Selling Stocks to Buy a Home? How to Do It Right

Many home buyers sell stock holdings to finance a home purchase. But there are alternatives to pulling out of the stock market


Illustration: Chris Gash
By Anya Martin
Oct. 21, 2015 11:35 a.m. ET

To cover the down payment required for a jumbo loan, some home buyers are borrowing money—from themselves.

When buying a home in Avon, Conn., Matthew and Shannon Carbray decided to sell some of their stock holdings to make a down payment on a $1.02 million, five-bedroom property. But initially, they couldn’t agree on the amount to put down.

Knowing that this is the home where the couple plans to stay and raise a family, Mr. Carbray, a 35-year-old managing partner at Avon-based Ridgeline Financial Partners, wanted to put down 20%, the minimum required down payment for most jumbo mortgages. He calculated that cash left in the stock market would make greater gains than the low cost of interest locked in for 30 years, and that interest also is tax-deductible, he says.
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Ms. Carbray, a 32-year-old fixed-income portfolio manager at Hartford Investment Management Co., wanted to cash out more stock and put down 30% because she just felt more comfortable with lower monthly mortgage payments, Mr. Carbray says.

“I was looking at it mathematically and my wife was looking at it emotionally,” he adds.

In the end, they compromised and put 25% down to buy their home in March.

In 2014, about one-fifth of borrowers sold stocks or bonds or borrowed against their retirement accounts to finance a home purchase, according to the National Association of Realtors. (News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, also owns, the listing website of the National Association of Realtors.)

There are no hard and fast rules regarding if and when to cash in stocks to make a home purchase. Lenders and financial planners, however, advise borrowers not to panic, just plan ahead, especially in periods of market volatility. They will caution against borrowing from a retirement plan, because homeowners risk hefty penalties and an income-tax bill if they fail to follow loan-repayment terms.

An alternative to selling stocks is getting a loan secured against assets, says Stephen Stabile, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. For example, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a “loan-management account” that offers clients a line of credit based on their Merrill Lynch taxable brokerage portfolio holdings.

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