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own a 2 family house, FinAid consequences living there or not? Advice please.

faq123faq123 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
edited September 2012 in Financial Aid & Scholarships
My daughter is a 10th grader.
She is currently at a private school getting approximately 80% in financial aid, and I hope that this will continue into college as she is a very motivated student.

I am doing some financial planning in order to be as ready as possible.
I own a 2 family house, both units rented out, and I rent an apartment elsewhere.
There is not much equity accumulated as prices have fallen off steeply since I bought 9 yrs ago. I am about even (not underwater) and current rents in are approximately equal to payments out.

When my daughter finishes high-school, I will have three options:
1. move back to my 2 family & rent out 1 unit
2. continue to rent elsewhere & rent out both units
3. (maybe) buy another place & rent out both units

At this point, I don't have a strong preference (lifestyle-wise) either way.

I have looked at FAFSA calculators, etc, but i can't find anything to guide me on the financial consequences of these 3 choices from the Financial Aid point of view (I know how each plays in terms of taxes).

I know one thing about living in the 2family is that as a resident (if equity built up/prices rose) I could get a Home Equity Line of Credit, whereas if I don't live there, I can't ... would a financial aid package require this?

I'm not even sure what kind of person/professional would know the ins & outs of this kind of thing.

Can anyone advise me on this?
or suggest resources that would help explain it to me? I'd like to be able to model it out & know the landscape & consequences of various decisions.

Thanks in advance,
I'm in Massachusetts if that matters.

Post edited by faq123 on

Replies to: own a 2 family house, FinAid consequences living there or not? Advice please.

  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,188 Forum Champion
    She is currently at a private school getting approximately 80% in financial aid, and I hope that this will continue into college as she is a very motivated student.

    High school aid procedures is VERY different than college aid.

    There are a gazillion motivated students out there, and most families have to pay for most/all of college. What are your D's test scores?
    Most colleges do NOT have a lot of aid to give.

    FAFSA-only schools generally do NOT give great aid.

    Your rentals will likely hurt you a LOT. Those are assets and the rental income will count.

    You should live in one of the units because then that PART of the unit will not get counted on FAFSA (the other half will).

    The schools that give the best aid use CSS Profile. And those are the hardest to get into. And the ones that give the best aid will also consider the income/assets of any non-custodial parents. Is there a NCP?
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 16,534 Senior Member
    If I were you I would start playing with the financial aid calculators both the FAFSA (federal) and the institutional to get a reliable feeling for what you will be expected to pay. You can run the calculations with the entire 2-family as a rental and with 50% of the 2-family as a rental. Also almost every college will have a net price calculator on their web site that you can plug in numbers and get some idea of what costs will be.

    Expected Family Contribution is the the minimum you would be expected to pay and as a rule of thumb runs about 1/4 to 1/3 of annual income. Additional assets in addition to 401Ks or IRAs increase your EFC.

    FAFSA only schools do not include your home's equity. Profile schools do.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,188 Forum Champion
    Use the Net Price Calculators on a few different schools' websites (try a few different types of schools...like the state flagship, an OOS public, a moderate private, a good private, etc.

    Yes, you can expect that your EFC will be about 25-33% of gross income. the rentals will also count as assets for both income and value.

    Keep in mind that FAFSA is to determine FEDERAL aid and that is NOT much free money AT ALL.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,587 Senior Member
    Most likely the best option is to move back into one of the units. That way you are not paying down someone else's equity, and your half of the equity won't count against you for FAFSA schools. Also you will have less income from rents.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    First of all, run your numbers through an EFC estimator and maybe a NPC of a college that you might have in mind, and see what numbers will come out of there. Though it's true that the home equity in your primary residence is not counted as an asset for FAFSA reasons, if you don't have that much equity in your rental unit, it may not make that much difference, especially if you have few other assets. You get a certain amount of asset protection and then it's 5.6% of asset value beyond that.

    The income is where you can get hit since FAFSA and most other financial aid calculators are heavily focused on the income figures. I don't know how rental income is counted for fin aid purposes. Maybe someone here can tell you. If rental expenses offset that income, then and it is that net amount you report, again, it may not make that much difference if the net amount is not much. By moving into one of the units, you will reduce that amount even more, but not have the rent expense you currently have to pay for your apartment giving you more net income at your disposal.

    However, it's what your income and asset figures actually are that can make the most difference and where your DD is applying, the type of schools she has in mind. In terms of federal govenment aid, your EFC has to be below $5550 or thereabouts to even get any PELL money, which means your income has to be very low to qualify for that money. Beyond that, unless you live in a state that has some funding for college, it's the Stafford Direct loans that you DD will be able to get subsidized rather than pay interest while at school and get lower interest rates if your EFC is low enough and her college costs high enough. The maximum is usually $5500 for freshmen. The rest is all up to the individual college.

    There most selective school, as a very general rule, tend to be more generous with financial aid, but they use their own application, PROFILE, and they scrutinize things more carefully in terms of giving aid. If there is a non custodial parent, s/he will often also be on the hook for payment. Home equity, though often capped, is also taken into consideration, even that for a primary home.

