Q: I may need to relocate for my job. I got a deal on it in 2012. Should I keep it and rent it out while prices are rising—or should I sell and use the profits to make a nice down payment on a new home? -- Shane Keys, Atlanta
A: A solid rental property investment generates enough in rent to cover expenses plus a 10% return, says Brandon Turner, an experienced investor and senior editor at real estate investing website BiggerPockets. You told us that you're paying $1,100 in mortgage, taxes and insurance. Add to that a property manager (average cost: 12% of gross rents), repairs, and a reserve in case of vacancies. It's unlikely that the $1,500 maximum in monthly rent you’d likely bring in for your three-bedroom home (check comparables at sites like Hotpads and Rentometer) would produce anything close to a 10% return.
You also told us that you have $45,000 in equity. Selling and plowing that into your next home would eliminate the need for expensive private mortgage insurance—now costing you $137 a month because you had to go with a low-money-down FHA loan—and it would of course reduce your mortgage payment. Plus, you’ll be able to protect the profit from capital gains taxes (up to $500,000 for married couples in home equity is tax-free), a perk you eventually lose if you convert your home into an investment property.
Turner’s conclusion: Sell.