How to Start a Multifamily Real Estate [Beginner’s Guide]

Unlike single family real estate investments, multifamily real estate offers the opportunity to generate multiple streams of income. This is because more tenants are likely to pay rent and cover more than the cost of a mortgage.

To get started in multifamily real estate, you need to be proficient in managing tenants and properties, be financially secure, and be able to get the right loans for the residential property you want to buy.

The cost of this type of property can add up quickly, so make sure the income you can bring in from the property is enough to cover your expenses and still make a good profit.

We’ll show you how to run the numbers to help you decide if this investment opportunity is right for you.

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What is multifamily real estate investment?

Multifamily real estate refers to residential-type properties that can accommodate multiple families. Think multifamily homes, duplexes, townhomes, condos, and even large homes divided into multiple apartments.

If you are deciding how to invest in real estate, condominiums offer the potential for cash flow from multiple tenants. This is in contrast to a single-family real estate investment that buys a property designed for one family and works to keep that one unit for her to rent.

Multi-family housing and detached houses

Multifamily real estate allows multiple units to be rented out, potentially reducing the risks associated with occupancy issues. However, while there may be more multiples of income, you should also consider the increased maintenance and administrative costs of managing multiple tenants.

In contrast, single-family real estate investments require less time-consuming work when it comes to regular maintenance. This could be as simple as buying a house and finding tenants to live in it, or moving to a new house and renting out the old one. You can increase your profit by reducing your loan.

Either way, the person living on the property is neither the property owner nor the mortgagee, but they pay enough rent to cover their monthly mortgage payments. However, if another tenant cannot be found, vacancy risk can be higher for single-family rentals as there are no other units to cover the loss of revenue.

Advantages and disadvantages of collective housing

Here are the pros and cons of learning how to start multifamily real estate.

Advantages of Multifamily Real Estate Investing

  • Increased and scalable cash flow from multiple tenants in one property

  • Reduced vacancy risk (if one unit is vacant, other units are usually full)

  • Possibility to live in one unit and use income from other units to cover expenses

  • Cash flow may be enough to hire a property management company to take over day-to-day operations

Disadvantages of Multifamily Real Estate Investing

  • Buying multifamily and single-family properties often requires more capital

  • Managing multiple tenants requires more maintenance and upkeep

  • Asset valuations are often lower than single-family real estate


Whenever you purchase an investment property, there is risk involved. Before deciding to invest in multifamily real estate, you should carefully consider your investment strategy, risk tolerance and financial goals.

How to invest in multifamily real estate

Getting started in multifamily real estate investing can be challenging, just like building any kind of residual income or cash flow. If you decide this is the right move for you, you can follow our step-by-step guide below.

calculate numbers

Investing in real estate isn’t just about determining if it’s the right time to buy a property, it’s also about knowing how much monthly income you need to justify your investment. Don’t forget to factor in maintenance and repair costs, advertising vacancy costs, and tenant screening costs.

Consider a little extra when calculating the rental income you need to cover your costs. For example, if he knows the monthly rent on the property is $2,000, he needs enough tenants to bring in $3,000 a month to cover the expenses and also provide him with a $1,000 cushion. You may decide that there is

As you move further into multifamily real estate investing, there are some terms you need to understand.

Net operating income (NOI)

This is revenue minus operating expenses. Add up the revenue from rent and other charges such as parking, storage, landscaping, etc. Then subtract the normal costs of running a property, such as maintenance, property taxes, the cost of hiring workers, utilities, and insurance.

Net Operating Income = Gross Revenue – Operating Expenses

Here is an example of how NOI is calculated:


operating expenses

Net operating income (NOI)

Capitalization yield (cap rate)

The capitalization rate helps you understand how quickly your multifamily will give you a return on investment. First, he multiplies the monthly NOI by 12 months to get the annual NOI. Then divide that number by the current value of the property.

Capitalization Rate = Net Operating Income / Current Market Value

For example, if your monthly NOI is $4,000 and your property has a market value of $500,000, divide your annual NOI of 48,000 ($4,000 x 12) by 500,000 to get a 9.6% cap rate.

In general, properties with higher cap rates have been shown to generate higher returns than properties with lower cap rates. However, this is just one of the indicators you can use when deciding whether to buy an apartment rental property.

Learn more about how cap rates are calculated.

Choose a residential property

With these numbers, you can start looking for apartments that meet your needs. Here are some factors that can affect whether potential tenants will find your rental attractive.

