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Home moves as financial moves

Real estate is often thought of as an investment, but a primary residence often comes with a bundle of carrying costs — what’s needed to hold and maintain it — such as property taxes, insurance and renovations. These costs chip away at the value you can squeeze out of your home.

Home equity, however, is tied with property value, and home prices have been increasing for some time.

Assuming you want to remain a homeowner, you could pocket much of your equity by relocating to a place where housing and expenses are much lower. Per the Council for Community and Economic Research’s latest cost of living index, New York City is currently the most expensive urban area to live in, scoring 231 points, while Decatur, Illinois, is the least expensive at 78.8 points. Scores are based on the cost of housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.

Switching to a rental property is another strategy to claim your equity as retirement money — though this will slowly siphon the equity you earned. Apartments in major cities can rent for thousands of dollars per month, and while you may no longer be paying property tax or be responsible for home maintenance, other existing expenses remain. Location and domicile size can greatly impact how long your cash will last.

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Another home equity advantage to consider

Some financial authorities contend that home equity can indeed serve as a reliable source of wealth in retirement. It ​​can supplement retirement income, fund long-term care, or allow the passing of wealth to heirs. Dan Hunt of Morgan Stanley wrote that the wise use of home equity can also “prevent retirement investors from either making unnecessary sacrifices, or worse, taking more investment risk than they are comfortable with.”

And by leveraging your home as a credit line, you can sidestep leaving your house; what’s more, the money is there only if you need it. A home equity line of credit (HELOC), however, typically comes with a high interest rate.

In any instance, study your options and consult a trusted professional before taking any leap with regards to tapping into home equity. You may just discover that, in retirement, your beloved pad can provide a nice financial pad.

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Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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