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Many of our customers are diplomats or have temporary overseas assignments, which leaves many in a sort of quandary. They might own a home in the United States, and unfortunately, mortgage payments don't take a hiatus just because no one is living in the home. Which leaves the question, what does a temporary expat do with their home?
Temporarily displaced homeowners have more options than one might think. Here are the most common:
Sell your home
If your assignment is for years, instead of months, you might consider selling your home. Real estate prices are at a high. Sure, they could continue rising in the next couple of years, but they could also fall. If you don't want to take the risk, or if you planned on selling in the near future anyway, it could be time to call a Realtor. In fact, the timing could be perfect. It's much easier to sell, and keep clean, a vacant home than it is to sell an occupied one.
Rent your home
If you plan on keeping your home, the most obvious solution is to rent it out. While that's a great option, it can be problematic. You can brush up on state and local landlord/tenant laws and screen tenants, all while preparing for your move, or you can hire a property management company. Most charge between 8% and 12% of the monthly rental, but for that, they find tenants, collect rent, and arrange for maintenance. If your tenant falls through, or needs eviction, while you are overseas, a property manager can take care of it.
Rent it short term
Apps like Airbnb or VRBO are great temporary solutions, under certain circumstances. If your home is in great shape and has a good location, you can make some serious cash. An average two-bedroom can earn over $20,000 a year. Obviously, tourist communities do better than more remote areas, but it could be seasonal. College towns and large urban areas are also very popular. Airbnb or VRBO take a service fee for finding renters, but unlike property managers, they don't watch out for your property. It will be up to you to hire a cleaning and maintenance company.
Don't rent it or sell it
If you can keep your home without a financial burden, do it. Have a friend or family member move in and take care of the home. If you don't have anyone to move in, hire someone to keep an eye on your home. You'll want them to open the windows on occasion, to air it out. They should watch for problems like broken pipes, a leaky roof, or other potential hazards.
Whatever you decide to do, your home should be a significant part of your pre-move planning. Your home is your most valuable asset and costs you thousands of dollars every year. If you've owned your home for a long time, it could cost you a lot more to replace it once you return to the United States. Whether you choose to sell your home or rent it, look for reliable and qualified people to help you out because handling everything from overseas will be difficult.