BootsnAll indie travel guide

What to Do With Your House When Traveling Long-Term

One of the biggest obstacles for people to overcome when taking off on a long-term, round the world trip is the housing situation, particularly for those who own. Some may feel completely tied down, especially those who are underwater on their mortgages. But just because you own a home doesn’t mean you are stuck. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a long-term trip. It just means you’re going to have to work a bit harder and be a bit more creative in your planning.

The important thing is to explore all your options and get a head start. The further from your proposed departure date you begin planning, the better off you will be.

What to do if you rent

apartment

If you are a renter, your job is a whole lot easier. The worst scenario for you is if you’re locked into an agreement that takes you past your departure date. If that’s the case, you’re either going to have to put that trip off, pay whatever fee it is for breaking your lease, or work out a deal with your landlord.

If you know you have plenty of time between when your lease ends and your trip begins, then you only have a few things to do:

  1. Give your landlord enough notice based on your agreement.
  2. Find a place to stay in between your lease ending and your trip beginning.
  3. Find a place to store the things you’re keeping.

If you live in a hot rental city and you don’t want to give up your place, then look into subletting it while gone. Who knows, you may even come out ahead in the deal.

  • Consider these steps if you want to sublet your aparment.

Other than that, it should be smooth sailing for your renters out there. The only housing thing you’ll have to worry about is what to do upon your return, which is an important thing to at least consider.

What to do if you own

If you own a house, apartment, or condo, you will have more work to do, but that’s all part of the process. For some this will be easier than others, but we can offer some tips and advice to make it happen regardless of your housing situation. So what are these options we keep speaking of? It all depends on your situation, so start off by asking yourself a few questions:

  1. Do you want to return to the same home after your trip?
  2. Are you underwater on your mortgage?
  3. Would you prefer to sell your home?

You want to return home

For rent

If you want to return back to your same house after your trip is over, you have a few options:

1. Find a person you know to rent your place while gone

This may be easier than you think, but you may have to get creative. Consider all your friends and family members who live in the same city you do. Heck, consider anyone who has always talked about moving to the city you live in. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is anyone you know unhappy with their current housing situation?
  • Does anyone you know rent? When is their lease up?
  • Do you know anyone recently graduated/about to graduate college and is back living with their parents (better for those who own a smaller, cheaper home)?
  • Do you know anyone moving to (or wanting to move to) the city you live in?
  • Could you afford to pay part of your mortgage while gone if you had to?

When we asked ourselves these questions, it opened up a few leads for us. We had a few friends who still rented and weren’t yet in a position to buy, so we approached them long before we left about the possibility of renting our house while we traveled.

These friends lived in an apartment at the time, and we hadn’t yet set a firm date for our departure, so we had some wiggle room. When we found out how much they paid for rent on their apartment, we knew we could sell them on renting our house instead. For a small increase in rent, they could have an entire house that was nearly double the size of the apartment they rented. It was a win-win situation!

For some it may not be that easy, though. You may not know anyone looking. All your friends and family members may already own. Start getting creative. Reach out to your friend’s friends. Your family’s family. Use social media to get the word out. Offer a completely furnished house and you may be able to get more money than you initially thought. Plus you won’t have to worry about storing all your stuff.

Recent college grads are a great market, especially if you know them and can cut them a deal. College grads who have found jobs but still live with Mom and Dad are itching to get out, but they may want to wait to actually buy. Approach them and offer a solution. Even if they can’t afford your entire mortgage, think about having them pay a percentage in exchange for keeping up on household tasks. Maybe you have a pet you don’t want to get rid of that they can take care of? A garden that needs tending? A project you want done? Think long and hard and start making deals – you’ll be shocked at what you can come up with.

2. Rent to a stranger

Become a true landlord and rent to someone else. Put your house up for rent in the local newspaper and on Craigslist. Put it in on Airbnb. Explain your situation and that you are looking for a long-term renter (for whatever the length of your trip is) instead of renting it out to vacationers. There are always people looking for temporary housing, whether it’s businessman relocating or twenty-somethings who just moved into town for grad school.

This will obviously be more work on your end, and it’s probably a good idea to have a go-to person in your hometown to look after things for you. It may cost you a bit more money than if you rent to someone you know or sold your house, but if you know you want to return home, how much is it worth to you? Sometimes you just have to build extra expenses into your trip budget, whether it’s paying a portion of your mortgage or paying someone to look after your affairs while you’re gone.

