Q: I bought a townhouse in September, 2001. I am renting it out, but now I want to sell it and pay of my credit card debt which amounts up to $14,000.
I owe $94,000 dollars on the townhouse. I can sell it for $110,000. Is this a good idea?
A: I’m always in favor of paying off non-deductible debt. But before you rush out to sell your townhouse, let’s think this through.
First, you only have $16,000 in equity in the townhouse. If you sell the property, you’re going to probably pay a broker’s commission of 6 percent, which comes to $6,600. Then, you’ll have transfer taxes, title, and other costs and fees of selling. Plus, you may have to spruce up the place for sell.
When all’s said and done, you might spend $10,000 between the commission, costs of sale and your fixer-upper costs, leaving you with only about $6,000 in profit — and that’s if you get $110,000 for the property.
$6,000 won’t make a huge dent in your $14,000 credit card debt — although it’s not a bad start. Keep in mind that if the townhouse has been an investment property for you, you may have to repay the IRS for any benefits you received in the past such as amortization, thereby reducing the amount you will get from the sale.
But there’s another way to think about this. What if you took out a home equity loan on the rental property for $10,000? That would still leave you with about $6,000 in equity in the property. You would pay little, if anything, for the home equity loan, and you’d be able to pay off a significant chunk of your credit card debt.
Sit down and talk with a mortgage lender about what you might be able to do. If possible, I’d like to see you be able to keep the townhouse, particularly if you can get enough in rent to cover the mortgage, taxes and insurance.
Keeping the investment property means you might also get a decent tax deduction that can help you save additional cash. Your tax preparer or accountant may be able to walk you through the tax savings.
Finally, whichever way you go, you really need to think about how you accumulated your credit card debt. Then, make a decision to pay off your remaining debt as quickly as possible, and never charge more than you can pay off at the end of the month.