When investing in real estate with little or no money, the key is getting an early start while you’re young. To be sure, investing in stocks or anything else is no different!. Investing in real estate is like a slow-moving avalanche. It starts with a little chunk of snow rolling down the hill. Then as it continues to tumble, it builds momentum and volume. Building wealth in real estate is not a quick, get-rich process for most people, says Robert Taylor, The Real Estate Solutions Guy.
It takes a lot of time. You start with one property, and you may not be able to buy another property for a few more years. Then you add another property and another. Slowly over several years, you have built a portfolio of real estate properties. When Taylor started off investing, he says he “was pretty arrogant and self-confident that I could become wealthy in just a few years.”
Fortunately, Taylor had several successful real estate mentors who were patient with him. One mentor said, “Don’t quit until you have worked at it for at least ten years.” Taylor just wishes he had started ten years sooner.
Omer Reiner from FL Cash Home Buyers, LLC says if he were to go back to 2011 and advise his younger self, the best thing he’d say would be to put money aside from his fix & flips and start buying cash-flowing assets as soon as possible.
Related Read: The Basics of Investing in Real Estate
Get Educated about investing in real estate
Get proper education and coaching before going out and investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Brian Davis from Spark Rental. I made so many mistakes when I first started, stupid mistakes that I could have avoided with even the most fundamental education, Davis adds.
For example, consider how to accurately calculate a rental property’s cash flow. Many incorrectly think a rental property’s profit is the difference between the rent and the mortgage payment. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth, as non-mortgage expenses typically add up to around 50% of the rent when averaged over time.
Davis says he’d tell himself to worry less about financing and asset protection and more about finding good deals, screening, and managing contractors, electricians, architects, etc. All while screening and managing tenants as well. Great advice!
Get a mentor
Shad Elia from WeBuyHousesHere.com recommends finding a mentor to help you get started. Elia spent years learning about different real estate investing ways and missed several opportunities. A good mentor would have helped him get out there sooner and start searching for his first property to purchase.
To partner up or not
You don’t need to be the lead investor on your first purchase. Investing alongside an experienced investor will not only likely boost your returns (they know how to find the right deals and how to avoid mistakes), but it will teach you more quickly than investing on your own, says Tim Milazzo from StackSource. Invest with an expert, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible.
Make a budget
When you make a budget, you understand where your money comes from. And how you’re spending it. It will help you decide how to change your spending habits. And having an emergency fund will be a critical factor in your success.
Mason Miranda from Credit Card Insider suggests focusing on two specific areas: debt and savings. Miranda would explain that these both have long-term impacts on your financial situation and that you should start preparing a plan to handle them now.
Debt can make or break you if you’re not careful. The sooner you can pay off your debt, the faster you’ll free up money for other expenses.
Related read: How to pay off debt, fast.
Before investing in real estate, get a copy of your credit report.
If you’re thinking about getting organized for a mortgage, getting a copy of your credit report will be essential. Among other things, you’ll want to check that all the accounts are accurate. Pay particular attention to anything that reports as unfavorable. Think late payments, chargeoffs, etc.
Methods for tackling debt.
The avalanche method focuses on paying off the debt with the highest interest and paying minimum payments on all the rest. Then, once that high-interest debt is gone, you move all the money you used to pay off the first debt to the next highest interest payment. Then to the next, and so forth.
The snowball method is where you focus on paying off the smallest account balance first, then working up from there. Pay minimum payments on all your debt balances, then put as much extra money towards the smallest until you’ve paid that off, to secure a quick victory. Afterward, move those payments to the next-smallest, and so forth.
Related read: How to get out of a debt spiral.
It’s essential to tackle your debt as soon as possible, says Miranda. If you’re ever in a situation where you can’t afford the payments, you MUST find a solution as quickly as possible. Missing debt payments can financially devastate your future.
Create your real estate investment fund
Set aside a certain amount of money each month, and call it your “real estate investment fund.” If you aren’t able to save as much as you’d like, consider starting a side hustle to make a little extra money on the side.
