Already one of the lesser-known investment opportunities, seller financing has earned a poor reputation as the tactic of only the truly desperate. After all, if you are looking for monthly income and already own property, why not just use the property as a rental?
In reality, seller financing offers significant benefits over owning a rental property. This method can be used to protect your income and provide security to you and your potential heirs.
1. No Maintenance
Maintenance is costly, and as a landlord, the property is your responsibility. Every leaking sink, every broken appliance falls squarely in your lap. Even if you hand control of the property over to a management company, money comes out of your pocket to pay for the service.
One way or the other, this venture that is supposed to make you money is not being used to its full potential while you are still paying into it.
With seller financing, you are the beneficiary of the note only, not the owner of the property. The owner of the property, the one making the payments, is on the hook for any and all maintenance to the property. This can turn a costly and inconvenient investment into an excellent source of passive income.
Every landlord knows that the worst part of being a landlord is the tenants. If lazy or raucous tenants destroy the property, it affects your ability to rent the property and continue to make money.
As the holder of the note, the only thing you need worry about is the paycheck showing up in your mailbox every month. What happens to the property itself is no longer your responsibility or your worry.
2. Income Security
Every landlord has had to deal with a tenant who just could not or would not make their payments. With late payments come the hassle of badgering the tenant, perhaps getting the payment late, or the absolute nightmare of filing an eviction notice and even taking tenants to court over back payments.
All of this is a recipe for capital hemorrhage. As property investors, the idea is to make money, not bleed it out all over small claims court.
In the case of seller financing, one finds that this quirk of rental investments is no longer a problem. If the borrower defaults on the loan, everything reverts back to you, the seller, and you retain all payments, including the initial down payment.
The foreclosure process is not free, certainly, but it need not carry the same expense and uncertainty that accompanies eviction and lawsuits over back rent. The process can actually be fairly painless, depending on what state you reside in. Mortgage states have a slightly more complicated process, but if you are lucky enough to live in a Deed of Trust state like Texas, North Carolina, California or Maine, the process has a much quicker turn around time.
3. Fluctuations in the Market are no Longer the Master
Depending on where your property is located, you may notice that rents fluctuate. As a neighborhood becomes more desirable, the amount you can charge in rent goes up. If potential tenants begin flocking to another part of town, you have to lower the rent to lure them back.
Payments in seller financing are not subject to such turbulence, because of two factors. Firstly, homeowners tend to stay in a property a good bit longer than tenants, because simply abandoning the property has far greater consequences as an owner. Secondly, terms are determined and contracted far ahead of time, and do not carry the risk of tenants simply abandoning the property for a more attractive offer.
You need not even worry about fluctuations in the property market because you already own the note. If the buyer wishes to sell their property, it is their responsibility to find another buyer willing to pay enough to cover the full amount. Either way, you continue to build wealth without needing to worry about whether you will be able to make enough in rent to justify the cost of owning the property.
4. Sell Money, not Property
If you choose to sell a rental property, and especially one that is still occupied, your ability to sell is contingent on the tenant’s upkeep of the property, and it would be laughable to suggest that you only sell part of the property or the entire property for only a certain amount of time.
This kind of flexibility is infinitely possible with seller-financed mortgage notes, and without the hassle of involving a Realtor or showing the property.
Notes can be sold to note buyers in part or in whole. What this means is that, for short term but pressing expenses, you can use your note as a quick source of cash by selling only part of it, and writing in the terms that the note will revert back to your ownership after a certain period of time. This creates an investment that is not only a long-term, monthly source of steady income, but a ready source of cash if the situation warrants.
5. Fewer taxes and Better Return
Possibly the most attractive attribute of seller financing is the ability to avoid paying excessive amounts of taxes. Fewer taxes = more money in your pocket and in your portfolio.
Because of the way seller financed mortgages are structured, you don’t incur capital gains tax until you start collecting on the principal of the loan, which, in a 30-year loan, allows you to defer capital gains tax for many years. This assumes, of course, that you fall into certain categories under the Dodd-Frank legislation.
As the beneficiary and not the property owner, you also avoid both the burden of property tax and property insurance, which are both the responsibility of the property owner themselves.
In addition, you are looking at a much better return on your dollar than you can get with a rental agreement. For instance, you could certainly take all your earnings from your rental and put them away in high-interest savings or money market account at 0.26%. You’ll grow your money, sure.
But let’s say you seller finance that same property at 7%. You’re now bringing in a solid monthly income at an interest rate of more than five times what you could have gotten out of investing you rental proceeds in the bank.
There are, of course, things to consider. If you don’t own the property free and clear, the bank could invoke what is known as the “due-on-sale” clause, requiring you to pay off the entirety of what is owed on the property or face foreclosure. They are not required to do this, but it is a risk. Like with any financial decision, Selling vs Renting should be approached with care and en eye toward your particular circumstances.
As an investment property owner, deciding to convert a rental property into a seller financed mortgage note is one not to be taken lightly. That said, seller financing offers the benefit of keeping cash in your pocket with the elimination of management companies, rental maintenance and the inevitable taxes that come with property ownership, and the opportunity for long-term passive income.