Keep in mind that if you go this route, you may not find the absolute perfect fit, so be prepared to change your plans around a bit. Maybe the peson you find needs to move in before you leave or wants to stay for a few months after you return. If this is your only option, then come up with contingency plans for where you could stay in the meantime or think about moving your trip dates around if possible.

3. Do a home exchange

A new option for long-term travelers is doing a home exchange, which is exactly what it sounds like. You list your place and date availability, start searching and inquiring about places you may like to stay, and then work something out with the person who wants to swap houses/apartments with you.

Check out a site like Home Exchange to register and learn more

Timeline

There is no magic timeline for this, but the sooner you start thinking about your options, the better. Most people plan big trips like these for a year or more, so start getting the word out as early as you can. If that means that you end up with several options, bonus! Depending on how much money you have saved up will depend on how long you can wait to get your situation solidified. It’s a nice peace of mind to have your affairs in order several months before leaving.

You want to sell

If you’ve decided you want to sell your place and start anew when you return (or that you are going to stay on the road and never return!), then start talking to your real estate agent as soon as you know what you want to do.

Again, you want to do this as early as you possibly can. The more time you give yourself, the better. While this may mean that your house sells earlier than what is ideal, I’m guessing you’d rather have to find a place to live for a few months than pay your mortgage while you are on the road.

So start paring down as soon as you can, get your house on the market, and start showing it. Before you do all this, though, have a contingency plan in place – both for selling your house early and not selling it before you leave.

Know what you’re going to do in both scenarios. If you sell early, where will you live? Do you have family or friends to stay with? Have you looked into short-term rental options where you live? Can you start your trip earlier than planned?

If your departure date is nearing and you haven’t sold yet, what will you do? Can you delay your trip? How many months can you afford to double up and pay your mortgage while you’re on the road? Knowing what you are going to do in every situation prepares you and makes everything less stressful.

Most people who take round the world trips seem to be very detail oriented, so dealing with your housing is just another obstacle to overcome, no different than what you do with your job and how you save the money to take a trip like this in the first place. The key is being prepared and planning early on in the process.

Photo credits: Corey Taratuta, LA

Comments on What to Do With Your House When Traveling Long-Term

Elise Coury
20 February 2013

Before our RTW, I had considered all of the above. The only friend who was available to help was in an apartment. He moved into one of the bedrooms and we put an ad in Craigslist to rent out the others. With a 4 bedroom house, I made more rent money with 4 renters and significantly reduced my friend’s rent to act on my behalf while we were gone.

Kelly
20 February 2013

There are companies that can handle a home rental for you. We have to pay him a monthly fee, which stinks, but he did all the work, plus he remains in our “home” city and can take care of any problems that arise since we are not there to be landlords. Washer & dryer breaks? He takes care of it and asks our permission to spend $ on repairs. It also means he has responsibility to find a good tenant and he had a really thorough contract, etc, that we never would have been able to do ourselves. It took a lot of stress out of vetting a tenant ourselves and having to worry about being landlords on the other side of the world.

Josh
23 February 2013

We have a situation that may be specific to New York, we live in an apt that we don’t want to give up because we’ve had it for a while and rental prices in our area go up so quickly.

We’re currently trying to find subletters to take our place while we’re gone, but are plagued by questions like “how do we get paid?” and “what happens if the subletters do X?”

Darren Van Soye
25 February 2013

We went with a real estate agent. It cost us the equivalent of a month’s rent. But, in the end, we got a great renter who pays us directly to us by email (we use virtualpostmail.com and have them send the checks to our bank).

Russ
15 April 2013

Hey Josh,

1. For your renter’s payment you can try what we did. We use Wells Fargo and they provide a “Mail to” address. Our tenant, while she used her Bank of America account, used her bill pay service and had her rent check “mailed” to us using the address from Wells Fargo. We opened a separate account for this linked to our others. It was too easy.

2. Do you mean what happens if something breaks? I guess we got lucky and had a friend who responded, but we were surprised at how little our tenant needed.

We traveled for fifteen months and all I can say is don’t let these little details get in your way. It’s TOTALLY worth it.

Russ

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