Tali Raphaely from Armour Title Company says she would obtain a mortgage once she had enough saved for the down payment and closing costs. Raphaely suggests investing in a condominium or single-family home that could get rented out in a neighborhood that has not yet experienced growth. Further, consider older, less desirable areas adjacent to communities with already experienced growth and investment.
Raphaely is willing to be patient, knowing that the investment would eventually head in the right direction. Further, Raphaely suggests looking for a property that needs some cosmetic work and could generate a good return. She would continue to purchase more properties in the same area and become an expert and local presence in that neighborhood. Concentrating on one local area would allow her to become aware of opportunities in that locale.
Should I pay off debt before investing?
Many professionals suggest paying off unsecured debt and student loans before beginning to invest. Also, this is excellent advice when it comes to getting a mortgage.
There is something to be said about being debt-free. However, you may be leaving 100s of thousands, if not millions of dollars on the table if your focus is solely debt reduction, says Lillie Manon from Vidente Capital. The ideal situation would be that you could invest while paying down debt. Sure, if you’re making hefty student loan payments and have limited disposable income leftover, now may not be the time to start investing in real estate. But, in some situations, it may make sense to continue to make the loan payments while you invest, especially if the real estate ROI is higher than the interest payable on the loan.
I know this goes against everything the top financial gurus tell you, but hear me out. I imagine you’re likely paying between 3.5 and 6.5% interest on your mortgage. However, you could be earning 12-16%+ in the case of some alternative real estate investments such as real estate syndications, says Manon. In the end, real estate investing is all about managing your cash flow and knowing your budget.
Pay attention to market cycles
Real estate investing is hot right now, says Robert Taylor from The Real Estate Solutions Guy. It’s a lot like the year leading up to the Great Recession. Everyone wants to invest in real estate. In 2006 and 2007, real estate gurus were saying, “Just pull the trigger and buy something. It just keeps going up.”
Unfortunately, when the Recession happened, there were lots of real estate investors who lost their houses. Some lost their residences because they assumed the market would always go up. Like all asset classes, Real estate has cycles, which means that prices go up and down. Taylor says he’s seeing peak real estate prices that ignore the fundamentals. It’s only time before the real estate market changes direction.
Appreciation or cash flow?
Another consideration is appreciation or cash flow. For example, when you’re younger, you might go for appreciation, says Michael Levin from Custom Solutions Inc. Levin says he would now always go for cash flow. Cash flow is predictive. Appreciation is not. For example, Levin bought five upscale houses in the Charlotte area of North Carolina that he thought were highly undervalued. They’ve appreciated about 25% in 10 years, which is OK. Levin also bought houses in and around Detroit strictly for cash flow. Five years later, they have appreciated between 300% – 1500%. Yes, that’s correct. A house Levin bought for $10,000 is now worth $150,000. Something to consider!
Related read: How to Invest in Farmland
Don’t cut corners
The more that you diversify your portfolio and investments, the more likely you are to realize both short- and long-term success and to be able to adjust to changes in the market or the economy as a whole.
Lauren Cohen says to be aware that cutting corners will ultimately cost you more in the long run than the short-term savings that you might initially enjoy.
The ultimate real estate investment for young people starting out
If there was one single takeaway from this article, it should be that if you are young and are just starting out investing in real estate, the ultimate first real estate investment is to buy a 4 unit property and live in one of the units. Simple as that.
4 Unit properties are both unique and fantastic because if you live there, you’ll have three others paying down your mortgage! If one leaves, it’s not as problematic to your cash flow as if you had an apartment with a single tenant who decided to go.
Additionally, you’ll have the economy of scale on your side. For example, if you have four hot water tanks, and one fails, you need to replace one, not all four. In my own experience, owning a 4 unit property was the best real estate investment I ever made.
There’s no such thing as a perfect property
Stop looking for the “perfect” property. Indeed, you might miss out on excellent deals because you’re looking for reasons not to buy the property instead of pulling the trigger and getting started.
Nick Disney from Sell My San Antonio House says it’s ubiquitous among new investors because we are afraid of making a mistake. I wish I could tell myself that there are no “perfect” properties, and once I find a property that fits my criteria, I need to pull the trigger. The first property is the hardest one for almost all of us, but the benefits of getting started far outweigh the risks, says Disney.
