As a first foray into investment property, buying a duplex, triplex or quad and living in one unit might be the way to go. In the current market, entering into rental ownership might give you the benefits of homeownership with the additional benefits of rental income under just one mortgage.
Some advantages to buying a multi-family property and living in it include:
- Paying yourself rent
- Have multiple units inside one mortgage
- Create cash flow and live less expensively while tenant(s) pays the bills
- Access to long-term financing
Of course, a deal is not a deal is not a deal!
So if you buy a property where no one wants to live or pay too much for the property you won’t reap the benefits, but if you do some homework, you might find a gem that can give you ongoing income stream. Importantly, the property needs to be in an area YOU are comfortable living. Typically, that means you’ll be looking at investment properties in the mid- to higher price range or distressed properties in a great area that need fixing up.
Finding the Great Deal
To find a great deal, you need to educate yourself on the process. If you’ve never purchased any property before, don’t rely on what you see on television “Flip” shows. You need to find a real estate professional that knows the area you’re interested in, and knows both the rental market and the real estate market. It also helps to read some solid real estate investment books or take a class, but don’t fall for the “zero-cost investment schemes” that abound. Real business decisions require research, a plan, real investment of time or money (and most often both time and money) and great advice from a knowledgeable team.
The tightened credit market doesn’t just apply to single-family homebuyers. The best possible financing comes from having a solid plan and borrowing from a position of strength. Debt-to-income ratios need to be 45 percent or less for a conventional loan, but can be slightly less for FHA borrows.
Ordinarily, federal mortgage insurance doesn’t cover investment properties except under specific conditions (five units or more) and only at 85%, so you’ll need to have at least 20% available as a downpayment. In fact, if you put 25% down you might qualify for an even better deal with a lower interest rate. But, if you intend to live in the property you are eligible for either a FHA or VA (if you’re a qualified veteran) loan on the multi-unit property.
Just remember that if the additional unit(s) is vacant, you’ll have to qualify for the entire mortgage based on your current income. If you have a signed lease for any/all of the additional units the FHA lender may consider the rent(s) as part of your qualifying income. Additionally, the FHA requires higher cash reserves for a triplex or quad (not a duplex) so you’ll need to have 90 days worth of mortgage payments in the bank. Additionally, when utilizing an FHA loan, any co-signer must also occupy one of the units.
All loans, conventional or FHA, will have specified limits based on the number of units and the county it is located in.
Cities, counties and states often have programs that may provide grants or other assistance for downpayments and might even offer low-cost loans.
Your local real estate professional can help you navigate your first investment in rental property, so take advantage of their expertise.