REAL ESTATE

The Easiest Way to Invest in Real Estate in 2024

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There’s one way to invest in real estate that’s cheaper, easier, and more efficient than almost any other strategy. It allows you to get the best mortgage rates with the lowest down payments and buy properties in the best areas. And you can do it every single year until you grow a massive real estate portfolio. Real estate millionaires have been made using this strategy, but most Americans have no idea about it. What’s the wealth-building secret that savvy investors are taking advantage of? Of course, it’s house hacking.

If you’ve never heard of house hacking before, the concept is simple: You buy a single-family home or a small multifamily property and rent out the space you’re not using. This not only allows you access to the best mortgages but also keeps your mortgage cost lower than living on your own. This strategy is so good that expert investor Dave Meyer and today’s lender guest, Terrence Terrell, have used it repeatedly to build serious wealth.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer or have a home but want to get into rental property investing, this is THE strategy to try first. Terrence gives a beginner-friendly masterclass on house hacking, showcasing the huge benefits of house hacking’s low-money-down loans, what you need to have to qualify for a mortgage, the common misconceptions most people get wrong about house hacking, and how to use this strategy to build wealth fast.

Dave:
For those of you out there listening, maybe you’re someone who doesn’t yet own a home. You’re renting right now and you want to get into real estate investing. I can imagine that you’re looking at home prices, higher interest rates than we’ve seen in quite a long time, and you’re feeling a bit discouraged. I talk to people who are feeling this way all the time, so don’t feel like you’re alone in trying to figure out what strategies work. But rest assured there are strategies that work in today’s market. And on this episode, we’re gonna talk about one of the most reliable strategies that honestly most prospective investors can use to get started, which is House Hack.

Dave:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast. I’m your host today, Dave Meyer. Today I’m gonna have a conversation with Terrence Terrell, and he’s a lender and he specializes in working with a special niche of investors. It’s investors who are also first time home buyers. Because whether you’re house hacking or buying your first condo, your first primary residence, every real estate purchase is an investment. And this is really Terrence’s sweet spot. And today he’s gonna give us all a masterclass and everything you need to know if you’re considering house hacking from loan options to common misconceptions that trip up a lot of new investors to the smart house hackers checklist. I think you guys will love this episode. If you’re just trying to get started, let’s bring on Terrence Terence, welcome to the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast. Thanks for being here,

Terrence:
Dave. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. All

Dave:
Right. We’re gonna start with something very basic. Most of our audience has probably heard the term house hacking, but for those who haven’t yet, can you give us a brief overview of this strategy?

Terrence:
For sure. So house hacking is essentially someone that buys and owns a home and rents out part of it for income, whether it’s a single family home and they’re renting out rooms, couches, basements, attics, whatever that may be. Or they’re buying a multi-unit property, 2, 3, 4 units and renting out the other units. That’s house hacking.

Dave:
And why is this such a popular strategy, particularly for new investors?

Terrence:
It’s the easiest thing to do, you know, because there are so many benefits to house hacking. I mean, obviously you’re buying the home as an owner occupant. When we’re looking at, you know, from a lender perspective, financing, owner occupied financing is always gonna get you the best terms. So if you can do anything with that to reduce your own financial commitment monthly, there’s a benefit there. If it’s a multi-unit, I can actually use the qualifying income from the other units that you’re renting out to help offset. So people will actually qualify for more home if they’re buying a multi-unit than they would if they were buying a single family because you have extra income.

Dave:
I just wanna point out to everyone that the reason Terrance has specifically listed duplex, triple Lex and Quadplex is that that is the limit. Four units is the limit to what is considered quote unquote residential financing. Right? Anything above that. So if you go five units or higher, you’re gonna need to go to a commercial lender or a private lender, something different. And so that’s why when we talk about house hacking, most of the time we talk about four units or fewer. In addition to that one benefit of being able to add rental income to your DTI for the two, three, and four units, Terrence as an investor. Mm-Hmm. , what are the other benefits of residential financing? Because this is, and owner occupied financing, because this is sort of the one way that you can buy multiple units, right? And still get owner occupied residential financing.

