My Personal Finance Journey

Personal finance observation, musing and decisions in a journey toward financial independence by 2020 with at least $3 million.

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Home Sale Anniversary

Contributed by mm | November 25, 2006 3:18 PM PST

It was just like yesterday that we bid farewell to our beautiful house in a neat surbuban community in the Greater Seattle area, and handed over the keys to the new homeowner, but by now it has already been a year since the sale. Yes, in October 2005, we sold our house for $420,000 after commission before we embarked on this journey back to Asia, and today is surely a good time to review the gains and losses from our first home sale in life.

Of course, given the flood of news stories like declining prices, lower sales volume and higher inventory, we will make exactly the same choice if we are facing the sell-or-rent-out question today.

On the other hand, price levels in the Greater Seattle area keeps creeping up in the last 12 months, and our house is likely worth over $470,000 after commission cut.

So do I have some buyer's remorse? Hardly any.

First, in retrospect, either sale or leasing out is a financial neutral decision (so far). In the last twelve months, we made approximately $55,000 in our investments, and in after-tax terms, these investment gains will be even much higher than the tax-free gain of the $50,000 in home price appreciation minus the upkeep of mortgage interest, property tax and insurance (amounts to $15,000 a year) -- admittedly, all $55,000 is not produced solely from our home sale proceeds and I could have lease out the house for some more money, but likely the financial consequences of either choices are within a few grand of each other.

Second, an important decision factor in our home sale is the peace of mind. If we still keep the house, I can imagine we will have at least a few more sleepless nights (when we leave it as an empty house or occuied by a renter). Our (financial) life is already too complicated and keeping an overseas property would not help.

Finally, it is getting less relevant in our household finance to decide over the difference of a few grand a year. Now that we are likely to break $600,000 in net worth by the end of the year, more certainty in financial results certainly overweight possibility of more speculative gains (and losses).

Status Update: We currently rent a downtown furnished apartment in Shanghai -- the city's real estate price is also quite high: a three-bedroom condo in downtown sells for more than a four bedroom single-family house in our original neighborhood. Truth be told, we are still missing the feeling of homeownership in the sense that we have much less control over the interior design right now, but we certainly don't miss the financial part of it.

(P.S. Now all I am praying is the real estate cycle will play to its nadir when (and if) we decide to move back.)

This Post Has Received 37 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.

Ruby Commented on November 26, 2006

Definately agree - managing properties locally itself is tough, forget managing it from overseas.

moneysmartlife Commented on November 26, 2006

I'm glad you don't have buyer's remorse. The property values may have increased over the last year but you have an advantage over everyone else still living there, you have your money in hand.

They won't realize their gains until they sell and only the home buyers of the future will determine what real estate in Seattle is really worth.

Rick Commented on November 27, 2006

Your English is getting worse, probably from the lack of use. Its hard to read now, can you have someone proof read posts? Thanks

Mark Commented on November 27, 2006

I share your concerns exactly. We sold our house in Southern California in March 2006 and are now renting in Madrid, Spain. I keep an eye on the RE market and am praying along with you that SF homes bottom out about the time we return. Looks like another 12 - 18 months for us. In the interim, I've put all the proceeds in tax exempt MMF at around 3.8% so I should have enough for a decent down payment.

fin_indie Commented on November 28, 2006

Ah, another (ex) Seattlite... Well, I can tell you that although reports that prices are continuing to rise here, they're really not. On my block alone, there are more than a dozen new townhomes going up (as they are all around the city), and the prices are anywhere from $350k to well over $600k). It'll be interesting to see if these move as the construction is finalized.

muipotu Commented on December 10, 2006

With all respect I am not sure I agree. Having control over a $420000 asset for the price of a little negative cash flow and a little bit of inconvenience seems like an easy choice to me. I have not run the numbers so I do not know how bad the cash flow would have been. I think that hopeing that you time the housing market correctly is silly. I remember reading somewhere that the worst year over year for a housing market ever was -20% and that longterm it is hard to find a way to make leverage money work for you so hard with so little risk.

Just my $.02... I am a relative rockie at the whole wealth game so I could be missing something...

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