Investing in Single-Family Rental Homes

By Lynn Ettinger

Thanks to TV, investors often think home flips are the main way to make money off of single-family homes, but a hold-and-rent-out purchase could be the better option.

Investment Properties

WASHINGTON – When real estate professionals think about a rental property, they often picture large or maybe 10-unit apartment buildings – but they should envision single-family homes, said Bill Lublin, CEO of Century 21 Advantage Gold and president of Lublin Corp Property Management in Southampton, Pa.

Single-family rentals have increased by 31% in the past 10 years and make up 42% of the housing stock, Lublin noted during his session about buying, selling, and managing single-family rentals at the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) convention last year.

“We’ve been in an HGTV world, where people buy, fix and flip properties in an hour – without any real surprises – and making a bunch of money,” Lublin said. “When investors buy a home to flip, they have the cost of buying, repairing and selling it. When they buy a single-family rental, they only have to worry about acquisition costs. They’ll amortize those over time and get some deductions. They don’t have to worry about selling costs right away or short-term capital gains.”

Single-family rentals are a good way for entry-level investors to begin, Lublin added. They’re generally less expensive than duplexes, and families that rent them typically stay longer, reducing turnover costs – and investors usually don’t have to do as much renovation to make a rental attractive as they would for a “fix-and-flip.”

Investing in Single Family Rental Homes

In addition, rentals offer four financial benefits: income, depreciation, equity, and appreciation. Income wins over profits, Lublin said. “With profit, you get it, spend it and move on. Profit is fleeting, but income is forever.”

Lublin cited a case in Philadelphia: a rowhouse he sold to an investor for $85,000 about four years ago. While the house was dated, it was in decent shape.

“The new investor did minimal renovation and rented the property immediately,” he said. “Now, because we’ve seen some significant appreciation recently, that home is worth probably $150,000 – an increase that isn’t taxable because they’ve not sold it and realized the gain. And they’ve received income during that time.”

Despite the benefits of investing in single-family rentals, selling to investors is a skill, according to Lublin. Initially, “you need to figure out what investors’ goals are. Later, you have to review with them whether they’re meeting goals. And in doing that, you’re looking at the ROI (return on investment).

“A really simple rule – whether you’re selling or buying – is the 1% rule,” Lublin said. “If the rent is 1% of the sale price, it’s a good return.” Lublin said this method doesn’t account for taxes but is a “quick and dirty way to determine whether a property is a good investment for your client or yourself.”

You don’t have to swing for the fence every time you make an investment, Lublin said. If you try to get a base hit – something that’s a good deal – you can generate income over the long haul.

Source: National Association of Realtors® (NAR)

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Eric Slifkin, Broker Associate

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This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, a Broker Associate at Keller Williams Real Estate and the founder of the Slifkin Real Estate Team. Eric and his team of experienced agents serve South Florida and the Treasure Coast, including  Stuart, Hobe Sound, Palm City, Port Saint Lucie, Jupiter, Tequesta, and the Palm Beaches.