Q: Although we have our home up for sale, we have so many people interested in renting that we are considering taking it off the market to have it rented, as we need to have monies coming in to cover the mortgage.

We had it on the market in 2008, and took it off and rented it for awhile then. When we relisted it last year, we listed it at $50,000 less than we had it listed for in 2008. I am anticipating that the market will get better if we take it off and rent it now and then sell it at a later date. Do you see this happening? –Nicolae

A: Ah, if only I possessed the real estate crystal ball, that ultimate holy grail of economists, media pundits, politicos and real estate consumers alike. Unfortunately, I don’t. And that seems to be what you want and need: a prediction about whether to sell later will be to sell higher.

There is no way to know whether this will be the case for certain, especially in the fairly near term. If you were telling me you planned to rent the place out for 10 years, I’d tell you it’s possible that it’d be easier to sell then. But next year? The year after? No can do.

And frankly, even in the five- to seven-year time frame, massive shifts that are currently in the works in the mortgage market (namely, the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) may narrow the availability of homeownership, so that many fewer Americans are even able to own homes. By that token, it could also be more difficult to sell your place then. No one knows for sure.

What most everyone does know, or believe, is that the recovery of home prices from their current depression will undoubtedly be spotty and slow, on a national level. As with everything in the über-local realm of real estate, urban and suburban, Midwestern and Southern, coastal and noncoastal markets were all impacted differently by the housing crisis — and are all recovering (or not) at different rates. By this token, the answer to your question will depend heavily upon where exactly you live.

It does seem that areas with positive net population growth, strong job markets and home values that are affordable for a high proportion of local households will suffer less of a hit to home values in the long run, but these also tend to be areas where appreciation is generally slow and steady.

If your area has been overbuilt, has been hit very hard by the foreclosure crisis, and/or has a high rate of unemployment/low rate of projected job growth going forward, your home’s value could take a long time to recover, and may get worse before it gets better. I urge you to talk with several local real estate pros to get their sense for what sort of market yours is.

Timing the market accurately with precision — especially this market, which has been and will continue to be manipulated by governmental forces, for better or for worse — is an extremely difficult thing to do. So don’t. Or try not to, anyway.

In 2008, you probably thought that if you rented the place out for a year or two, the market would come back and you’d be back in business. Well, that time has come, and you still aren’t able to sell it — even listed $50,000 lower! Is it possible that you’d have the same result next go ’round? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.

The better strategy here is to stop trying to use the market to drive your decisions. Get clear on your priorities, and use them to drive your decisions, given what you know about the market.

If closure, avoiding throwing good money after bad, and being able to move forward in life without the lingering obligations associated with the place is what you’re after, consider doing what it will take to offload it now, even getting advice from an attorney and tax adviser about all your options, including short sale and a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

If closure is less of a concern and you are able to move onto your next home without getting this one sold, and your absolute priority is getting top dollar for the property, then you might consider selling it with seller financing like a wraparound trust deed at an above-market price and interest rate to a buyer who is cash-flush but may be credit- or down-payment-impaired.

You might also consider leasing your place on a lease-option, charging a premium rent (if possible) and securing a tenant who would like to own the place in a couple of years.  

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