Selling your home in a down market is tough. It took us 7 months from the time we listed our house until the time we finalize the sale, and we lost just over $50,000 on the transaction. I have conflicting thoughts about losing this much money. Obviously, no one sets out to lose money when they buy a home, and no one feels good about it. But at the same time, I realize it’s probably not as bad as it seems.
Thoughts on losing money on our house
We knew we would lose money on the transaction, so we were prepared for it. Being mentally and emotionally prepared to lose money is important. In the grand scheme of things, we just considered losing money on our home a sunk cost and decided to move on. Here are some factors which made the loss easier to swallow:
We had enough equity to cover our losses. Losing money isn’t fun. Writing someone a check when you’ve already lost a lot of money is even worse. Thankfully, we had enough equity to cover our losses, so we didn’t have to write a check at closing. We put down 20% of the purchase price when we bought the home, and we paid extra on our mortgage payments. This combination ensured we would receive a small check when we sold our home instead of being upside down on our mortgage.
If we didn’t buy, we would have paid rent. Some people say renting is throwing away money, but I disagree. Many people who rented during the real estate bubble avoided taking substantial losses when they had to move. And in our case, we may have actually come out slightly ahead, depending on how you slice the numbers. We lived in our home for just over 5 years. If we would have “thrown away money” on rent for 5 years, we probably would have lost the same amount of money, give or take a little. ($1,000/mo rent * 5 years = $60,000). Again, this doesn’t take into account other factors such as the time value of money as the down payment could have been invested, home repairs, or other expenses. Either way, we would have spent a lot of money on housing.
We could have lost more money. The real estate market in our area of the US was hit pretty hard. We just left the Dayton, OH area, which lost tens of thousands of jobs, and for a period of time, it was in the top 10 for foreclosures. As you can imagine, that created an excess of inventory and decimated housing prices. Thankfully, our neighborhood was relatively insulated from the price drops compared to some of the other neighborhoods.
Some people can’t afford to sell, even if they want to. The real estate markets in some locations are so bad that the majority of people are upside down on their homes and selling would mean having to fork over tens of thousands of dollars they don’t have. Many people are so far under in their mortgages that they decided the best course of action was to walk away from their mortgage.
We can make it up on the back end. We want to buy another home, and the saving grace for us is that real estate prices are lower in most places, hopefully making this a good buying opportunity for us. Our hope is that we can get more house for our money when we buy our next home. Our goal is to stay in our next home for the next 5-10 years, so hopefully things will turn out better the next time around.
All of these things may sound like rationalizations, and to some degree they are. But it also serves as a reminder to myself and others that real estate isn’t a guaranteed investment.
Have you bought or sold a house recently? How did it work out for you?