While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented suffering and economic instability to many homes, it has also resulted in unprecedented levels of personal savings and a white-hot real estate market. As it turns out, an inability to go out to brunch or on vacation for more than a year makes a big difference in budgets and levels of disposable income.
For many homeowners, the potential end to COVID-related shutdowns brings with it questions about what to do with all that reserve cash. Should you spend it on a back-to-the-office shopping spree or a long-delayed vacation? While those might be fun for the short-term, a better idea is to convert that money into more significant, long-term financial stability by re-investing in your most important asset—your home.
Here are seven ways to put your post-COVID savings account to work for the long haul.
Apply it to the principal on your mortgage
If you’ve managed to save several thousand dollars over the last year, it may be time to reach out to your favorite lender and find out what kind of difference your savings could make in your mortgage. A principal payment can work one of two ways, either as a pre-payment to shorten your mortgage amortization schedule or as a mortgage recasting designed to reduce your monthly mortgage payment while keeping your repayment schedule the same.
Talk to your lender and find out what fees or penalties might be involved in either of these options. At the same time, determine whether today’s lower interest rates might make refinancing a more cost-effective alternative. Whichever strategy you choose, you’re sure to improve your bottom line month after month for years to come.
Add it to your equity to live mortgage-free
If you already have a fair amount of equity in your home, this may be a great time for you to think about how you might be able to get out from under your mortgage altogether. By downsizing your current home or moving to a more affordable market, you may be able to combine your savings with the proceeds from your home sale to become debt-free.
Work-from-home policies have expanded for many professionals, meaning that it is no longer necessary to prioritize commute times or proximity to the office. That opens up a whole new world of possibilities for relocating to an area with a lower cost of living and making your home-buying dollar go further.
Make needed repairs around your home.
You may have spent part of the pandemic taking on DIY projects around your home. At the same time, you probably ran into some repairs that you were unable or unwilling to tackle yourself. This is a great time to put some of your savings to work making delayed repairs to your home.
Deferred maintenance can create a cascading effect, undermining your home’s value over time. By getting ahead of repairs and keeping your home in tip-top condition, you can ensure that it is more serviceable for you and more marketable for future buyers down the road.
Create value-added improvements to your home
If your home is already in good shape, take it from good to great with value-added repairs and improvements. Focus both on things that you would personally enjoy and that future buyers will appreciate, ensuring maximum return on investment (ROI).
Talk to your trusted real estate agent about the most cost-effective improvements you can make and how they will affect your home’s equity. Don’t forget outdoor improvements and enhancements—they frequently offer even more ROI than interior changes.
Upgrade to a more desirable home
If your family has grown or if you simply want to upgrade your space, this is a great time to move up. Whether you’re looking for a better neighborhood, larger interior, or more expansive exterior space, your extra savings and added equity can help you make the leap.
Remember that only you can define what makes a home desirable for you and your family. Perhaps instead of a bigger house you’d like more land. Perhaps you’d like a smaller house closer to the city. Make sure that you focus on your personal preferences when it comes to upgrading your space.
Purchase an investment property
If you’d like to build more long-term financial security and diversify your investment portfolio, consider investing your savings into an investment property. You may want to tackle a short-term flip or a long-term buy-and-hold investment. You may want to bring in renters on a multi-year lease or take advantage of the possibilities offered by Airbnb and other similar platforms to host a vacation property.
Combine your investment property with other short- and long-term investments to get even more out of your savings. For example, you could purchase a property in a college town now, let your kids live there while they’re in school, and then rent it out once they graduate. You could also purchase a property in a seaside town where you’re planning to retire, and then rent it out in the years ahead to offset the cost, allowing you to retire mortgage-free.
Purchase a second home
Similarly, this may be a perfect time for you to invest in a second home using a combination of your savings and home equity. Crunch the numbers on your annual family vacations and see how much you could save with your own personal property. Better yet, rent out the property for part of the year and keep it for your own use the rest of the year to offset your costs even more.
If you’re not sure where to look, ask your trusted real estate agent or broker for assistance. They’ll be able to refer you to someone who can help you determine which resort area is ideal for your recreational interests and your budget.