Indeed, Sissy Lappin from ListingDoor.com sees younger clients get their hearts set on that perfect property, and they stop at nothing to win the negotiation at much too high a price.
The home that will make the most money isn’t the newly renovated one. Instead, the home requires a vision and some elbow grease. Be a weekend warrior, and replace the countertops using YouTube videos, says Lappin. Invite your friends for pizza and beer and freshly paint the whole home. Lappin says that significant equity gains get created through small but mighty home improvements.
Consider a Fixer Upper in a Great Location
When investing in real estate, consider buying a fixer-upper in up-and-coming neighborhoods, say Sandy Yong & Albert Ho, a real estate team. Fixer-uppers can be more affordable than those in the downtown core. Further, your neighborhood will also increase in value when surrounding areas become more established.
But be careful, and do your homework, say Yong & Ho. You’ll want to look for a safe neighborhood with businesses and amenities. Indeed, ask yourself, would you live there? And, would you need to drive, or is public transit close enough? Location near the highway or accessible to the subway or nearby bus stop can be a big plus!
Invest in a 2-4 unit property and become a millionaire
Dan Beaulieu from Burlington House Buyers says that at age 33, he and his wife became Millionaires despite spending most of their 20s not knowing how to manage money, spending everything they earned, and barely investing.
The Beaulieu’s say the best advice they’d give their younger selves would be to buy a 2-4 unit property and live in one unit while renting out the other units. Then, by cutting living expenses, there will be a TON of extra income to set aside to invest.
Sacrifice while you’re young.
Indeed, Anthony Woods from Sunshine REIT says to sacrifice while you’re young. Shop for a new car but buy and drive a used one for which you can pay cash. Take the money you would have paid monthly for that new car and pay it into an (investment/saving) account each month. Buy some critical pieces of timeless clothing, but not the latest and most significant trends. Eat out less and cook at home. The additional money you save by not shopping or eating out will go into that account. According to Woods, within 1-2 years, you can accumulate between $5,000 to $10,000.
Then, you can start understanding how to buy more rental properties with the extra income saved.
But, not everyone’s investment path in real estate needs to be the same. Nate Nead from EstateInvesting says he first bought his own home, lived in it for three years, sold it, and cashed out our equity. With that equity, Nead invested in two businesses and purchased two homes outright in the southeast, where cap rates are higher, and cash flow is better. Their business and real estate investments provided the income needed to get into their second home. Today, Nead’s real estate and business investments pay for the mortgage. Win-win!
Multi-Unit properties can be recession-proof
Investing in multi-family property means you will fare better in a recession because you have the numbers on your side, says Lillie Manon from Vidente Capital. When you buy, you ensure that all the rents cover the mortgage and expenses. So, your mortgage and expenses are still covered even if the property value drops.
In the 2008 market crash, people found themselves upside down on their mortgages, says Manon. Many had mortgages totaling more than their house was worth.
People lost their jobs and could no longer afford their mortgages, and many others let their properties go into foreclosure because they felt like it was no longer a good investment.
Related read: High Paying, No Degree Jobs
The value of real estate only matters when you sell.
The value of a multi-family property only matters the day you buy it and the day you sell. What matters is that your mortgage and expenses are covered, and you are generating cash flow.
Moreover, Dustin Singer from Dustin Buys Houses pointed out a tax benefit of living in your multi-unit property. If you live there for two years, you may even avoid paying some (if not all) capital gains tax after the sale.
Additionally, Henry Angeli III from Henry Buys Homes LLC says that if you can ever purchase an apartment complex at a reasonable price, that is even better! Angeli says you have many more people paying rent and typically have fewer roofs/bldgs to replace/maintain for more tenants from the economies of scale that such more significant investments allow.
Generate cash flow from a rooming house
Another property you might consider when you’re young is a small college rooming house.
John Castle, a REALTOR, bought a rooming house while in university and said it was one of the best decisions he ever made when he started investing in real estate.
Investing in a property that needs intensive live-in management makes the most sense early in your life:
First, these investments generate cash, which you can use to kick start your portfolio, leaving it time to grow over your adult life, says Castle.