Terrence:
Yeah. So the big benefit there is like I was talking about a few minutes ago, with the benefits of buying as an owner occupant. So the main benefit, especially for first time investors, I mean everybody’s financial situation is different, but it’s the initial cash investment. So buying as an owner occupant, your down payment commitment is a lot lower than it would be if you were buying non-owner occupant, a straight investment property. So, depends on the program, right? So if we’re looking at FHA financing, you can put three point a half percent down of the purchase price up to four units. If you’re doing conventional financing, you can go into, again, up to four units with 5% down. If you’re buying a single unit property and you’re a first time home buyer, you can go into it with 3% down. There are programs to where you can even put down 1% on a single unit property.

Terrence:
So buying as an owner occupant, especially for your first property, is a huge benefit. Even if you’re considering, okay, I want to become an investor, buying a property is an investment, I don’t care if it’s a one bedroom house, a townhouse, a condo, that’s an investment because you can then think 1, 2, 3 steps ahead. What’s my plan for this? So when I’m having a conversation with someone that says I want to be an investor, what do I do? First step, okay, you wanna buy a condo two steps ahead. You wanna buy a multi-unit, a single family, whatever it may be. What’s our mortgage payment gonna be for the condo? What is the market rental income for these condos in this area? Will it cover your mortgage And some when you move out, does your building allow rentals? Is there a rental cap? You know, these are the things that you want to ask. When there’s condos, single family homes, there’s no cap, right? But you still want to make sure that the rental income that you’re gonna get when you move out of it, because again, that’s an investment, is gonna at least cover the mortgage because you don’t wanna be in the red when you move out. That’s a bad investment.

Dave:
That makes sense. So it’s advocating for thinking ahead. Uh, so that, I think, I guess there’s two strategies, right? One is just making sure that it’s a positive, probably a cash flow positive deal if you move out. Mm-Hmm, . The other one is, if you’re using an owner occupied strategy for that first deal and you move out and you wanna maybe do another occu owner occupied deal into a triplex quadplex, you’re gonna have to refinance that first deal because you obviously can’t get two owner-occupied deals at the same time. Well,

Terrence:
Not necessarily. You don’t have to.

Dave:
There’s a seasoning, right?

Terrence:
Yeah. You don’t have to refinance it. So when you’re buying an owner occupied property, your commitment to that property is one year.

Dave:
Okay?

Terrence:
You at closing, you sign a document that says, I intend to live in this property for one year, but if you’re going conventional financing and you buy one this year, you can buy another one next year owner occupied. You don’t have to touch the financing for the first one.

Dave:
Got it. Okay. And I just wanna get back to something that Terrence said earlier, just so everyone knows, is like there are programs right now where you can put 3% down, 5% down, 10% down and buy four units. Like that is one of the most powerful ways to start your investing portfolio out there. It’s, it’s really why so often when investors are asked like, what’s the best way to get started? Ask a lender, what’s the best way to get started? So many people say this because it’s really just kind of a little bit of a cheat code. ’cause you can put less down, you can get more units. And if you live in a state or a area where cashflow is difficult to come by, one of the cool things about house hacking is you don’t actually need to have it be cashflow positive in order for it to be a positive financial decision for you.

Dave:
If you can reduce your housing costs. Like imagine you’re renting and you’re paying 1500 bucks a month. If through house hacking you’re only paying $200 a month, right? That is $1,300 a month that you’re saving. And it’s actually after tax money. So it’s even better. Mm-Hmm . And so you have to think about what kind of financial situation that would put you in. That’s not true of everyone. Like some, for some people it would still be better to rent, but it just give you a little bit more flexibility. So I do wanna just talk to you a little bit about Terrence, like who this is good for. ’cause we’ve been talking about how great house hacking is, but like is it good for everyone or what are the types of clients you think do best with house hacking?

Terrence:
Well, I mean, I’m a little bit biased because I’ve done it for many, many years myself. But I mean, I think it’s good for anybody.

