Should we rent or sell our home before moving overseas?

“Probably sell.”

I served as a missions pastor at a local church in the U.S. for nine years. In my experience, occasionally renting has gone well for a period of time. My wife and I rented out our house when we moved overseas for a one-year sabbatical. Through God’s grace this went very well.

After a few years of renting, however, something almost always seems to have gone sour for missionaries who rent out their homes. 

If you do try it, the real key is having the right person to manage your rental property, as well as having enough money to cover repairs, gaps between renters, etc.

Answer from John McVay, mission mobilizer with In His Image International Medical Missions.

“Real estate can be a wise investment.”

A retired missionary told me years ago, “Get some real estate before going to the field. Otherwise you get home and have nothing.” That came from his own experience; starting from scratch when you are over fifty is very difficult in the U.S. 

I took his advice. We invested in rental property prior to leaving for the field in 1996. During that time the stock market tanked, but the real estate market where we invested saw 500% gains. When we returned to the U.S. to work in the home office last year, that investment provided the funds we needed to be able to afford to live here. If I’d just put the money from our former house in the bank, we couldn’t have afforded to buy. I give God the credit for this! I believe he guided us to this decision

Several things suggested the decision we made was right – we had the equity built up, so it was either real estate or leave it in a bank. And the property was close to my parents who managed the rental. If you don’t have someone who can fully manage the rent, you risk this being a headache at best, and possibly a nightmare!

The bottom line is to pray and seek God. Don’t make a decision with a false sense of “holiness,” selling all to be a self-made martyr, or with a false sense of security, not trusting God to care for you. In our case, he used our investment to take care of us. That may not be his way with you.

Answer from Jim, who served with The Mission Society for ten years in Kazakhstan.

“God owns it all.”

Pray, and then pray some more, and, when you are all done, PRAY! For some, to sell will leave you with less to be concerned about or hindered by when you arrive at your destination. On the other hand, if you plan on some day returning home, selling your house means you’ll have to start all over when you come back. 

When we moved to the mission field we sold a family business of 40+ years and all but a few material items. We were relieved of many burdens that come along with material possessions, home ownership, and perhaps having to rent out our property. 

What is God calling you to do? Obey it, and he will see you through it. We brought nothing into this world and we’ll take nothing out when we leave. Psalms 24 tells us that it really all belongs to God anyway.

Answer from Peter, who serves with Shekinah International Missions.

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