Second, live-in investments aren’t especially well suited to the typical adult lifestyle. You probably don’t want your children growing up around a house filled with bedrooms rented to college students or strangers from AirBnB.
Finally, investments that benefit from a live-in manager, of course, require more management. When you’re starting investing in real estate, this kind of property management gives you an education not found in any school. Indeed, it’s the education you need to be a real estate investor!
Find the best deal
To invest in real estate, you must become an expert at finding great deals. The key to success is being an expert at buying great real estate at a great price because without being able to do that, nothing else really matters, says Bill Samuel from Blue Ladder Development
And when you find a great deal, Rajeh A. Saadeh, a lawyer, suggests getting the property under contract.
Money is everywhere
Money is everywhere. If you invest and have the right property under contract, you can assign the deal to a more monied real estate investor or partner up with one to facilitate a successful purchase and sale at a profit. Saadeh adds the money you get from that assignment or sale should then be used to market and find more deals and treat them the same way.
When you have enough cash, you can use it to purchase a rental property and later cash out refinance to use that money to buy other homes. Then, when you cash-out refinance repeatedly, you will have accumulated a substantial portfolio of rental properties and position yourself well for long-term, passive income that will pay for the mortgages. When the loans get paid off, you will live comfortably, says Saadeh.
Additionally, there are tools to invest in real estate in affordable markets and build financial independence online, using fintech platforms, says Andrew Luong from Doorvest.
Consider real estate crowdfunding.
Alternatively, real estate crowdfunding might be an option, says Deidre Woollard from Millionacres. Today’s young investors have an advantage that I didn’t have when I was first learning real estate, they can actively participate in crowdfunded projects as “Regulation A” investors. They can see first-hand what happens when a property is purchased and learn the buying, improving, and holding cycle. This will also teach patience because these are long-term holds.
The hidden benefit of trying these methods first is you learn the lessons without making your own mistakes. That way, when you go into direct ownership, you will be less emotional and fully understand the process. When you purchase your first property, a duplex can be a great place to start because it will teach you landlording at close range, adds Wollard.
Financing multi-unit properties
First, you might think about affordability and the mortgage. Sure, banks often require a 20% for payment for an investment property. If you’re young, starting, and are going to live in one of the units, you could potentially buy the property with NO MONEY DOWN! For example, Alliant Credit Union is one of the US leaders in no money down mortgages.
If a no-money-down option isn’t available, Kyle McCorkel from Safe Home Offer suggests using FHA financing to only put 3.5% down, and you can live in one of the units. And at the end of the second year of owning your multi-family property, you can refinance out of FHA financing; this allows you to rent out the unit you were living in/or stay in it and continue to pay rent into your investment account.
Alternatively, you might consider using a HELOC on an existing property to finance the downpayment.
Refinance for a better deal
At the end of the second year of owning your multi-family property, you can refinance out of FHA financing, says Anthony Woods from Sunshine REIT. Refinancing allows you to rent out the unit you were living in/or stay in it and continue to pay rent into your investment account.
Related read: What are VA and FHA Mortgage Loans?
At this point, you can decide if you prefer to continue being an active investor with the responsibilities of taking care of the property, or perhaps you are better suited for passive investing, in a REIT, for example.
If you prefer active investing, your next investment should cycle out, giving you a principal/capital and appreciation return, says Woods. Along with the rent you have been paying yourself, you now can purchase another property using FHA owner-occupied financing, living in one unit, and renting out the rest to cover the mortgage and expenses. All while remembering to continue to pay your investment/saving account rent for the unit you live in each month.
However, what works or is comfortable for one investor may be completely wrong for another. For example, Nate Nead from EstateInvesting says that with smaller properties, he typically buys with cash.
Creative ways to finance a real estate investment
Real estate investments can be funded with little to no cash out of pocket with the right relationships. Henry Angeli III from Henry Buys Homes LLC has funded deals between those two sources lenders and credit cards.
Angelis’s first flip was 100% funded by a credit card balance transfer and yielded a $21K profit. This is an infinite return since he used other people’s money!
