Should You Include Real Estate in Your Retirement Plan?

Investing in real estate is one of many ways to set aside funds for retirement. If you are looking to diversify your savings, you might consider including real estate in your retirement plan. There are advantages and disadvantages that come with property investments, along with different options to consider.

Including real estate in your retirement plan might consist of:

— Selling your home.

— Owning a rental property.

— Purchasing and selling property.

— Contributing to a real estate fund.

Read on to learn more about what to expect if you include real estate in your retirement plan.

Sell Your Home to Help Fund Retirement

If you have paid off the mortgage for your current home, you could sell it in retirement to bring in cash. You could then use the proceeds from the sale to fund part of your retirement lifestyle or invest the funds to generate future returns. You might rent an apartment or purchase a smaller place that requires less maintenance to reduce your living expenses.

Before putting your home up for sale, it’s worth researching the real estate market both where you currently live and in the new location. “In some circumstances, downsizing square footage may still end up costing the same, depending on the location of the new home,” says Ross Cohen, a financial advisor at Bartlett Wealth Management, which has offices in Cincinnati and Chicago. If you relocate to a cheaper area, you may find housing costs are lower in the new place.

Even if you sell your home, you’ll likely want other sources of income to help support your retirement lifestyle. These funds could come from other accounts like a traditional or Roth IRA, an annuity or a pension. “While some individuals may want to downsize their primary residence in retirement, it’s not wise to rely upon the proceeds from the sale of a primary residence,” Cohen says.

[SEE: The Most Affordable Places to Retire.]

A Rental Property Can Generate Retirement Income

Purchasing a second property in the city where you live or owning a place in a popular vacation spot can help generate income to use in retirement. You could buy an apartment, lease it to tenants and collect monthly rent. If you buy a cabin in the mountains, you could use it as a getaway and rent it to others when you are not using it.

Owning rental property typically requires a large upfront investment. You might pay for the place with cash or use your savings to make a down payment and take out a mortgage. If you have funds in a self-directed IRA, you can use money from the account to invest in real estate, but there are various requirements you’ll have to meet. “The investor must buy the real estate strictly for investment purposes,” says Daniel Milan, managing partner of Cornerstone Financial Services in Southfield, Michigan. You’ll have to pay in cash from the IRA and also must use the IRA to pay for all the expenses related to owning the property.

Carefully consider whether the rental income the property generates will be enough to cover the related expenses. “To make an investment property a worthwhile endeavor, you need to calculate the expected income and subtract the costs,” Cohen says.

A drawback of owning and renting property is that the investment is typically not very liquid, meaning if you have a financial emergency, it might not be possible to sell the place quickly and receive cash when it is needed. Even if you sell, you might not get the best price if the market prices are lower than normal in that area.

[See: The Best Places to Retire in California.]

Buy and Sell Multiple Properties

If you live in an area where housing prices are expected to rise, you might be interested in purchasing multiple homes with the plan of selling them later for a higher price. You could also acquire several properties that you rent to tenants. As your income goes up, you could build a real estate portfolio which could help fund retirement.

While owning properties may help your retirement funds increase, there is often a vast amount of legwork involved with finding places, acquiring them, making needed repairs or renovations and then renting or selling them. The time requirement is typically much more demanding than what’s needed for other types of investments. “Real estate, unlike stocks, requires management and ongoing maintenance,” says Pam Krueger, founder and CEO of Wealthramp, an advisor matching platform that connects consumers with vetted fee-only financial advisors. Hiring a property manager can alleviate some of the burden of caring for multiple properties, but you will have to pay for the service, which will cut into your profit.

[READ: How to Use Home Equity in Retirement.]

Contribute to a Real Estate Fund

Rather than purchasing and renting or selling property yourself, you might include real estate in your retirement plan by contributing to a fund. “Within 401(k)s or other retirement plans, typically there will be some type of real estate indexed mutual fund available for the investor to invest in a broad basket of real estate investment trusts,” Milan says. “Within a traditional or Roth IRA, the investor will have more options to invest in real estate ETFs or other vehicles that provide more targeted or thematic real estate exposure.”

These arrangements allow you to invest in real estate without purchasing and owning a home yourself. As such, you won’t have the responsibility of managing a property or collecting rent, and the investments you make are more liquid. However, a potential downside is the risk that the fund could decline in value. “You see more volatility within traded real estate, as they are subject to the whims of the equity markets and not necessarily the net asset value of the underlying real estate owned,” Milan says.

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Should You Include Real Estate in Your Retirement Plan? originally appeared on usnews.com

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