Dave:
Yeah, me too. I did it myself. That’s how I got

Terrence:
Started. Exactly. And you know, if, like you said, if the numbers make sense to where it’s reducing your housing costs or housing expense, or even if it’s the exact same as it would be if you’re renting your benefit, there is you’re owning a home, you’re building equity. So there’s the win there. But like you say, it’s not for everybody. Not everybody wants to be a landlord. Not everybody wants to deal with tenants. That’s understandable, right? So if someone is wanting to and willing to be a landlord or they’re used to having roommates, it’s a win-win. I don’t see any negatives to it. If it’s someone that is capable and willing to be a landlord,

Dave:
I think that makes sense. I, there are certain personality types, right? Where like, if you don’t wanna live next to your tenants, like, I personally don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be. Like, I, I did it for several years. But I, I, I understand that if that’s something you really don’t like, it might not make sense for you. Alright, so now that we know what house hacking is and who should consider it, what do you need to know before you go after your first house hack deal? Terrence brings that down for us right after the break. Welcome back to the BiggerPockets Real Estate podcast. I’m here with Lender Terrence Terrell and we’re walking through everything you need to know before you start that first house hack. So let’s just jump back into it. Let’s talk about, you know, some common misconceptions that happen with house hacking. Like what are, where do people get confused during this process?

Terrence:
One of the biggest ones I have when I take phone calls from people is number one, the down payment. You know, it’s that misconception that I have to have 20% down to buy a house. That it’s, you know, so expensive. You know, saving for a down payment. It’s so hard. Like we just talked about. There are other options, especially now that Fannie Mae has changed their guidelines back at the end of last year to allow 5% down on two to four units. That’s huge. I mean, you, you’ve not needed 20% down to buy a house for quite a while. I mean it’s, you can get into your first home with 3% down. Multi-units is where it gets a little complicated. But the down payment is a huge misconception. The difficulty of being a landlord is a little bit of a misconception. Um, it’s not as hard as people make it out to be.

Terrence:
Like you said, you’ve done it before. I’ve been doing it for years. I have tenant that live above below in other units. It’s not terrible. If you’re willing to put in the work, you have to make sure you vet the tenants. People think that not even just from a house acting standpoint, from a home buying standpoint, that it’s hard that the financing is hard. It’s not if you have a good lender that’s gonna make sure that everything that you have is in place and if it’s not tell you what you need to do to get there, or that I can house hack and I can make money every single month on every purchase no matter where I am. Like you touched on a little bit ago, there are differences depending on where you are, the market that you’re in. I talked to a lot of people, thankfully through BiggerPockets ’cause I’ve had a presence on, on the platform for almost 10 years, 12 years now, that when they’re listening to podcasts, when they’re reading articles and they’re talking about, oh, cashflow positive.

Terrence:
I bought a house for $50,000 and I put $10,000 into it and I’m gonna sell it for 400,000. Like, that doesn’t work everywhere, you know? So I work with, like I said, I’m in Chicago, I, I do land in multiple states around the country, but you know, I’m primarily working in a major metropolitan where those numbers aren’t necessarily the fact. So we have to kind of back up a little bit and say, okay, if you’re looking to buy a multiunit on a two unit, you’re probably gonna do what you said Dave. And you’re gonna reduce your monthly payment just with a two unit, three unit. You’re probably gonna break even four units where you’re gonna be cashflow positive. Then you think about the numbers when you’re gonna move out. So those are the biggest misconceptions that I have to deal with.

Dave:
Do you find that most clients that come to you fully understand what they’re getting into? Are there any things that perspective or potential house buyers should be thinking about before approaching a lender?

Terrence:
Well, to answer your first question, no. A lot of people have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. . Alright? Um, you know, they say, okay, I have, you know, X number of dollars to put down on a house. I wanna buy a million dollar house. I’m like, Hey, hold on, let’s back up a little bit. Let’s, let’s work backwards into what that needs to look like. Um, ’cause people know that they need a down payment. What that down payment is, they don’t know. But we educate ’em on what that is. But one thing they’re not thinking about is CapEx on a house. Mm-Hmm . They’re not thinking about closing costs on a house. You have to have those. I mean, there are ways for closing costs. There are ways to ask for seller credits to kind of help with those. One question I do get a lot of, oh, I’m just, I wanna roll in my closing costs.

Terrence:
I’m like, well technically that’s not a thing. The way that you do it is you get a credit from the seller to then reduce those closing costs. That’s how you can get the seller to pay for closing costs. But there are limits, you know, there are limits on how much you can get with FHA financing. You know, you’re capped at 6% depending on the down payment. Conventional financing, you know, if you’re less than 10% down, which most first time buyers are, you’re capped at 3% of the purchase price. But that goes a long way that can help you almost eliminate your closing costs. So then you can come to the table with just your down payment, but then also, okay, well what, what’s my CapEx on this place? You know, what am I gonna have to put into it? What am I gonna have to put into it years to come?

