How to Finance a Rental Property


Buying rental property has long been a mainstay for investors looking for a steady return. When you buy wisely and keep it maintained, you can add substantially to your portfolio.

But how do you finance rental property? The simplest and fastest solution is to pay cash. But it’s seldom the case that people can afford that, especially when they are just starting out.

Getting a conventional mortgage for rental property can also hit snags. This is definitely true when the home you want to buy is in poor condition. Banks are hesitant to let them qualify for certain types of financing.

Thankfully, there are several ways to finance your investment property. Here is a look at a few of your options.

The Conventional Method

Conventional financing means using the property you want to buy as collateral for the loan. You can get mortgages that last 15 to 30 years, all for a monthly payment that stays the same. With this method, you are usually required to come up with 20% to 30% for the down payment.

It sounds good, but as always, the devil is in the details. For example, many banks require that you can afford the mortgage on your rental house and on the house you are living in, without including future rental income in your loan calculations. You also can’t use it when figuring your debt-to-income ratio.

Home Equity Loan and HELOC

These are popular ways to finance rental property because most lenders let you borrow up to 90% on your primary residence and 80% on a vacation home.

With a home equity loan, you get the entire amount when you qualify. Like a mortgage, you pay a fixed amount each month for 15 or 20 years, which covers both principal and interest. In effect, this is the light version of the conventional mortgage.

A related method is called a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC, and it works much like a credit card. You are able to charge or borrow funds from your line of credit as you need it. You get a bill once a month. As a rule, the minimum payment is the interest.

Cash-Out Refinance

This can be done two ways, on a primary or vacation home. It can also be done on a piece of investment property that you currently own.

Your primary residence or your vacation home is used as security for the loan. The process is just like a regular mortgage, and it takes about a month and a half to get your funds. As a rule, lenders let you borrow up to 80% of your home’s value. The outstanding amount on the original mortgage is first paid, then you get the rest of the funds, the “cash-out.”

If you already own a rental property, you can get a maximum of 75% of its value, as long as you bought it longer ago than six months. This is the standard amount for a one-unit property. For one with two to four units, the maximum you can borrow is 70%. If you have four or more properties financed, then the limit it 65%.

There is also a variation called the delayed financing exception. This means that you don’t have to go through the six-month waiting period and the refinance can happen immediately. This is possible if the purchase transaction involved no financing and you are able to meet several requirements. For example, the new mortgage must be less than the initial investment that was used for the purchase and no liens must show up in a title search.

Private Funding and Hard Money Loans

You might be thinking family and friends when you hear the term “private funding.” But the fact is, there are many people who offer private financing secured by a home. One big advantage is that it is usually faster than the process of getting a standard mortgage from a bank.

You will most likely end up paying a higher interest rate, but it is often worth it. Consider that if your property has a positive cash flow and appreciates, you may need the funding only for a short period. After that, you can get conventional financing on better terms.

A popular type of private funding is called a hard money loan. It is offered by individuals or by small groups who base their decision to lend you money on the value of the property you are buying, not on your credit score.

It doesn’t come cheap. The interest rate can be twice as high as a conventional mortgage and it usually has steep origination fees. You need to back up the loan with real assets. What offsets this for some investors are the facts that you can usually borrow up to 100% of the purchase price and there is little red tape to slow the process down.

Whichever method you use, it makes sense down the road to refinance your rental property with a conventional mortgage with a 15-, 20- or 30-year term. The rates are lower and what you pay is predictable every month, making it easier to manage your investments.


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