring enough rent in to allow her (and her partners) to keep up with costs (personal, and property-related taxes, maintenance, and holding costs).But, they tightly held onto the building because it was an ‘asset’ …

My¬†Grandmother is¬†still alive¬†(she is now¬†95) and last year I had to LEND HER $40,000 (really! And, she wouldn’t let me just give it to her! Amazing woman …) because she couldn’t afford her share of the real-estate taxes.

Just before Xmas last year, she gave my son a check for his birthday … it bounced!

Happy ending, though …

She (yes last year at the age of 94, and on her own because her partners all live overseas) finally negotiated the sale of this building for $18 million (!) to a developer who way overpaid because he is putting up high-rise luxury apartments.

NOW it’s an ASSET. What about your home?

How much to spend on a house?

In a previous post, I weighed in with my thoughts on the Rent v Buy question. The answer for most people, at some stage in their lives, is to … buy.

But, how much to spend?

Boy, this is a biggie! I mean, your house is usually your biggest personal purchase. So, here goes …

You should INVEST no more than 20% of your Net Worth into your house!

[To calculate your net worth,¬†try this calculator at¬† , then come back and read on, because you need the second half of the equation …]

The ‘20% Rule’ tells you how much of your current net assets you should INVEST, it doesn’t tell you how much house you can actually afford to buy …

… because, houses can be financed!

So, the 20% rule tells you how much deposit you can afford. And, the bank will then tell you how much you can afford to borrow (unfortunately, they won’t tell you how much you SHOULD borrow … only how much you CAN borrow).

Put your deposit + mortgage together, and there’s your house!

For example, say that you have saved $200,000 and it is sitting in the bank. And, assume that you have a job, but no other income or assets. Then you can afford to put down a $40,000 deposit on your house; the bank will look at your income and tell you how much you than then afford to borrow.

Why 20%? After you ‘invest’ another 5% of your Net Worth in ‘stuff’ (car/s, furniture, possessions), it¬†means that you are never investing LESS THAN 75% of your Net Worth (that would be the $150,000 that you have left in our example) in income producing assets (like investment property).

It also tells you that you should never build up more than 20% of your Net Worth as equity in your own home without then borrowing against the remaining equity to invest.

So you should conservatively revalue your house at least every 3 – 5 years and withdraw any excess equity and add it to your investment pool!

If you can’t afford¬†to trade up to a bigger house without breaking this rule … don’t trade up! When you get rich later, you’ll be happy you waited now.

But, if you can’t buy your FIRST¬†(very small!) house without breaking this rule, then buy it anyway … as soon as you have enough equity, borrow against it to invest in long-term, income-producing¬†assets, and keep rechecking this post.

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Should you rent or buy?

Should you own or rent?¬†I have seen a lot of rubbish written on this subject … stuff like “renting is just dead money” or¬†“a house is a liability” …¬†so let me set you straight:

¬†If you are just starting out, up to your eyeballs in debt, unemployed, or you just can’t afford a house right now, it’s simple: you just rent.

If you already own a house, don’t sweat it, keep owning.

¬†And, if you are ready, willing and able to buy¬†your first house, or you are thinking of trading up (or, down) …. here’s my advice:

Put aside the emotional decisions and just consider the financial impact, and that is: your house is the ONLY¬†way that¬†most people will ever get off the launching pad to financial success …

Why? Because, you are building up equity over time (even a flat or falling real estate market eventually climbs back up again) …

… but – and here is the¬†key –¬†ONLY if you are prepared to put the equity in your house to work for you … that means, borrowing against¬†the equity in your house to INVEST.

Now, if you are buying a house with 10% – 20% down, this won’t be until you pay it down a little and the market picks up a little.

But, when you do build up enough equity in your house to borrow against, you’d better be prepared to do it! If¬†not, then you are FAR better off just renting and investing the money you save on mortgage payments every month …

…¬†if you’re not prepared to even do that, stop reading this blog … you will never be much better off than broke.