More Sellers Turn to Rentals

September 11, 2009

Source: M.P. McQueen, The Wall Street Journal

More people are becoming landlords in an economy where selling a home can be challenging.

The nation's second-largest home insurer, Allstate Corp., says the number of homeowners converting their homeowners insurance to landlord policies rose 27 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Jim Bass of Jim Bass Real Estate Group in Frederick, Md., says he has begun offering property-management services for absent owners, many of whom are convinced it will be easier to sell in a couple of years.

Holding on probably isn't the best answer, says economist Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Leamer suggests negotiating a short sale instead. "Better to take your losses and move on."

Another factor to consider is whether renting will reduce or eliminate the value of the capital-gains tax exclusion. Federal tax law requires living in the home at least two of the previous five years to qualify for the full capital-gains tax exclusion when the house is sold. Of course, if there is no profit to be had, then this isn't a problem.

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