Should you sell? There is no definitive answer to a question like this. There are so many possible reasons why you could be considering putting an income property on the market. Perhaps you bought a property that is consistently costing you more to run than it is earning you? Maybe there has been a change in your personal or financial circumstances. Maybe your investment strategy changed, and you want to move out of a market, or switch from one type of real estate to another. It could even be that you are wondering if real estate investing is for you!
Start by asking different questions.
If you’re already contemplating selling a property, you either have some strong reasons for doing so, or you’re possibly at a crossroads in your investing journey and don’t know which way to turn. One way to clarify things is to ask these two questions instead:
- What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Or, what is the situation you want to change?
- What are all the possible solutions?
Investors usually spend a lot of time analyzing deals to decide to buy a particular investment property, or not. The same level of analysis should be used to determine whether to sell. In any given situation, selling a property does not have to be the solution.
More things to consider before selling.
#1 Is the property making you money?
If it is, there is a strong argument to hang on to it. Real estate transactions come with a relatively high price tag. There are significant transaction costs that accrue when you buy or sell. Selling might also trigger a tax bill. Of course, there are still valid reasons to sell an investment property even if it is making you money, but the less buying and selling you do in real estate investing, generally means more money in your pocket.
#2 Can you afford to sell?
If “Don’t sell” is the first rule of buy-and-hold investing, then “Don’t sell at a loss” is the second. This is not to say that you are stuck if you are over-leveraged on a property or you happen to own a property that has not appreciated or has even lost value. If you answered yes to the first question, it might be prudent to hold on until the situation changes. If you answered no to the first question, then you should familiarize yourself with the term “sunk cost trap” and make a clear-eyed decision on whether or not it is a good idea to sell and cut your losses.
#3 What are the alternatives?
This question isn’t for you if you are selling because of a personal or financial crisis. Assuming you are considering whether to sell or hold an investment property for any other reason, analysis of your investment alternatives is a valuable exercise. This involves analyzing other investment opportunities to determine if another opportunity is more profitable, or more closely meets your investment goals. There is a world of investing opportunities out there to discover.
If you’re convinced real estate investing is for you, you might wish to compare and analyze different markets, different property types, or similar properties to the ones you have. If you are considering moving out of real estate investing altogether, or even if you want to confirm your bias for real estate, it is also useful to analyze other investment vehicles. You can end up going down a rabbit hole with too much analysis, but if you are considering selling an investment property, you owe it to yourself to make a facts-based decision.
You will change.
Who you are as an investor will change over time. This includes your goals and aspirations, your appetite for risk, your personal preferences, and your stock of knowledge and experience. It is important to not stop learning from your own experiences or from other investors.
Don’t stop asking questions to understand the alternatives and possibilities for running a profitable real estate investing business and making the necessary improvements and adjustments when they are required.
Selling is seldom the only alternative. Perhaps one or more of the questions posed above will be helpful for you as you contemplate how to move forward in your investing journey.