Does Your House Count as Retirement Savings?

couple with house as retirement savings

What exactly are retirement savings? Accounts created to prepare for post-work years, such as 401(k)s, SEPs, and IRAs, are clearly retirement savings assets. But what about other assets that may have a high value but aren’t specifically earmarked to provide financial support in retirement, such as your home? When you tally your finances, does your house count as retirement savings?

Even though a house can account for a large percentage of a current or future retiree’s assets, opinions differ on whether a home is an asset or an expense. In general, financial advisors do not count your home as retirement income because, historically, it has been locked up in equity.

How a House Works With a Retirement Strategy

Omer Reiner, a licensed realtor and president of Florida Cash Home Buyers, LLC, a real estate investment company, says the answer to whether a home is a retirement asset depends on your retirement strategy. 

“If you plan to eventually sell your house and use the proceeds to downsize or plan on renting out part of your home to produce income, then your home can be viewed as a retirement asset,” he says.

“However, if your only intention is to live in your home, then you should not view your home as a retirement asset. Even though it is worth a lot of money, a house is very illiquid, meaning that it cannot be bought or sold quickly. It will also continue to cost you money even after it is fully paid off, in the form of taxes and maintenance,” Reiner says.

Downsizing Is One Option

According to California real estate agent Genesis Gutierrez, whether a home can be considered a retirement savings vehicle may depend on whether you have equity. “Retirees should see their homes as assets if they plan to downsize for retirement,” Gutierrez says. By selling a larger home and moving into something smaller, you can “move the equity of your house over time, so it’s ready when retirement arrives,” he advises.

Dmytro Serhiiev, a tax consultant at PDFLiner, says that selling your home and purchasing another, perhaps smaller, home may allow you to “invest the rest of your gains to create a stable passive income stream.” 

Renting Out Your Home Is Another Strategy

Gutierrez says that another way to see your home as a retirement savings asset is to rent out rooms to generate income. 

Serhiiev agrees. “If you don’t want to downsize, you can always start renting out space inside your house to generate income,” he says.

Some retirees also find that renting out a room in their home, as opposed to the full house, is a good option. Called homesharing, this can have financial as well as emotional benefits.

How To Tap Into Home Equity

“The equity on a home is an asset,” says Brandon Young, a licensed financial planner and founder of Arizona-based Fulgent Wealth Management, “however, it should be the last retirement asset.” Ideally, the client has saved enough for retirement, separate from owning their home. Still, they can use their home’s equity if their retirement trajectory changes due to an unexpected financial event.

Benjamin Schandelson, a mortgage loan originator and head of marketing at MJS Financial LLC, says that reverse mortgages can make sense for some people. “It is a great tool for elderly borrowers to receive a monthly income using the equity of their home.” 

With a reverse mortgage, “You have an option to open a line of credit or to take a fixed amount in a single check,” says Serhiiev. 

A reverse mortgage can make sense if the client is limited in their available assets, wants to stay in their home, and were planning on selling it in some time anyway,” Young says.

Opinions differ about the asset status of your house. It’s wise to speak with a financial advisor to determine what is best for your circumstances and retirement goals.

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