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Thought I would give a summary of my current financial situation:

  • Home owner
  • No debt outside of mortgage
  • Annual income of $120k
  • Amount owed on house is at ~$95k
  • Expected rent the current house for between $1,100 and $1,500
  • Budget for new house of $500k
  • Retirement account with previous employer
  • Retirement account with current employer. Employer matched
  • No stocks/bonds
  • Per title: ~$75k in savings

Background: I would like to move from my current home to a new home I would purchase, but I am not sure if I should pay off completely my current home. If I move, I would like to keep my current home and rent it out. I would also need to do repairs, etc. on the current home before I rent.

Question: Should I wait before getting the new home until I pay off the current home? Or should I purchase new home now and prepare current home and get that rented out?

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    you're going to need a downpayment on that new home. If you don't sell the old one, seems like you would use those savings, no? – Kate Gregory Mar 4 '17 at 21:23
  • How soon are you planning on moving? – Ben Miller Mar 5 '17 at 13:04
  • @KateGregory I would, I guess the question is paying off the current home using the savings and then "saving up" again for the new home vs just getting the new home and then use rental income to pay the mortgage for the current home. – user3434662 Mar 5 '17 at 20:56
  • @NathanL Budget: $500k Salary: $120k Monthly Rent on Current Home: $1,100-$1,500. – user3434662 Mar 5 '17 at 20:58
  • 3
    Have you been a landlord before? Being a landlord without an emergency fund and having mortgages to pay is not a path to financial prosperity. – ojblass Mar 5 '17 at 21:28
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Congratulations on saving up $75,000. That requires discipline and tenacity. There are a lot of factors that would go into making your decision.

First and foremost is the security of the income stream you have now. Being leveraged during times of hardship is not a pleasant experience. Unexpected job losses can and do happen. Only you can determine how secure your and your spouse's situation is.

Second, I would consider the job market in the location that you live. If you live in a small town it will be hard to find income levels like you have now. Rental properties are additional ties to an area. Are you happy in the area in which you live? If you were laid off are there opportunities in the same area. Being a long distance landlord is again not a pleasant experience. I can throw being forced to sell to relocate at a reduced price into this same bucket.

Third, you need to have 3 to 6 months of expenses saved for emergencies. This is in addition to having no consumer debt (credit cards, car loans, student loans). $75,000 feels like a lot. Life can throw you curve balls. You need to be prepared for them because of the fundamental nature of Murphy's Law. If you were to be a landlord you should err closer to the six month end of the scale. I own two rentals and can speak to people being late a given month, heating and air problems, plumbing issues, washers and dryers breaking, weather related issues, and even a tenant leaving behind for truckloads of trash. Over 20 years I guess I have seen it all. A rental agency will only act as a minor buffer.

Fourth, your family situation is important. I personally save 10% of my income for my child's education. If you haven't started doing so or have different feelings on what you might contribute think about it before any financial move.

Fifth, any mortgage payment you are making should be 25% or less than your take home pay for a 15 year fixed rate mortgage. Anything less than 20% down and you start burning up money on PMI insurance. 'House Poor' is a term for people that make high incomes but have too much being spent for housing. It is the cause of a lot of financial stress.

Sixth, you need to save for retirement. The absolute minimum I recommend is 15% of your income. Even if the match is 6% you should invest the full 15% making it 21%. Social Security is a scary thing and depending on it is not wise. I think your income still qualifies you for contributions to a Roth IRA. If you aren't personally contributing 15% do so before making a move.

There is an old joke that homeless people who have a 0 net worth often are richer than people driving fancy cars and living in fancy houses. Ultimately no one can tell you the right answer. Every situation is unique. You have a complex tapestry to your financial life that no else one knows.

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As others have said, congratulations on saving up 75K in cash while seemingly not neglecting other areas of personal finance. Considering that only 15% of Americans have more than 10K saved this is quite a feat. source

If you sell your old house, and buy the new one you will still be in really good financial shape. No need to comment further.

Renting your current home and buying a new home introduces a great amount of risk into your life. The risk in this case is mitigated by cash. As others have pointed out, you will need to save a lot more to remove an acceptable amount of risk. Here is what I see:

  • 100K (min) for new house down payment
  • 15K (estimate) for old home repairs
  • 20K basic emergency fund
  • 15K rental emergency fund

So without paying off your existing house I would see a minimum savings account balance of about double of what you have now. Once you purchase the new house, the amount would be reduced by the down payment, so you will only have about 50K sitting around.

The rental emergency fund may be a little light depending on how friendly your state is to landlords. Water heaters break, renters don't pay, and properties can sit vacant. Also anytime you move into a new business there will be mistakes made that are solved by writing checks. Do you have experience running rentals?

You might be better off to sell your existing home, and move into a more expensive home than what you are suggesting. You can continue to win at money without introducing a new factor into your life.

Alternatively, if you are "bitten by the real estate bug" you could mitigate a lot risk by buying a property that is of similar value to your current home or even less expensive. You can then choose which home to live in that makes the most financial sense. For example some choose to live in the more dilapidated home so they can do repairs as time permits.

To me upgrading the home you live in, and renting an expensivish home for a rental is too much to do in such a short time frame. It is assuming far too much risk far to quickly for a person with your discipline. You will get there.

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With an annual income of $120,000 you can be approved for a $2800 monthly payment on your mortgage. The trickier problem is that you will save quite a bit on that mortgage payment if you can avoid PMI, which means that you should be targeting a 20% down-payment on your next purchase. With a $500,000 budget for a new home, that means you should put $100,000 down.

You only have $75,000 saved, so you can either wait until you save another $25,000, or you can refinance your current property for $95k+ $25k = $120k which would give you about a $575 monthly payment (at 30 years at 4%) on your current property. Your new property should be a little over $1,900 per month if you finance $400,000 of it. Those figures do not include property tax or home owners insurance escrow payments. Are you prepared to have about $2,500 in mortgage payments should your renters stop paying or you can't find renters?

Those numbers also do not include an emergency fund. You may want to wait even longer before making this move so that you can save enough to still have an emergency fund (worth 6 months of your new higher expenses including the higher mortgage payment on the new house.)

I don't know enough about the rest of your expenses, but I think it's likely that if you're willing to borrow a little more refinancing your current place that you can probably make the numbers work to purchase a new home now. If I were you, I would not count on rental money when running the numbers to be sure it will work. I would probably also wait until I had saved $100,000 outright for the down-payment on the new place instead of refinancing the current place, but that's just a reflection of my more conservative approach to finances. You may have a larger appetite for risk, and that's fine, then rental income will probably help you pay down any money you borrow in the refinancing to make this all worth it.

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