Terrence:
This is why you have a home inspection. So you can have a general idea of what that looks like. One thing people don’t think about is reserves. Yep. Reserves are key. You know, if you’re buying a two to four unit and we’re using conventional financing, six months of reserves at your minimum. And what that means is six months of your mortgage payment put away, we have to show it. We have to source it, we have to show you have, it doesn’t have to be liquid, it can be 401k, it can be stocks. We just have to show that you have six months of reserves.

Dave:
Yeah. And that just makes sense from a risk mitigation perspective, right? Like everyone needs to be able to weather financial downturns. Like you know, everyone knows this life happens and mm-hmm you might face a month where a boiler breaks and then something happens your personal life totally unrelated to real estate. You have to have some money in the bank, uh, to both literally and figuratively to actually uh, be able to weather those storms. Because as we talk about a lot on the show, real estate works when you hold it over the long run, what stops you from doing that is not properly having reserves to weather these down storms. That’s when some people have to sell, uh, at an inopportune time and take a loss. Whereas if you just keep the right amount of reserves, you can hold on as long as you need to make the return that you’re looking for. Right. So let’s talk about qualifying for a house hacking loan. Like for an owner occupied mortgage for let’s say a duplex. Like what are the main things you as a lender are looking at?

Terrence:
We’re gonna look at credit score, we’re gonna look at assets. We need to make sure you have sufficient funds to close. So your down payment, your closing costs, your reserves. We’re gonna look at your debt to income ratio. This one is huge. So your total monthly debt, because everything we look at from a lending perspective is monthly. So your total monthly debt as a percentage of your gross monthly income. And that is inclusive of your mortgage payment. So if we’re looking at a duplex, we’re gonna look at your gross monthly income plus the rental income that we can get from the other unit and we can use 75% of that. The appraisal is gonna tell us what the market rental income is. We use 75% of that and we look at your debts. So your minimum monthly payments on your credit cards, your car payments, your student loans, any other monthly debt that you have plus the housing expense.

Terrence:
Those are your monthly debts. And we look at that percentage with conventional financing, most of the time your cap debts somewhere between 47 and 49% of your gross monthly income. We’re gonna wanna see a credit score of at least six 40. Okay. And then when we’re looking at scores, you know, below 700, we may also be looking at FHA financing because FHA financing will probably give you better terms of financing. When I say by that is your interest rate and your mortgage insurance, because when you put down less than 20%, this is lending 1 0 1, when you put down less than 20%, you’re gonna pay private mortgage insurance. Mm-Hmm. . So that factor, that mortgage insurance is probably gonna be lower with FHA financing the rate is probably gonna be lower with FHA financing, if your credit score is a little bit lower, still a way to get into the property, but it’s a different way we can finance it to keep it as favorable for you as possible. So those are the big things we look at. So when I’m qualifying someone and something is off, one of those things don’t fit. We figure out a plan so that they can get there. Got it. Because there, there are ways to get there.

Dave:
Yeah. That, that totally makes sense. And so much of it is trade offs. Like you’re talking about like the ways to get there. You know, if you wanna put 20% down, great, you’re gonna probably cash flow better because you’re not gonna be paying that PMI that private mortgage insurance. If you put down less, if you have less money saved up, that’s also perfectly fine. But you have to understand that that’s going to reduce your cash flow a little bit. Right. For first time investors, for people who are just getting started, like you sometimes just need to make trade-offs and you’re not going to get the perfect loan because just to be perfectly honest, you’re not the perfect borrower to the bank. Right, right. Unless you have 20% down. Um, and so you have to just think about that and that’s totally fine, right? Like not your first deal doesn’t need to be a home run. A lot of times house hacking can turn into a home run, but even if it’s just a, you know, a single, a double, a triple kind of deal, it can really work out for you. And that’s why you wanna just work with your lender to sort of consider the trade offs, what your priorities are, what your goals are, and construct the right loan for you given those parameters.

Terrence:
Absolutely. People just have to understand and okay, well here’s where I am right now. Like you said, I may not be able to buy this right now, but right now I can buy this and still be comfortable and be happy. And then later on I can upgrade to this when I have more money, more equity, more salary, whatever the situation is.

