Should You Invest in a Single or Multi-Family Rental Property?

As a real estate investor, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether to purchase a single or multi-family rental property. While both options offer a reliable income stream, you may decide that one feels like a better fit for you.

To aid you in the decision process, we’re discussing what to expect when purchasing a single-family versus a multi-family investment property.

Why Invest in Single-Family Rental Properties?

The first and most obvious reason many investors opt for single-family homes is that they usually have a lower price point than multi-family properties. This makes it much easier to save up for a down payment, get approved for mortgage financing, and purchase your first investment property.

Single-family homes also offer flexibility when it comes to leasing. There are two primary ways in which single-family homes can be offered to potential tenants. First, you can lease the entire property to an individual, family, or group. You can also rent out each bedroom within the home separately (say, to different college students on individual leases). If you rent to multiple people on one contract, there is a risk of having an empty home if you can’t immediately fill a vacancy after tenants give notice. In this case, you would be responsible for covering the mortgage and any utilities until you find a new renter. You must also pay for any advertising you need to find potential tenants.

Another advantage of investing in single-family rental properties is that they are relatively easy to manage on your own. However, if you’re just starting out as a real estate investor, you may still want to consider partnering with a property management company. A manager can help you handle tenant relations, property maintenance, and more while you focus on building your portfolio.

Why Invest in Multi-Family Rental Properties?

Because multi-family investment properties are larger than single-family homes, they tend to cost more upfront. This means that you’ll need to borrow more and save up a higher down payment for your purchase. While multi-family properties might be more expensive to purchase, you’ll likely see higher profits down the road because you can rent out each unit separately. This might also provide more financial security since it’s less likely that everyone in the building will move out at the same time.

Despite better opportunities for income and greater financial security, there are a few downsides to purchasing a multi-family property. First, you’ll likely have to spend more time and money on advertising efforts to ensure you can fill every unit in your building. You may also have higher repair and maintenance costs, as larger properties have a greater potential for issues.

Landlords of multi-family buildings must also dedicate a significant amount of time to tracking down rent payments, advertising available units, and generally managing an investment property. If you’re looking for something that feels like passive income, a single-family home might be more appropriate. However, you can also hire a property manager to handle the daily ins and outs of your multi-family building.

Financing Your Investment Property

If you’re looking at multi-family buildings with four or fewer rental units, you can apply for a conventional mortgage loan. However, if the properties on your radar have five or more units, you’ll have to apply for a commercial loan.

While some lenders enjoy providing loans for multi-family properties due to financial security, other lenders are more conservative. Hesitant loan officers may sneak in restrictions when underwriting the loan. Therefore, if you decide to purchase a multi-family property, it’s wise to shop around for a mortgage package before making an offer.

Ultimately, both types of rental properties have their benefits. As a real estate investor, you may decide it’s worthwhile to diversify your portfolio by investing in both single and multi-family rentals.

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