There’s a lot of hype about why you need to own a house. But buying a house isn’t the key to financial security for everyone – and those alleged tax advantages? They are not quite what they’re painted to be. Here’s a list of eleven reasons – many of them tax-related – why some don’t want to ever own a house again:
- As investments go, it’s not always a great deal. While it’s true that some homes do appreciate, so do many other assets. If you bought a house for, say, $200,000 thirty years ago, it would be worth $468,375.09 today. While that gain feels impressive, that appreciation is based solely on inflation – which means that, in theory, the same appreciation would have happened with any asset.
- The mortgage interest deduction doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re still paying a lot of interest. The large percentage of homeowners take out a loan when they buy a home. With average mortgage rates at 4.3%, you’ll actually pay $356,307.44 for a $200,000 home: $156,307.44 in interest alone. Averaged over 30 years, that works out to a little over $5,000 per year (even though in practice you pay the most interest at the beginning). Assuming you’re in a 25% bracket – and you itemize – that works out to a tax savings of just over $1,300 per year. But the word “savings” is somewhat of a misnomer because you’re still out of pocket more than you get back in tax savings: in our example, you would “save” less than $40,000 while paying out more than $150,000 in interest.
- Homes often tempt people borrow more than they can afford. When buying a new dress or a new car, consumers tend to focus on the cost of the item alone when determining how much to spend. But when it comes to mortgages, that number edges up because of the potential for tax savings (again, see #2). With that temptation, combined with a sluggish economy, it’s no wonder that more than 10 million homeowners are currently underwater on mortgages worth more than actual house values.
- Owning a house subject to a mortgage drives up debt to income ratios. Assuming that you borrow to buy your home that debt load can be a drag on your credit and ability to borrow for other things. A mortgage dramatically increases the debt to income ratio.
- A mortgage is typically 20 or 30 years while the current administration has only four (or possibly eight). The home mortgage interest deduction has been around for what seems like forever. Does that mean it that you can count on it to be around in 10, 20 or 30 years? Don’t be so sure. The deduction has become increasingly vulnerable: it has been a talking point in practically every administration from Bush to Obama.
- A mortgage is typically 20 or 30 years. Home ownership can limit your mobility. In order to move, you have to sell – or rent – your first home. Selling a house in a poor economy is no small feat.
- Houses take a lot of your money. There’s a reason that many folks refer to their homes as money pits: you often put a lot of money that you’ll never see again into a home. Not all improvements are deductible. Deductible expenses are generally limited to casualty loss deductions. In most cases, significant repairs to your home merely increase your basis for purposes of calculating a gain at sale. As most taxpayers aren’t likely to experience the kind of gain that would subject them to capital gains, basis isn’t always an issue which means that those expenditures get lost. Often homeowners get fixated on two numbers: the purchase price of the house and the selling price of the house – but don’t forget to account for all of the money you spent in between.
- If you do hit the home appreciation jackpot, there can be significant taxes. Not all houses bleed money. Not all appreciation can be attributed to inflation and/or a combination of home improvements – sometimes, it turns out to be a good investment. But there is a price: if the gain on the sale of your home exceeds the $250,000 exclusion (or $500,000 for married taxpayers), the proceeds over that exclusion are subject to capital gains.
- Real estate taxes can vary. While mortgage payments can remain fairly flat, assuming you have a fixed mortgage rate, you more or less know what you’re paying each year. You don’t always have the same result with real estate taxes. Your tax bill can change based on property assessments and reassessments or a change in tax rates as townships and counties search for revenue.
- You can’t deduct a loss on the sale of your home. If you lose money on stocks, you can net those losses against other gains. If you lose money in business, you can deduct those losses or use them to offset other gains. But it doesn’t work that way when it comes to housing. You can never claim a capital loss on the sale of a personal residence – no matter how much it hurts.
- It’s getting more difficult to claim the itemized deduction. Only about 1/3 of taxpayers even have the option of taking the home mortgage deduction. You itemize if your deductions exceed the standard deduction. Those numbers are getting harder to get to for many taxpayers. Mathematically, the longer you own your house, the less you owe in interest and the smaller the deduction.
Owning a home is not a bad thing. But for some, renting makes more sense. And when renting, maintenance is no longer my problem.
Real estate can be a good investment for some taxpayers. But we shouldn’t buy into the idea that owning a home is for everyone. At the end of August, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the home ownership rate was 65.5%, the lowest rate in the past 50 years
There are so many considerations when deciding whether to buy a home. It’s not the ‘ideal’ scenario for all families. Don’t be fooled by promises of tax savings and tax-free appreciation: that’s not always the case. A home is a huge investment so be sure to research what it might mean for you before taking the leap – and don’t be afraid to say no. For more information on renting an apartment in Blacksburg, VA, contact Foxridge Apartments.