Dave:
Alright, we do have to take one more quick break, but while we’re away, if you have a friend or a family member who wants to get their first property but needs some information, some inspiration, some encouragement to get started, go ahead and send this episode their way. We’ll be right back. Welcome back investors. Let’s pick back up where we left off. So that sort of brings me to my last question here, which is, you know, you’ve already given us some advice on how to sort of start thinking one step ahead, two steps ahead. But do you have any thoughts on how house hackers who are looking for their first deal or maybe their second house hack can think strategically right now and set themselves up for lability, which might be a word I just made up , but lend ability in the future.

Terrence:
So it’s honestly the exact same things that we go through when qualifying them the first time. So I wanna say, okay, well what is the plan? What do you want to do? Um, when you already own something? Like if someone that’s looking to buy something in the future that they already own, you want to think about your tax returns because this is, I mean this can be a whole new conversation, but I’ll kind of shorten it. We’re gonna look at your tax returns to tell us what your income is on your current property. So depending on the expenses that you have for the property, depending on what the rental is, depending on how many months of vacancy you have, you may not show very well on your tax returns. Which is always the fun part. Another fun part when I’m having conversations with people because they say, oh yeah, I have a really good accountant.

Terrence:
I’m writing off all this stuff. And I’m like, great, you’re in the red on this property technically, so that may hurt you for qualifying for your second property. This is only for a multi-unit. Again, I, I can go on about this all day, but on a single unit property we can use departing rental income when you’re buying another one, which is awesome. So we just have to show that your current home is rented. We have to show that you have received two months rent or first month’s rent and security deposit and then we can use again a percentage of that to offset your current mortgage. So when you’re looking to buy your second property, it’s almost like you’re starting over again. We don’t have to hit you with any additional debt.

Dave:
Terrence, do you have any final thoughts or final advice for those who want to house hack and how they can just be as prepared as possible for their conversations with their lenders and to be a successful house

Terrence:
Hacker? Absolutely. Well, number one is talk to your lender. It’s

Dave:
So true. It’s funny ’cause it just seems like people are always like, well I don’t know if I’ll qualify. And I’m like, well did you talk to a lender? And they say, no,

Terrence:
No, exactly. I’m

Dave:
Like, it’s free. Just go talk to a lender. They’re gonna tell you exactly what you need to know and you’ll save so much time knowing what exactly what you qualify for, exactly what your position is. And you could start honing in on the properties that actually work for you.

Terrence:
Absolutely. I mean, I would say make sure that they’re talking to a lender that understands investors. There are plenty of great lenders that understand investors on BiggerPockets on the platform. Um, same thing with the real estate agent. You wanna make sure that you’re working with one that knows investing, knows, invest in your market. Um, ’cause that’s key because that’s gonna help you set yourself up for success. It’s not just someone that says, okay, yeah, here’s what you qualify for, here’s how you can close the deal. It’s someone that’s thinking about it with an investment mindset. So that’s thing number one. And when you’re going into that conversation, have the essentials with you know what your income is, know what your assets are, know what you’re willing to spend on the home monthly, know what you’re willing to put down and then they can help you work into the purchase price so you know what you’re doing.

Terrence:
There are plenty of people to talk to. Just people that have done it. Plenty of investors that aren’t. Lenders and realtors that are on the platform, that are on the forums, have conversations with them. Those that are in your market, you know, go to some of the meetups. Those are key. I go to a bunch of them. It’s fun, you know, it’s great to just talk to people. ’cause I, I started investing before I even started lending. Oh, nice. So yeah, it’s, it’s just one of those things where there’s so much knowledge out there, but you wanna make sure that it is specific to you as possible. But step one, talk to a lender. ’cause you don’t know what you don’t know. All

Dave:
Right, well that’s just very candid. Good advice. I appreciate that .

Terrence:
I do what I can.

Dave:
And obviously for anyone listening, if you want to meet a lender, uh, we’ll put Terrance’s information in the show notes of course below. We also have a lender finder on BiggerPockets. If you go to biggerpockets.com/lenders, put in some information there. You can find a lender to talk to Terrence, thank you so much for joining us. This was a really great, fun conversation. We appreciate

Terrence:
It. Dave, thank you so much for having me. This was a blast.

Dave:
And thank you all for listening for BiggerPockets. I’m Dave Meyer and we’ll see you soon.

 

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