The Final Information to Investing in Condos and Townhomes

The Final Information to Investing in Condos and Townhomes

5 years in the past, I unwittingly launched into my actual property investing journey. I didn’t got down to grow to be an actual property investor — it simply occurred. You could even be capable to relate!

As a senior in faculty and a Sociology main, I knew my subsequent path would most certainly result in graduate college. My mom (thanks, Mother!) urged me to contemplate shopping for a property, as each packages I’d utilized to had been on the identical college. So someday we determined to take a look at a rental I discovered on Craigslist, and earlier than I knew it, I used to be on the closing desk.

To be trustworthy, I had no concept what I used to be doing. I used to be 21, had by no means “spent” that a lot cash earlier than in my life, and didn’t know the very first thing about managing a property. It’s superb what a number of years and a few onerous classes can train you — I most likely ought to have learn BiggerPockets first. 😉  

Once I point out that I put money into condos and townhomes to others, I normally get certainly one of two responses: a) “Are you loopy? Everybody is aware of condos make horrible investments!” or b) “OK, inform me extra…”

I completely get it. More often than not when folks take into consideration actual property investing, they consider a single household residence or an workplace constructing — not often is it a rental that first involves thoughts. And in some markets, that’s for a very good purpose as a result of a rental really IS a horrible funding. However earlier than leaping on the rental hating bandwagon, I urge you to run the numbers for your self. They not often lie.

Notice: Although I’m addressing the subject of investing in each condos and townhomes, to attenuate repetition I’ll refer to those collectively as simply condos.  

Why Condos?

There are a number of traits of condos that make them an interesting funding, particularly for a novice investor like I used to be on the time.  

First, they’re normally priced decrease than your typical single household residence. The obstacles to entry are considerably decrease, which implies an aspiring investor can put their cash to work sooner quite than later. For a lot of, saving for the primary down fee is the hardest half; as soon as the snowball will get rolling, although, be careful!

Second, they’re usually simpler to take care of. For the reason that house owner’s affiliation normally takes care of the grounds and exterior upkeep, a rental landlord is simply accountable for the area from the partitions in. Relying on the HOA covenants, this will likely or might not embody the heating/AC unit and the recent water heater. Townhome models are normally comparable, with the primary distinction being that by proudly owning a townhome, you personal the bodily land beneath as properly. Once more, the HOA can have the final phrase on what the owner is accountable for sustaining, however having the ability to outsource main eventual upkeep gadgets such because the roof, siding, parking, and so forth. can liberate psychological bandwidth for different issues.  

Lastly, because of the ease of upkeep, they’re additionally usually simpler to handle. As a self-managing landlord, it’s useful to have the ability to name the HOA supervisor if I see a bit of siding that has been broken, for instance. At instances it feels nearly as if I’ve a property supervisor with out the added expense of Eight-10% of month-to-month rents.


How Are Condos Totally different from SFHs?

The largest distinction between condos/townhomes and single household properties are shared partitions (and/or lack thereof). For a lot of who’re buying a property as a major residence, any sort of shared area is a deal breaker. Nevertheless, as a possible rental investor, it’s possible you’ll be in luck! Denser housing is certainly extra environment friendly with area, which is why you are inclined to see condos and residences positioned close to bustling downtowns and college areas. Shared area normally means shared prices, which is at all times a plus in my e book. And for those who purchase in a sought-after location (the place rents are typically highest), you’ll be able to profit from the acquisition value discrepancy since condos are typically the bottom priced properties.  

One other factor to remember, particularly for those who determine to “home hack” a rental (a time period invented by our pretty Brandon Turner, referring to dwelling in a single bed room and renting out the others), is that given your shared area, condos are inclined to make for barely noisier dwelling. Except you reside on the highest ground, you’ll possible hear your neighbors above you in some unspecified time in the future, and relying on the thickness of the partitions, it’s possible you’ll hear the neighbors on each side of you as properly. Plus, if there may be parking instantly under your unit, listening to automobiles coming and going comes with the territory, too.  

If you personal a single household residence, you personal your entire parcel of land the house sits on, which implies you alone are accountable for the maintenance and upkeep. This implies setting apart capital reserves for ultimately changing the roof, landscaping, reducing the grass, and so forth. Some landlords cross yard upkeep duties onto their tenants, however I are typically of the thoughts that the much less you place your tenants answerable for, the higher. With condos, this could all taken care of by the HOA.

Finally, this is likely one of the items of the puzzle that’s completely subjective. Do you like to outsource ongoing upkeep of the property to an HOA in alternate for a small lower of earnings each month (assuming a wholesome HOA — we’ll cowl that later)? Or would you quite preserve extra of the revenue, however do extra of the work? Like with many issues in life, it’s a tradeoff — you need to determine whether or not the tradeoff is price it.

