During the last five years, home prices have increased nationwide. In some parts of the country, notably California, home prices have doubled or even tripled. The median price of a home in the Los Angeles area is now nearly $450,000 and in the San Francisco area, the price is approaching $600,000. As the economy continues to improve, the price of housing continues to rise in California and elsewhere. Many people who have owned their homes for more than three years are suddenly finding themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity. Of course, equity is only a theoretical gain, and if the price of housing goes down, equity can go away. You only get to keep your equity as cash if you sell your home. Many homeowners are doing just that.
Home equity loans are increasingly popular these days, and many people with large amounts of equity in their homes are borrowing against it and using the money for home improvements, dream vacations or other luxury items. Others are simply cashing out and moving elsewhere. While prices on both coasts are rising at a breathtaking rate, price increases in most of the country are still more modest. A homeowner in California who bought a home five years ago for $200,000 may have a home worth $500,000 today. If that homeowner were to sell that home and move to Texas, or Iowa or even parts of Florida, he or she could buy a comparable or even larger home, pay cash, and probably keep a healthy profit to invest. For most Americans, the equity in their home is their single largest asset. Examining that equity to see if it can be used more wisely would be a sound move, particularly as real estate experts warn of a housing “bubble” that may soon reduce prices to more realistic levels. Should this “correction” in the market take place, homeowner equity could be seriously reduced.
Obviously, selling a home and moving just to pocket the equity is not something that suits everyone. While it may make sense from a financial standpoint, it will mean finding a new employer, finding a new home, finding new friends and moving children to new schools and friends. Anyone considering such a move would be well advised to carefully consider all of the ramifications of simply picking up and moving. On the other hand, the opportunity to extract several hundred thousand dollars in cash from a home is a rare one, and investing it wisely could go a long way towards financing a better lifestyle or a more comfortable retirement. Homeowners should be aware that there might be capital gains taxes to be paid on the sale of a home. Those considering selling their home to extract their equity would probably benefit from a consultation with a financial advisor.