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Dave Says Pay Down That Mortgage

By Home Mortgage FOXBusiness

Dear Dave,

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My husband and I recently inherited my parents’ home. It’s in a small, rural town with little industry, and we’ve been told that the place would be worth $85,000 if it’s cleaned up, compared to $75,000 as-is. Should we spend about $10,000 to really clean it up, replace a few things and make it presentable to sell it faster?

Terri

Dear Terri,

It’s really up to you guys, because both options — whether you’re sitting on the house or rehabbing it — are going to take time and emotional energy. From a real estate person’s perspective, houses always sell better when they’re shined up and looking nice. When a prospective buyer walks in and sees and smells new carpet and fresh paint, they don’t have to strain their imaginations looking past everything. When you force potential buyers to look past things, it usually ends up costing you money.

In most cases, if you spend $10,000 you gain more than what you put into the house. Honestly, I think one of the numbers you’ve given me is wrong — either the $85,000, the $75,000 or the $10,000 you think it will take to fix up the place. In other words, if you spend $10,000 on a project like this, you’ll usually gain $20,000 when you’re talking about stuff like a thorough cleaning, new carpet and flooring, fresh paint and basics like that. My guess is if the place is worth $85,000 fixed up it’ll probably bring about $65,000 as-is.

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If it’s me, I’m going to clean the place and fix it up. I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of these kinds of deals, and I can’t stand to try and sell something that’s dumpy, grungy and out of shape.

—Dave

Dear Dave,

If you have a mortgage that will be paid off in the next two or three years, should you pay extra toward the house or invest that money over and above the 15 percent you recommend putting toward retirement?

Walt

Dear Walt,

I would pay extra on the house. You know, a magical thing happens when you pay down a house and sell it somewhere down the road. The money comes back. You didn’t lose it.

Honestly, you’re not doing a bad thing by putting it into retirement either. But you don’t know exactly what will happen over the next several years of your life or the life of your investments. You might think you know. You might even have a plan. But the truth is even the best plans don’t always work out the way we want.

And if that happens, it sure would be neat to own your home outright!

—Dave

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