Q: We own two vacant lots in our subdivision. We paid $94,000 for them about two years ago.
We were told that they are now worth $85,000 each, however, we’ve had them up for sale for six months and the best offer we’ve had is $140,000 for both lots.
We owe about $21,000 on both lots on a home equity line of credit, which can be converted into a fixed-rate loan at 7.125 percent. The question is, with all the talk of a real estate bubble, what should we do with these properties?
Shall we hold out for more than the $140,000 we could get for them now? Or, shall we hold on and hopefully get the full $170,000?
We don’t need to sell. We can well afford the payments on the $21,000 line of credit. But if we decide not to sell, should convert the line of credit into a fixed-rate loan?
A: Congratulations on making such a smart investment — even if you don’t wind up pocketing the full $170,000.
By the way, although you’ve been “told” that your properties are worth $85,000 each, it seems to me that the market is telling you how much your lots are worth: $70,000 each. Given that prices can also go down as well as up, and considering that you’ve seen around a 50 percent price appreciation in two years, you might want to take a second look at the buyers who are coming through.
You mention the real estate bubble — I actually like to think of it as a balloon with some of the air slowly seeping out. But either way, it’s true that the housing market is softening in some areas.
While your lots may still be in a hot neighborhood, the fact that you’ve had them on the market for 6 months and still aren’t getting what you want for them indicates to me that you may need to do more research into the “true value” of the lots and that your neighborhood may be slowing down in terms of sales.
I don’t know if you have the lots listed with an agent, but you’ll want to talk to several agents about what other lots have sold recently in the area and for how much. This should tell you if you need to play a waiting game, or if you should accept the next good offer that comes around.
If you do sell the lots, don’t forget that you will pay capital gains tax of up to 15 percent on your profits plus any state taxes that are owed. Be sure to set aside enough of the gain to pay any taxes that are owed.
Regarding your loan, each percentage increase in your variable loan will cost you about $210 more per year. You may want to lock in the rate at 7.125 percent if it gives you the comfort you need to keep the lots for a longer period of time.
Finally, you can always sell one of the lots at the current going rate and keep the other one. You would get rid of your debt, still own one lot and hope that it appreciates in the future.