HOAs could be nice, as many have an HOA supervisor (mostly a property administration firm) that oversees every little thing concerning the shared areas. That is positively a double-edged sword, although, as a result of any area that the HOA controls is area that you just don’t management. So whereas the rental and every little thing inside is perhaps yours, the constructing you’re in just isn’t owned and thus not managed by you.  

The final notable differentiator between the 2 that I’ll point out is money move versus appreciation. Single household properties have a tendency to understand way more than condos, as they are typically extra in demand. Personally, although, I don’t purchase for appreciation — that’s like playing to me. I’d quite buy a gradual stream of revenue and never fear in regards to the market value versus buy a property that has a decrease lease to buy value ratio however has “potential” for appreciation.  

One more reason that condos might not respect as a lot as single household properties is as a result of it’s harder to get financing for them. We’ll cowl that matter intimately after this subsequent part.   

Know Your Market

As everyone knows, actual property is extraordinarily native. So making a blanket assertion comparable to “condos are horrible investments” earlier than truly working the numbers is perhaps an enormous mistake. Maybe you reside in a university city. Or perhaps you reside close to a metropolis with quite a few vacationer sights that deliver guests year-round. I’ve personally talked to purchase and maintain buyers in each the coed housing and trip rental area that simply make the numbers work.

Key to all this, in fact, is doing all your analysis. And once I say “analysis,” I imply speaking to your native actual property brokers and buyers; pulling up Craigslist, the MLS, tax data, and figuring out whether or not there’s a sufficiently big value discrepancy between condos and single household properties that you would be able to exploit; and taking a look at which sub-areas lease for a way a lot and why.

Do single household properties meet the 1% rule? If not, do condos? (I’ve discovered the reply in my market of Raleigh-Durham to be oftentimes no and typically sure, respectively.)    

There are some qualitative the explanation why condos could be good funding properties, however the first filter needs to be the numbers. Personally, if a property doesn’t meet the 1% rule, I don’t even have a look at it. Whether it is hovering simply round 1%, then I could or might not arrange a exhibiting, relying on different components (comparable to how lengthy I’ve been trying and/or the realm).

(For these of you who’re unfamiliar with the 1% rule of actual property investing, it’s a normal rule of thumb that claims month-to-month lease ought to equal at the very least 1% of the acquisition value of the house.)

One of the simplest ways to know your market is to get in it and begin trying. Drive by properties, tag alongside together with your actual property investing associates, discuss to actual property brokers, and get to know your metropolis. The final merchandise is tremendous vital, and it’s how one can determine potential niches. For instance, thus far I’ve gone into scholar housing — not solely as a result of I’ve attended the native universities and have contacts there, however as a result of I’ve researched the numbers and I KNOW that properties in these areas, IF BOUGHT RIGHT, are money cows.



Ah, financing. The crux of investing. Except you’re paying money, acquiring financing is essential to the method of shopping for a property for apparent causes. On an funding property buy, the financial institution is probably going going to ask you for a 20% down fee at minimal, and in my expertise, the rates of interest on funding property loans are barely greater (however that shouldn’t deter you since for those who purchase proper, the tenants are paying that expense anyway). In fact, for those who plan on dwelling in it and home hacking, then you possibly can swing a mortgage with much less cash down required. This can be one of the simplest ways to get began if this will likely be your first property or for those who’re younger and single.

The kind of financing it’s essential to get relies on the deal. Since my expertise has been with conventional financial institution financing for long run purchase and maintain rental tasks, that’s primarily what I’ll converse to. The true take a look at of a money cow property is to plug within the numbers utilizing a 15-year mortgage. If the property STILL money flows after that, you’ve got a winner.  

Nevertheless, even when it DOES money move on a 15-year notice, personally all of the notes I maintain are these with an preliminary time period of 30 years. Why? That decrease fee provides higher flexibility. For instance, this month I changed the flooring in certainly one of my leases with laminate, and I used to be capable of pay for it by not touching my day job earnings as a result of I saved the surplus money move from my leases for a number of months. If I’d had 15-year notes and the upper month-to-month mortgage funds that come together with these, I’d don’t have any alternative however to show that extra money move into fairness — which isn’t a unhealthy factor essentially, however is quite limiting.  

What’s extra is that in case you have a number of months of extra money constructed up, simply sitting round accumulating mud, and you haven’t any prepayment penalty (be sure that of this earlier than you signal the dotted line), you possibly can throw that money towards a number of of your mortgages if you need. However finally, you get the selection with the decrease required mortgage funds of a 30-year time period.

Relying on the placement of the rental complicated, the ratio of investor-owned to owner-occupants could also be extraordinarily excessive. If so in a posh you’re contemplating, know that your financing choices are restricted. It will be finest on this state of affairs to safe financing with a financial institution that lends at non-warrantable condos earlier than even making a suggestion.