Many lenders will fund up to 75% to 90% of the deal’s retail value or purchase price, with you having to bring the rest. You get the additional funding to “close the gap” with cash from credit cards, bridge lenders, lines of credit, etc.
Aim for 0%
Anytime I use credit card cash, I get it at 0% APR, and I typically pay a 3 to 5% balance transfer fee. Indeed, this is much cheaper than a hard money lender who typically wants points paid upfront and typically charges 10 to 15% APR, says Angeli.
Another option for little to no money down, and to get lower rates, is to get owner financing from the current seller. Sometimes, the seller can act as the bank if they own the property free and clear and get a tax break by not getting all the sales proceeds at once but over time. Doing so can save the buyer also in closing costs that they won’t have to pay to another lender.
Hard money lenders
Hard money lenders loan on the value, not the person, so you are not required to have a high credit score and thousands in the bank, says Dustin Singer from Dustin Buys Houses. Remember, the less you put down, the higher the potential return on your investment.
Build a banking relationship
Build a relationship with a local bank and create a line of credit against the home’s equity and other assets, says Jonathan Sanchez from ParentPortfolio.
Investors can leverage the equity in their primary residence and other investment properties to make down payments or make full cash offers. Sanchez notes that the cash flow generated from the investment properties can then pay back the credit line.
The BRRRR Method
The BRRRR method (BUY, REHAB, RENT, REFINANCE and REPEAT) can provide the opportunity to increase your net worth, generate passive income through rental income, and ultimately allows you to travel more, create financial independence and retire early.
With the BRRRR method, Matthew Martinez from Diamond Real Estate Group says the purchase (BUY) needs to be done below market value to create instant equity once the home is purchased. It’s usually easier to buy under market value when purchasing all cash or a quick close private money loan.
Then, you can fix up the property (REHAB), get it rented out, and cash out refinance. Those funds can then be used to repeat the process and buy another property.
Owning real estate in a self-directed IRA
Did you know that you can hold real estate in a self-directed IRA?
Owning real estate in a self-directed IRA allows your investment to grow on a tax-deferred basis.
Yes! According to Sabrina Fitzpatrick from Madison Trust Company, real estate is one of the most popular options for a Self Directed IRA. Many investors think primarily of stocks and bonds as retirement assets, but that’s because it’s what the brokerages offer them. Individuals who handle retirement investing often look to real estate as a means of diversification.
There are no rules regarding the kind of property, says Fitzpatrick. Some investors like purchasing a single or multi-family and then renting them out. Others prefer rehabs and flips.
How does the process work?
After selecting the type of property you would like to invest in, you will choose a Self Directed IRA model. The two most popular models are the Custodian model and the Checkbook IRA.
With the Custodian model, the IRA owns the property, and the Custodian processes all the transactions. This works great for low transaction investments like a private placement or a REIT.
With a Checkbook IRA, the account holder creates a specialized LLC of which they are the manager. This LLC functions as the business vehicle for the IRA. (Technically, the IRA is fully invested in the LLC.) The account holder can now purchase the property, write checks to pay expenses, and deposit rental income without contacting the Custodian. A Checkbook IRA is best for high transaction investments like active rentals.
Rules of owning real estate in a self-directed IRA
As with any investment, specific rules govern a Self Directed IRA. The most crucial issue to be aware of is that of Prohibited Transactions, says Fitzpatrick.
The general rule is that you’re free to buy and manage the property as desired. However, neither you nor any close relatives (disqualified persons) can transact with the property until you retire. For example, your IRA cannot own your home, nor can you rent out an apartment owned by your IRA to a close relative.
Before investing in any alternative asset using a Self Directed IRA, I recommend doing your due diligence and speaking to a financial advisor or IRA Specialist.
Letters to my younger self
Buy a new home every year for the next ten years
Buy a new home every year for the next ten years. It can change your life. You must go to an area with lower-priced homes for the location (usually right outside of the city) and purchase a house. There are 100% financing programs through banks with 30-year fixed mortgages, so you don’t have to worry about down payments or save a large lump sum.
