The Big Trip – To sell or not to sell your home
If you’re planning on doing that lap around Australia or something a bit more long term, what will you do with your house? It could be the hardest decision you’ll ever make or, as we found out, the easiest.
If you’re thinking about taking off for an extended holiday such as a lap of the country or you’re considering living on the road for a few years or longer, the question of what to do with your home will be the first decision you need to tackle. At first, this will be a very difficult decision especially if you love your home and where you live. But there’s a lot more to it than just a purely emotional choice.
Firstly, let’s consider the options:
Rent it out.
Financially this makes a lot of sense. You have an income stream that should help you to keep up with the costs of homeownership and, with any luck, you may have some leftover cash to fund your travels. That income does come with income tax implications you will need to consider. You will also need to consider what to do with your furniture and belongings. Storage is an option but it can be very expensive. There is also a need to maintain the property. You may have to consider ensuring you are contactable if any issues arise with the house that requires your intervention. If you do return to your home, you may need to prepare yourself for the house to be in a lesser condition than when you left it. You may be lucky with renters but, having previously been a landlord, I can tell you you’re better off expecting the worst and deciding if you could cope with that outcome when considering renting your home as an option.
Board it up.
If you really love your house and the idea of renting it out fills you with dread, then the option of simply closing it up and leaving it there waiting for you to return is not such a silly idea. If you turn the power off, lock all the windows and doors securely and turn off the gas and water supply, the ongoing maintenance bills should be pretty minimal. You can leave all your furniture and personal belongings in the home avoiding any storage fees. Security is probably the only real concern. If thieves notice the house is unoccupied for a period of time, they may try to break in knowing they will likely be undisturbed. You could have a friend or family member keep an eye on the house but that places a burden of responsibility onto someone else.
This may be the hardest decision to make but, for many travellers, this is the solution that leaves you with less stress and gives you more freedom to enjoy your adventure. That said, the process of selling your home can be a real nightmare but, once it’s done, it’s done. You have nothing left to worry about. The other associated consideration will be what to do with your possessions. Again, storage is an option but selling the home is also a really good opportunity to have a clean slate and dispose of everything. You can sell furniture and appliances, you can store keepsakes with family, you can donate anything that can’t be sold. You may even end up realising you’ve spent many years just accumulating a heap of worthless rubbish and just throw it all away. Financially, you could put the proceeds of the sale into a secure investment so you can buy a new home at the end of your travels.
Kylie and I thought long and hard about choice and ultimately we decided to sell everything. Given we both want to travel to remote locations, the chances were that we would be uncontactable for long periods of time. This meant that if anything was to go wrong with anything in the house, such as a hot water system failing, it would be very difficult for the real estate agents to contact us and get permission for repairs, all the while the tenants are having cold showers. This is something we didn’t want to worry about. There’s also the complication of having tenants who didn’t appreciate the home as much as we did. The last thing we wanted was to come back after our trip to find the house in a state of disrepair. Not only would that be heartbreaking, but the expense of restoring everything to its original condition could be high.
Franky, the whole idea of this trip was to relax and not worry about anything and that includes the house. We both realised it would be so much less stress to just sell the house so it’s not on our minds while we’re away.
We also sold all our possessions and, whatever we didn’t sell, we either gave it away, put it out on the nature strip for people to collect and, what was left went to donations or to the tip. We ended up filling two skips and took 10 trailer loads to the recyclers. We have a few personal possession that had sentimental or financial value stored with family and friends. Our home base now is Kylie’s parents’ place where we have a bedroom set up if we come back to Melbourne. For all intents and purposes, this is our place of residence.
A lot of people we meet on the road ask us how we feel about selling everything and if we regret it in any way. The answer is not at all. In fact, we feel it was ultimately the easiest decision to make. We have nothing tieing us down and we have minimised our financial overheads. We don’t need a huge income to fund our travels. If we ever decide to stop touring, we have sufficient funds put away to buy a smaller house somewhere quiet. We have had enough of living in a big city and both of us would prefer a sea change if and when that time comes. All in all, we found the whole process very cathartic.
That said, we acknowledge everyone is different. What suites one person definitely wouldn’t suit the next. To sell or not to sell is a very personal choice.
If I could give one final piece of advice to suit everyone, it would be not to procrastinate about the decision. Make a choice and commit to it fully. And don’t be afraid about making the wrong decision. There are always alternatives and solutions to whatever issues arise after the fact.
Just don’t let the decision of selling or keeping your house get in the way of making your dreams a reality.