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How To Invest In Real Estate With No Money

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Introduction

I spoke to a wealthy friend recently about real estate investing.

Now, this guy came from money. He had immigrant grandparents who opened a fruit shop and stashed money under their pillow for their entire working lives. After they retired, they began buying residential properties for investment.

Because they had so much tucked away, they could afford to buy their investment properties in 100% cold hard cash. Over the course of a few decades, those houses appreciated greatly in value and his family used the rental income to buy more and more houses.

Since then their family wealth has only increased. Today, he is absolutely loaded and absolutely convinced that real estate investing the best way to build equity and wealth. And I agree.

However, some people hearing this story will cry foul. They say, this guy’s grandparents saved their entire lives just to start investing in property. Could I really start investing in real estate in my lifetime?

My answer to that is a resounding, yes! You don’t have to buy your properties in cash like my friends’ grandparents did. In this article, let’s investigate some ways to start investing in real estate with little money.

We’ll find out whether it really “takes money to make money” as they say.

Take advantage of mortgages (especially this particular one!)

The simplest way to get started in the Real Estate Investing Game is to get a mortgage. You probably already know this. Don’t ever pay the full price in cash.

Sure, my friend’s family paid for their first properties in cash (and up till recently had only been reinvesting with cash too). This is certainly admirable. But for people starting out, that can be a huge barrier to starting.  

However, using a mortgage might require you to pay a hefty down payment as well. In a conventional loan, you might have to pay up to 20% of the purchase price (depending on your FICO score etc.)

Given a median home sales price of US$236,000, you would be looking to put in an almost US$50,000 in down payment for your house. How many of us have that much just lying around?

The great thing is: programs exist to help people buy their homes.

One of the more commonly known ones is the Federal Housing Administration Loan (FHA Loan.) The huge advantage it provides is that you only have to put in a 3.5% down payment. This would bring it to less than ten thousand dollars. If you go for a smaller home, it could be even less. Certainly something you and a partner can scrape together fairly quickly.

The main requirement is that you live in the property. This isn’t too much of a problem, especially if you’re starting out (you’re likely to not already have a primary residence.)

Invest in a group

They say that there’s power in numbers. This is absolutely true when it comes to real estate investing. Many investors have realized that they don’t have all the financial capital, or real estate expertise to invest in real estate by themselves. If you want to harness the power of investing in a group, there are a couple of options open to you.

Real estate syndication

Real estate syndication is similar to an investment fund. A group of investors provide capital, while a syndicator (also known as a Sponsor) acquires and manages the property. Many a time, the syndicator also co-invests their money to align their interests with the shareholders.

The huge benefit to this? There are so many investors putting money in, so you can commit much less than what you would if you were buying a property on your own. It used to be that real estate syndication was restricted to a few private groups. Now there are dedicated platforms that you can get on.

You can read more about real estate syndication on my blog.

Invest with a partner(s)

This is a do-it-yourself option where you team up with another investor to invest in real estate. Because it’s a private arrangement, you can cut the deal any way you agree to.

Here are some possible arrangements:

Arrangement #1

Your partner comes up with the financial capital for the downpayment, and you will provide the “sweat capital”. In other words, it’s your job to source for the deal, negotiate and acquire the property. You also put in effort to maintain the property and find tenants etc. This is a great arrangement where one party has capital but doesn’t have expertise, and the other doesn’t have capital but does have expertise.

Of course, in this scenario, you have to bring skills to the table too. Reading books, networking and receiving mentorship can be great ways to build your skills. It may be enough to convince your future partner to invest with you too.

Arrangement #2

Both you and your partner split the downpayment, expenses etc. You agree to split the profits evenly as well. In this case, both of you are looking to reduce how much you’re paying for the down payment.

House Hacking

I love the idea of house hacking and talk about it at my blog too. I first learnt about it on BiggerPockets.com.

The basic idea is that you invest in a multi-unit property (also known as a multiplex.) You then live in one of the units while renting out the others.

For this to work, you have to get a really good deal, then aim to have rental income from the other units cover the property’s operating expenses (like insurance, taxes, maintenance work etc.) and mortgage repayments. With income exceeding your costs, you might find yourself living in your investment property for free, or even better – getting PAID to live in your property!

This strategy ties in really well with FHA loans (which we talked about earlier) because you get to fulfil the requirement of making the property your primary residence.

Does that mean you have to keep living in the property? The good news is that you’re not always tied to your property. If you want to move on and buy another multiplex with the same method, you can typically do it after 12 months of living in the property. This fulfils the requirement of the FHA loan to make the property your primary residence for at least 12 months. Not only that. You also would have stayed in it long enough to get refinancing for the property.

Final Thoughts

The three methods I talk about above are just a few ways that you can invest in real estate with very little money. You’re likely to figure out other ways by reading lots (increasing your knowledge) and thinking creatively.

As always, a few principles will also take you far on your real estate journey. Remember to act like a good shopper. What does a good shopper do?

  1. They shop around for a good deal – Find owners that are eager to sell, and are willing to offer you a good deal. They might be willing to let the property go at a discount. In some exceptional circumstance, they may even provide seller financing (meaning that they’ll let you pay the purchase price over time, like you would on your mortgage.)
  2. They shop around for a good deal – Yes. I repeated this twice. I wanted to emphasize how important it is to shop around! When it comes to financing, you want to find the lender that can provide you with the best terms and rates. Sometimes, you might even be able to borrow from private individuals rather than a financial institution.
  3. They aren’t afraid to haggle – negotiation is a killer tool to have in your toolbox. It never hurts to ask for a lower rate on your mortgage, it also never hurts to ask for discounts and freebies (like getting the seller to contribute towards closing or loan costs)

I hope this article was insightful for you, especially if you’re looking to dip your toes into real estate investing.

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