    FOr most schools in this country, full need is simply not met. It doesn't matter if your EFC is zero, meaning you can't afford to pay anything for college according to FAFSA. You'll get full PELL and the full Stafford to borrow, but that comes to about $11K sufficient to go to a local state school, but short of most "sleep away" colleges, and not much towards the more pricey privates. The closer to the top of the student pool your DD is, in terms of academics and test scores, mostly test scores, the better the chance that she will get a good need package up to what the school or FAFSA defines as need, is the way it works.

    For kids who are good students with good scores, and whose families do not come up as needing a lot on the financial aid calculators---and this happens alot, what YOU consider affordable may not mesh with what the colleges define as affordable, merit aid becomes important. A lot of schools have their own scholarships where they try to get the students to come there by lowering the cost that way. Again, the more desirable your student is to a school, the better chances that she will get a high level scholarship. Schools like the Ivies, selective LACs, MIT, and other such school do not give any merit money; it's all on a need basis. Also some schools do not have much in the way of scholarships and getting a hefty one is nigh impossible. So you need to do research on each school that is on your DD's list as to what they even have available. Hoping to get a scholarship when you don't have defined need from Dartmouth, for example is futile--they don't give merit money, and trying to get a scholarship from Duke is a true lottery ticket as they have very few and only the most stellar applicants and few of them, will get their awards.

    So even while you look at possibilities, the most important schools on the list will be those you know you will be able to afford without conditions, and that you know will accept your daughter. Some schools do have guaranteed awards if an applicant has a certain gpa and test score. Some local schools might be affordable without any aid. You need a few of those on the list, and then you can go to town with the lottery tickets, some of them with better chances of a hit than others.
  • seniorsfseniorsf Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    In california you can have Cal grant and 2 houses.

    My friends family live in one house and rent the other.
    They have negative income from that investment.

    My friend is second year student at public university and have Cal grant B.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 72,197 Senior Member
    The OP is in Massachusetts, so the Calgrant guidelines don't apply.

    I agree that moving into 1/2 of that duplex sounds like the most economically sound plan.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,587 Senior Member
    Since the D is only a 10th grader, she also has time to try to make NMF on the PSAT. That would open up some more possibilities.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 16,534 Senior Member
    You can have negative cash flow on your taxes from a rental, but the rental still has value as a reportable asset unless you are underwater on your mortgage.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    A lot of this depends a lot on what the OP's income is, what other assets s/he has, are there other parents in the mix, what school they are hoping for.

    If the parent has an income in the 6 figure range with a non custodial parent making the same in the picture with substantial assets, it isn't going to make a bit of difference. That the properties have little equity and little income may make very little difference in many scenarios for fin aid, but if the OP is on the border of being PELL eligible every dollar could count. So we need to know a lot more info.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Registered User Posts: 15,142 Senior Member
    Cpt's advice is correct, and I will add this: If you live in the rental, you will only have to claim the value of half as an asset for FAFSA. The half you live in is considered your primary residence & is not reported for FAFSA purposes (the other half is, since that is not your primary residence).
  • faq123faq123 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    thank you for all the thoughts. This clarifies things a great deal.

    I've just run the numbers several times/several ways using the "profile" (not FAFSA) calculator, and the answer is a bit counter-intuitive.

    Looks like even if I live in the smaller apartment (not the larger) (the building is a 1:2 not 1:1 split by sqft) (and therefore itemize deductions to capture the mtg interest but then can't count all of the expenses of the property against the income) my EFC is $2K MORE if I live there than if I continue to rent & use the full 2family as an investment property. (EFC $20K if I live there vs EFC $18K if I don't).

    Thanks to all who posted.
  • notrichenoughnotrichenough Registered User Posts: 8,735 Senior Member
    If current rents equal payments out, this property most likely generates a big tax loss every year.

    One thing to remember with the Profile is that schools, at their own discretion, can remove expenses off of your Schedule E. Depreciation is the big one as this is considered a "phantom" expense in that it doesn't represent money you actually spent. Or they may decide to not consider any loss at all, since you could always sell the property and not have the loss every year.

    This will not be captured in the calculators, and can lead to an unpleasant surprise as it leads to large increases in income. And you won't know until your FA package comes.

    FAFSA just takes whatever is on your schedule E; however, even if living in one unit raises your EFC by a small amount (you said $2000), you will not be paying rent to live somewhere else, which is almost certainly much more than $2000/year. So the net result is that you will have more money to pay your EFC if you live in it.
  • faq123faq123 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    yes, in the high-school financial aid scenario, they remove the passive loss.
    Thank you for mentioning that these calculators do not take care of that. I had gotten lulled into thinking this was close to the final, but right, they can still remove that depreciation loss.

    The 2 rents together just cover expenses, so the reasoning in the last paragraph doesn't work in my situation--I have to pay about the same for my housing whether I'm renting elsewhere and letting 2 rental apartments cover the mortgage, or living there and paying half the mortgage myself.

    I think it's going to end up being a toss-up, and then a wait and see while I wait to see how the various systems & schools handle it.
  • Mom22039Mom22039 Registered User Posts: 559 Member
    If the OP is going to move into the 2-family home, does he need to do so before January 1 of his student's junior year of high school? What should the timeline be?
This discussion has been closed.