The mortgage will be as little as possible to get the most profit when you rent it out— you can always put more money towards the principle later if you want to pay it down faster. Just get started.
Choose a nicely conditioned home. A multi-unit is preferred, but if you can’t find one, choose a house with a basement or extra bedrooms and rent out the other rooms. For that year, collect the rent from your tenant, and you live for free. Otherwise, put that money in your real estate investment fund account.
Next year, find another home, slightly more expensive than the prior one— that way, you can qualify for 100% financing again. Fully rent out the old house and repeat this process each year. Doing so will drastically change your income, and you will be free to do what you want within 5-10 years.
Stay AWAY from fixer-uppers for your first house. You want a good experience, so something that doesn’t require a lot of work, just maybe some paint will be enough if it isn’t move-in ready. Anything that requires too much work or initial investment will cause you to procrastinate, so take the nice, easy route and invest this way. Get some experience under your belt first before getting an apartment block or international property. That will require more specialized knowledge and a higher upfront cost.
For your first time, just do it by yourself. Bringing on a partner brings on extra work and contracts to ensure that everything (all the work and profits) will be divided fairly.
Love Your Older Self,
By: Shanice Miller from Property Record Search
Stop vacuuming up nickels
Dear 23-year-old version of myself,
Please don’t use your time vacuuming up Nickels, as that’s what investing in single-family homes is. For the same number of hours a week, you can focus on 10 million dollar deals instead of $100,000.
And here’s how:
From age 23 – 28, learn everything you can about Property Management of large Multi-family properties. Why? Because capital is a commodity that is always seeking out operational know-how. Whether the general manager of a restaurant, the builder of single-family homes, or an equity fund manager, capital is always looking for an expert to put their money to work. You put up the know-how, they’ll put up the money. And the best part, equity will always allow the operator whatever return they want so long as they achieve the minimum return they need.
After 10,000 hours of Large Unit management (about four years), start learning about raising capital and developing broker relationships. Your limited partners will put up the equity and stand up for the financing (at the cost of a point or two, of course).
By 33, you will have acquired 2-3 properties at an average value of $10M, and you’ll be entering the prime working age of your life with a 20% – 40% stake in a $30M portfolio; not to mention that all your future deals will be twice the size of your initial ones.
Christopher Burgelin from We Buy Houses Fast, LLC
Stop being fearful
You are now an adult. Being an adult means looking back at my younger self and reflecting. What would I have done differently when investing in real estate?
Well, let’s talk about my early 20s. Let’s go into how afraid I was when student loans became a thing. I was angry that I had to pay for my education as a young person. OK, so you were mad. Fair enough! Thinking back a little, I was fortunate. I had a full-time job, studied at uni part-time, had fun, and paid my bills.
I was fortunate because my employer eventually paid for my tuition at university. Having a job also meant I had an income.
I remember when I found out how many student loans I could borrow. Then, I asked myself how in the world I would be able to pay all of that back. And, I didn’t have as much financial knowledge then as I do now. I feared so much that I decided to take out a small amount of my whole allowance. Those were also the days when personal computers became much cheaper to own. I decided to use my loan to get my very first computer.
Buy what you can afford
Mind you, Deborah, I had the wherewithal to buy my tiny flat. It was my very first home.
What about that time you went on a crazy spending frenzy. I wish I had saved the 5k I blew on some crazy designer shopping stuff. I wish I had just saved it to start with and then figure the rest out later. Indeed, I could simply have used that money as a deposit for another property.
Can you imagine how much that property would have appreciated even if I bought it in a not-so-fancy area?
Why is it that we cannot see beyond our noses sometimes!
Why didn’t anyone tell me about crowdfunding opportunities which exist within real estate? Or were these not available way back then?
When I look back at my younger self, I wish I pick up some financial literacy and education when I was much younger. It would have helped me make wiser decisions with my spending. How was I automatically expected to know how to manage my finances as a young woman if no one taught me how to?
I hope you learned many hard and valuable lessons, Deborah.
From me to me.
Deborah Sawyerr from Sawyerrs’ House
I hope you enjoyed these tips and learning about investing in real estate when you’re young and have little money. If I missed something, or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!