Buy real estate with almost nothing out of pocket
Maybe you’ve always pictured the future-you as a real estate investor, but you never had the cash flow needed to get started.
Believe it or not, that might not matter.
Renters and homeowners alike can become real estate investors and start building wealth through home equity — even with little or no money for a down payment.
In this article (Skip to...)
- Rent primary residence
- Tap home equity
- Multi-unit rental
- Lease purchase
- Assume a mortgage
- Seller financing
- Hard money loan
- Get started today
What does it mean to buy rental property with no money down?
When flippers, home buyers, and investors purchase rental property with “no money down,” it means they’re buying real estate without putting much or any of their own money into the upfront costs of the investment property.
Real estate investors may increase their odds that rental properties will have a favorable return on investment when less of their own money is used to fund ventures.
These investment strategies are popular among borrowers who are interested in how to buy a rental property with no money down:
- Make your primary residence a rental and buy a new home
- Leverage your home equity to buy a rental property
- Be a resident and a landlord with a multi-unit property
- Partner up with a co-borrower
- Look for a lease purchase option
- Assume a pre-existing mortgage
- Find seller financing
- Get a hard money loan
Of course, buying any property will require a cash investment. But with some know-how, that money doesn’t have to come out of your own savings account. Using other funding channels — like home equity or co-borrowing — can be a great way to get started in real estate investing if your current savings are slim to none.
Eight affordable ways to buy rental properties
1. Invest in a new home and make your primary residence a rental
If you already own a home, you’re ahead of the game. One of the more common ways to become a real estate investor is by turning your current primary residence into a rental property. There are significant advantages to “backing into your first rental property” this way.
- Traditional investment property loans require a larger down payment and come with higher interest rates. Often times, you can expect a 20% down payment requirement
- The interest rate on an investment property is generally higher than the rate on your primary residence by a half percent or more
The investment strategy is: Rent out your current home and finance the next home you buy as a primary residence (meaning, you’ll be living there full time). That way, you pay a lower interest rate on both properties. And if you’re still making mortgage payments on that first home, you can use the income you make from rent to cover part or all of the mortgage.
“Be prepared to provide a letter of explanation,” notes Jon Meyer, The Mortgage Reports loan expert and licensed MLO. “It may be requested depending on how long you have been in the original home.”
2. Leverage home equity with a HELOC or cash-out refinance
HELOC or home equity loan
If you own a home, you may be able to use your home’s equity for a down payment on your next place. One way to do that is by borrowing cash secured against your home equity. Homeowners may be able to obtain a standard home equity loan or a HELOC to fund a down payment.
Using a HELOC, you secure a line of credit against your home, and then draw on it whenever you need cash flow. And you can begin paying the loan back with rental income.
The other type of loan that leverages your home equity is cash-out refinancing. A cash-out refinance lets you refinance your mortgage for a higher amount than you actually owe. Then, you take that extra loan amount out as a lump sum of cash.
In this scenario, the money advanced to you by a cash-out refinance can be used to make the down payment on an investment property. In other words: If you have enough equity in your current home, you may be able to start investing with no money out-of-pocket.
3. Be a resident and the landlord: Buy a multi-unit home
Your primary residence doesn’t have to be a single-family home. Multi-family homes can be a great way for novice real estate investors and aspiring property managers to get started buying properties that generate income.
First, with the help of a professional, find a good real estate deal on a 2-4 unit property. These homes are typically known as multi-unit properties. While living in one unit, you’ll rent out the others. You can then use the rent payments to help offset your mortgage payment.
The key here is that you can buy a multi-unit property using an affordable financing option — like an FHA loan or VA loan— as long as you live in it, too.
Mortgage programs like FHA loans don’t just have good rates and terms. They also give you options for covering the down payment.
If not, thanks to Federal Housing Administration’s low down payment loan requirements, borrowers with good credit only need 3.5% of the purchase price for the down payment with either a traditional FHA mortgage or the FHA 203K loan, which is well-suited for fixer uppers.
You may be out-of-pocket with some upfront costs, but it will be less money than 20% down.
4. Lack credit or funding? Partner up with a co-borrower
Maybe you don’t have enough money for a down payment or closing costs, but you want to start investing in rental properties. What’s more, you’re willing to do the research it’ll take to buy and manage these investments responsibly.
Your friend, on the other hand, has money for a down payment. But they don’t have time to learn the ropes of buying rental properties.
This scenario could be a win-win for both you and your friend: You can go in on the investment together by acting as co-borrowers. You’ll share responsibility for monthly payments on the house, and you can also share profits that come from rent payments or equity buildup.
A co-borrower doesn’t have to be a friend, either. It could be a family member, or even a stranger that would purely act as a business partner.
5. Look for a lease purchase option
If a traditional mortgage is not suited to your financial situation, another proven way to invest in real estate with no money is through what’s known as a lease option or a rent-to-own home.
Under lease options, the property owner charges the buyer a monthly or yearly premium, in the form of higher rental payments. The excess rental fee will then be channeled towards the purchase price of the home.
With this type of agreement, you may be able to invest in real estate via a slightly higher rental fee.
6. Assume an existing mortgage
An assumable mortgage is one where the buyer can take over the seller’s mortgage, typically with little to no change in terms or interest rate. Basically, the buyer receives the title to a property in return for making monthly payments on the seller’s mortgage.
Using the seller’s existing financing can be especially effective if the current loan has a low interest rate. But keep in mind, this scenario requires a bit more research.
In particular, you will want to make sure there is no due-on-sale clause. This type of clause prohibits the new buyer from assuming the mortgage. And more often than not, assuming a mortgage will require lender approval. So you’ll still have to prove your credit-worthiness and fill out some paperwork.
7. Look for seller financing
Another way to acquire property with no money down is with help from the seller. Known as “owner financing" or “seller financing,” this type of loan is an agreement where the seller handles the mortgage process instead of a financial institution. The borrower repays the loan as specified in its repayment terms that are detailed in the formal agreement.
This works especially well with sellers who have no mortgage. For example, this can happen when someone inherits a property and does not want to keep it.
For sellers that are willing to take on the role of financier, owner financing can help sellers move a home faster with sizable returns on their investment.
8. Hard money loan
House flippers are known for using hard money lenders to help them house hack into a real estate deal. Hard money loans are non-conforming loans that are generally provided by private lenders, individual investors, or groups who offer money upfront for short-term borrowing.
Hard money loans are private money lent with high interest rates and short terms. They allow investors to secure financing based on the property’s current or even future value.
Hard money lenders may pull your credit score, but the underwriting process is typically less strict than with a traditional mortgage loan.
If you find a deal on a fixer-upper and you qualify for a hard money lender’s loan-to-value guidelines, you may be able purchase with little or no money down. Also, “if you are buying an investment property, you will need collateral, such as a separate property, going this route,” says Meyer.
Start investing in real estate now
You don’t need to be a seasoned real estate entrepreneur to get started in real estate investing. There are many ways you can buy property affordably and use it to generate cash flow; you just need to be strategic about how you finance the purchase.
Connect with a mortgage lender to learn more about your loan options. You could stop paying rent, living with your parents, or living with a roommate, and get out on your own.