What are non-warrantable condos? Principally, when a financial institution provides you a mortgage, within the majority of instances they flip round and promote that mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Nevertheless, Fannie and Freddie impose quite strict tips on the loans that they are going to purchase — certainly one of them being the investor-owned to owner-occupied ratio needs to be 50% or decrease. Thus, if a rental doesn’t meet these “warrantability” necessities, it’s thought-about “non-warrantable.”

However don’t have any worry, there are banks that can mortgage on non-warrantable condos — you simply have to seek out one which retains their loans and doesn’t promote them to Fannie/Freddie. In lots of instances, this describes credit score unions and smaller mortgage banks.

These financing limitations might assist clarify why condos have a tendency to take a seat available on the market for longer than single household properties and why they don’t respect as rapidly. It’s also one thing you need to remember for potential resale down the highway. Personally, this matter doesn’t preserve me up at evening as a result of I plan on holding my rental investments for a very long time, however your mileage might range.


The Draw back(s) of an HOA

I’ve coated many the explanation why HOAs could be helpful (comparable to ease of upkeep and shared prices of widespread area), however there are some danger components regarding HOAs as properly that you just want to pay attention to.

Before you purchase a rental (or any property for that matter), be sure that to do your due diligence. Request copies of all of the HOA governing paperwork, together with the covenants, bylaws, monetary statements, budgets (for previous years and present) — and maybe an important, a press release of reserves. The reserves are the amount of money readily available to pay for giant bills, together with the roof.

Every HOA is completely different, however in lots of areas additionally they restrict the quantity of allowed rental models — most certainly in an effort to protect the integrity of the neighborhood and preserve the condos “warrantable” for ease of financing (and thus resale). It will positively derail your plans if you’re planning on renting out your unit, so the earlier you discover this out, the higher.

Whereas it’s true that you just personal the bodily area contained in the rental unit, sadly the HOA’s choices nonetheless trump yours.  

The potential for a particular evaluation may also be daunting, which is why it’s vital to examine the well being of the HOA financials. If a tree fell in your constructing and your entire roof had to get replaced, would they be capable to cowl that value? Or would they should assess a one time price to all homeowners with a purpose to acquire sufficient cash for these repairs? That’s what is supposed by “particular evaluation.” In some instances, they’re a one-time price, however they may also be required for a number of years in a row if the HOA is really in a pickle.

Being a Condominium Landlord

When you’ve invested in a rental, that is when the enjoyable actually begins! The good half about actual property (in my view) is that there are various methods of constructing it work — a number of tweaks may even deliver you greater money move. It’s completely attainable to capitalize on distinctive benefits.  

I’ll use my properties for instance. They’re positioned about 10 minutes away from downtown Raleigh and 5-7 minutes away from NC State College. Which means area is at all times in demand, whether or not it’s from college students or younger professionals who work within the metropolis. It’s additionally lower than a mile to Interstate 40, which may take you to Durham/Chapel Hill in 30 minutes or much less, relying on site visitors.

With scholar housing, providing particular person leases is a big plus, as many don’t wish to take the danger of paying for an condominium after which having their roommates screw them over by not paying lease. This fashion, everyone seems to be accountable for less than their portion. The added bonus for buyers? You may normally cost extra for this!

One other attention-grabbing pattern I’ve observed round faculty housing is the demand for short-term leases. Some college students is perhaps touring overseas for a semester or they is perhaps worldwide college students staying in america for less than a semester. Condo complexes within the space cost an additional $100-$200 per 30 days for a short-term lease, in the event that they even supply it in any respect (many don’t). I made a decision I might begin permitting short-term leases for an additional $25/month.  

Since these condos are positioned in an ideal space, there may be by no means a emptiness subject, even throughout “off” months or in the summertime. Sure, elevated turnover means I’ve to go in there and clear between tenants slightly extra typically — nevertheless it doesn’t take me a lot to rapidly vacuum and sanitize every little thing, particularly if it’s only one room.  

(Notice: I’ve very not too long ago employed a home cleaner with a purpose to focus my time on my actual property brokerage enterprise, so I could up my short-term rental price an additional $50 per 30 days, which continues to be affordable).

These are only a few ways in which I’ve personally juiced the returns on my leases. There’s a effective line between automation and being fingers on — and solely you possibly can determine the right combine for your self.  

You may obtain a very good steadiness through the use of automation to fill the gaps. For instance, will acquire lease funds for you and deposit them into your checking account. The catch is that it’s delayed, so it takes about 10 days to course of, however you do obtain an electronic mail notification when your tenants have paid. Different property administration instruments on the market might need further choices, comparable to letting tenants submit restore requests.



Hopefully I’ve illustrated a number of good causes to not instantly reject condos as potential funding properties. Whereas there are some things to be careful for on the subject of the HOA, for those who discover a profitable area of interest, a rental could be a money cow — even regardless of the HOA charges paid each month.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

Traders: What’s your expertise with condos? Would you take into account this funding in your market? Why or why not?

Go away your feedback under!


Realt Writer

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