10 Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property

By: Edwin Hui

10 Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property

Tags: Buying Your First Rental Property

 

Real estate has produced many of the world’s wealthiest people, so there are plenty of reasons to think that property is a sound investment. However, experts agree, as with any investment, it's better to be well-versed before diving in with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Purchasing a rental property to earn income can be a risky venture. 
  • Similar to purchasing a home, buyers will usually need to secure at least 20% downpayment for the property. 
  • Being a landlord requires a wide range of skills, which could range from understanding basic tenant law to being able to fix a leaky faucet. 
  • Experts recommend having a financial cushion, in case you don't rent out the property, or if the rental income doesn't cover the full mortgage on the property. 

Are You Comfortable Being a Landlord?

Do you know your way around a toolbox? How are you at repairing drywall or unclogging a toilet? Sure, you could call somebody to do it for you, but that will eat into your profits. Property owners who have one or two homes often do their own repairs to save money.

 

If you're not the handy type and don't have lots of spare cash, being a landlord may not be right for you.

 

 

Pay Down Personal Debt Before You Purchase

Savvy investors might carry debt as part of their investment portfolio, but the average person should avoid it. If you have student loans, unpaid medical bills or children who will soon attend college, purchasing a rental property may not be the right move.

 

Secure a Down Payment

Investment properties generally require a larger down payment than owner-occupied properties, so they have more stringent approval requirements. The 5% you may have put down on the home you currently live in isn't going to work for an investment property. You will need at least 20%, given that mortgage insurance isn't available on rental properties. 

 

Beware of High-Interest Rates

The cost of borrowing money might be relatively cheap as of 2020, but the interest rate on an investment property will be higher than traditional mortgage interest rates. Remember, you need a low mortgage payment that won't eat into your monthly profits too significantly.

 

Calculate Your Margins

Wall Street firms that buy distressed properties aim for returns of 5% to 7% because they have to pay staff. Individuals should set a goal of 10%. Estimate maintenance costs at 1% of the property value annually. Other costs include insurance, possible homeowners’ association fees, property taxes and monthly expenses such as pest control and landscaping. And then there's landlord insurance.

 

Avoid a Fixer-Upper

It’s tempting to look for the house that you can get at a bargain and flip into a rental property. However, if this is your first property, that’s probably a bad idea. Unless you have a contractor who does quality work on the cheap—or you’re skilled at large-scale home improvements—you're likely to pay too much to renovate. Instead, look to buy a home that is priced below the market and needs only minor repairs.

 

Calculate Operating Expenses

Operating expenses on your new property will be between 35% and 80% of your gross operating income. If you charge $1,500 for rent and your expenses come in at $600 per month, you're at 40% for operating expenses. For an even easier calculation, use the 50% rule. If the rent you charge is $2,000 per month, expect to pay $1,000 in total expenses.

 

Determine Your Return

For every dollar that you invest, what is your return on that dollar? Stocks may offer a 7.5% cash-on cash return, while bonds may pay 4.5%. A 6% return in your first year as a landlord is considered healthy, especially given that number should rise over time. 

 

Buy a Low-Cost Home

The more expensive the home, the higher your ongoing expenses will be. Some experts recommend starting with a Condo, very easy to maintain and In addition, experts say to never buy the nicest unit with a nice view or the nicest house for sale on the block, ditto for the worst unit or house on the block.

 

Find the Right Location

When choosing a profitable rental property you should look for a location with low property taxes, a decent school district, and plenty of amenities, such as parks, malls, restaurants and movie theaters nearby. In addition, a neighborhood with low crime rates and a growing job market may mean a larger pool of potential renters.