  • School district: Many families prefer to be near quality public schools. If you can find apartments near schools with good grades, you are more likely to attract long-term tenants.

  • Nearby Amenities: How close is the property to shopping, entertainment, and other attractions? Is it easily accessible by car or public transportation? Is it a walkable area? Consider the type of tenants you want and nearby locations that are attractive to tenants.

  • Facility amenities: Depending on the location and property, there may be some amenities that make multifamily homes attractive to renters. For example, some communities have shared spaces for gatherings and events, and multifamily condos often have fitness rooms.

apply for a loan

Once you have identified a property, it is highly likely that you will need a loan to purchase it. Depending on the type of property you choose, you may have different requirements based on your chosen lender.

You can choose a traditional mortgage or an investment property loan. If you plan to get an investment property loan, you may need a larger down payment and better credit than a regular mortgage.

Investment property loans can be difficult for new property investors to obtain as they require a significant capital expenditure and a good credit score.

One method of financing multifamily homes that is more affordable and easier to qualify than investment real estate loans is a technique known as “house hacking.” If you’re buying an apartment complex with the intention of owning one of the units, you can take advantage of a traditional mortgage with a high mortgage interest rate to help pay for the property.

You can also consider financing with an FHA loan or a VA loan, but the latter is limited to properties of 4 units or less.

Using this technique, you can live in one of the units and rent out the others. This will ideally generate enough income to cover your monthly mortgage payments and provide cash flow.


It’s important to get pre-approved for a loan so that if you find a property you like, you can move quickly. Work with your mortgage broker to help you find a high interest rate loan that fits your needs.

send offer

Once you’ve found a multifamily property that fits your real estate portfolio and has been approved for financing, you can place an offer on that property. A good real estate agent or broker can help you through the process, especially if this is your first time.

You may need to negotiate with the seller to reach an agreement on price. Also, keep an eye on the real estate market. It is important not to get too carried away with the property and get involved in a bidding war that pushes the purchase price of the property beyond your budget.

Once your offer is accepted, you can finalize the sale and move on to tenant preparation.

prepare the property

If the property was vacant at the time of purchase, you can use this time to repair or upgrade your unit. Doing so at this point is probably easier than if the tenant occupied the unit. If the property inspection was done before the purchase was completed, it could be a starting point for repairs.

Older multifamily properties could benefit from some upgrades. Minor upgrades include painting interior walls a neutral color throughout each unit, installing lighting dimmers, and replacing outdated bathroom vanities.

Some upgrades may cost a little more upfront, but will save you money in the long run. This includes installing energy-efficient appliances and low-flow water supplies, changing floors from carpet to more durable materials, and even replacing old windows with new, energy-efficient models. increase.

Manage properties

Like any business or investment, you need to plan for an apartment complex. Do you want a management company to handle regular tasks like property maintenance and rent collection, or do you manage the property yourself?

If you have existing tenants, you should consider whether to renew their leases when they expire. We recommend researching the vacancy rate in the rental market in your area and the rental rates of similar properties in your area.

Be sure to create a financial plan that takes into account anticipated repairs and improvements. Eventually, things like the water heater and air conditioning system will need to be replaced, as well as the roof repaired or replaced, all of which can be a significant expense.

Understand the timeline of these events so you can plan accordingly. It might be worth having a professional inspection done on these fixtures so you can get an idea of ​​what life expectancy they have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are multifamily homes a good investment?

A multi-family home can be a good investment if it fits your investment goals and risk tolerance. Multi-family homes can often provide a steady monthly cash flow.

However, if you don’t understand how real estate investing works or you’re not interested in becoming a landlord, it may not be the right choice for you.

What are the characteristics of apartment complexes?

Multiple families live in multi-family homes. If a property has at least one other all-inclusive unit, it is an apartment complex.

Multi-family units include condominium complexes, apartments, duplexes, triplexes, and homes that have been converted to accommodate additional family members in separate units.

How Do Multifamily Real Estate Investors Make Money?

Multifamily real estate investors make a profit from the rental income. They can also make money from fees related to property storage and parking.


Learning how to get started in multifamily real estate can help diversify your investment portfolio and provide a way to generate ongoing returns. However, you should exercise due diligence and consider your own goals and circumstances to determine if it makes sense for you.

If you’re unsure about multifamily property investing, check out our ideas for making money from passive income sources.

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This article How to Get Started in Multifamily Real Estate [Beginner’s Guide] First appeared on FinanceBuzz.

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