If you own a residential property that is declining in value, here are some ways to make the losses less depressing.

  • Trim property taxes. If a house has lost value, have it reappraised by the municipal assessor. Consider petitioning — or even suing — to get back taxes overpaid in the last few months.
  • Deduct a home office. Some people avoid the home office deduction because it requires deducting depreciation, but if the property has lost value, this isn’t an issue.
  • Sale-leaseback with a relative. If you’re convinced your property is due for a big price correction and you have equity in the home, then sell now. For example, if you have a $1 million home that has been appraised at $1.8 million, you can sell it and take home $500,000 of the $800,000 gain tax free — due to an exemption on profits from the sale of personal residences. Sell the property to a trusted friend or wealthy relative and then become a tenant and pay the buyer rent at market rates — a much more attractive amount than Treasury bonds are paying now. When the housing market corrects, buy the property back.
  • Invest in housing futures. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange sells investment instruments that trade based on house price indexes for each of the 10 largest U.S. cities. You can sell futures, buy puts, or sell calls on this market to hedge losses in the value of your home.

Source: Forbes, Stephanie Fitch (12/10/07)