It’s impossible to buy enough rental property to retire with, right? It simply takes too long to save up, buy property, and a little rent over years
You just need too much money for down payments to keep buying.
It’s true that buying rental property is a very capital intensive process and it’s true that you generally need 20-25% down for your purchases (except your first few which can go FHA or VA).
It’s also true that most people don’t have unlimited funds and can’t keep putting 20-25% down.
But here’s the thing – you don’t have to keep putting money down.
There’s this really simply strategy that allows you to avoid doing all that. You guessed it, it’s called the BRRR strategy and I’m going to go into that in a lot of detail. But first…
A quick story about how I retired using the BRRR real estate method.
BRRR Strategy During the Great Recession
A long time ago I started using the BRRR strategy before anyone ever called it the BRRR strategy.
In a nutshell, it’s a way to buy property that allows you to preserve capital in order to buy more and more properties over time.
I’m going to get into detail on it in a minute, but I want to take you back to 2009 through 2013 during the deepest part of the great recession.
No one had jobs. No one could afford to pay rent. Housing prices dropped like a rock and flat lined like a hospital patient. There was no bounce.
It was just despair everywhere.
They call it the great recession, but in historical terms, it was clearly a depression.
…and I decided to get into real estate.
Everyone said I was crazy, and I was a little crazy. A lot of people had just lost everything, tenants weren’t paying, evictions were happening all over. It was rough.
But, deals could be found everywhere. The other benefit was since no one had work contractors were easy to find and would work for 1/3 what they charge now.
The hard part was finding money to invest and finding banks to lend.
I bought my first 3 family in 2009, then bought a 4 family a few years later in early 2012. This is a picture of the 4 family, sexy isn’t it?
By 2015 I had over 20 units. By 2017 I had around 35, and now in 2018 I’ve moved up to apartment complexes and have over 470.
This is the strategy I used to keep buying more property while continuously putting more money in my pocket.
Here’s how brrr investing works in real estate.
Using the BRRR Strategy to Build a Rental Property Portfolio
The overall Gist of the BRRR method is to add enough value to a property that when you refinance it you will get most, if not all of your capital back. This allows you to take your money and use it over and over again to buy deals.
Just in case you aren’t yet aware, BRRR stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance. Alternatively, some people call it the BRRRR method which stands for the exact same thing, except the last R stands for “repeat.”
So, BRRRR method is Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat.
Step 1 – Buying
There are 3 basic parts to buying any property – finding, analyzing, and closing the deal.
Finding a Deal
The most important part of the BRRR real estate strategy is to find great deals. Without an amazing deal, it simply doesn’t work (but that’s kind of true about making money in real estate anyhow).
In general, people refer to deals as either “off-market” and “on-market.” An off-market deal is essentially every sale that is not listed with a real estate salesperson on a listing service such as the MLS, LoopNet, or CoStar.
There are a ton of ways to find great off-market deals. These includes:
- Starting an Investor Website
- Direct Mail
- Knocking on Doors
- Bandit Signs
…and a couple dozen more methods. The only thing limiting you is your imagination!
Analyzing Rental Property
It’s important to have a couple different calculators to get this job done. The most important is your “back of the napkin” calculator.
The reason why a calculator like this is so important is because you will literally look at hundreds of deals. It’s impossible to use an advanced calculator and cull through dozens of deals a week.
Instead, it’s best to use a very simple calculator, toss in the basic numbers, and just see if it’s even remotely close.
Once you do that, you can take the deal and do a deeper analysis. If it’s not any good, just toss it aside and you’ve saved hours of your time.
I put together a free BRRR calculator for you to use to screen deals.
The most important part of closing a deal is….financing it.
We’ll talk a bit more about financing at the end when we talk about the third R – Refinance, but it’s important to know that your financing up front will be different than how you refinance the deal.
Up front, you are generally using cash or some kind of private or hard money. Banks don’t like risk, and deals that need work are considered risky.
By using cash or private money, you’ll be able to purchase something with a bit of risk so you can add value.
The other reason is because distressed properties often need to close quickly. Banks are anything but quick.
So the key here is to use private money to purchase, then refinance into something longer term such as a good conventional or long-term commercial loan.
Step 2 – Rehab
You don’t want to rehab a BRRR rental property the same way you would fix a flip.
When you analyze a project for a flip, you look at the cost of the work vs the increase in value. If a kitchen costs 10k and increases the value by 15k, then it has a 50% return (15k – 10k = 5k return. A 5k return divided by 10k invested = 50% return).
That same kitchen may add value to your rental, but since you aren’t selling it, it’s the wrong way to measure value.
That $10k might add $15k in value, but add barely anything in extra rent. Since we are looking for cash-flow, I’d rather focus on renovations that add to the amount of rent I can charge.
BRRR Step 3 – Renting The Unit
Finding great tenants that will pay market (or higher) rents is key to your strategy. The 3 key steps are to find, screen, and retain.
Step 4 – Refinancing
The goal is to get your money back so you can repeat the process, which makes this step the most crucial.
because the rules for commercial lending are slighting different than personal lending, let’s take a quick step back and go over the rules/requirements for commercial lending:
- You will need around 2 years of “experience.” This can be rehab experience, landlord experience, or even experience as a realtor if you can convince the bank that it’s directly applicable.
- Most banks require 6+ months of “seasoning” before they will finance it at the market price rather than the purchase price. This means the property has been stable, fixed, and rented for around that period of time. Basically, they need you to justify the higher price with some evidence of stability and improved rents.
- Banks lend 75-80% of appraised value on this sort of deal.
It’s not hard to see the “trick” once all the criteria are laid out.
- Banks will lend around 75% of the appraised value after 6 months of seasoning.
- House flippers are looking to be “all in” for around 75-80% of the property value.
So, buy a rental property like you’re going to flip it, then just refinance it – you’ll get all your cash back plus long-term rental income.
But, in order for this system to work well, you need to be able to be “all in” for around 75-80% of value.
Step 5 – Repeat and BRRR More (aka brrrr)
Once you have most or all of your money back, it’s time to find another real estate deal to BRRRR! The extra R stands for Repeat.
You’ll have your cash back and a new stream of income. Could life get any better?
Have you ever used the BRRR Strategy? Tell me how it went in the comments below.
Vacation Rentals: How Profitable Are They?
In the past, vacation rental owners had to perform the necessary maintenance tasks and market the properties to find guests or pay someone in the locality to do so on their behalf.
Bookings were low and the cost of maintaining the vacation homes was high. Thankfully, the firms that manage vacation rentals are using new technologies to eliminate these issues and deliver a comprehensive service on a high level that the vacation rental industry has not seen.
Many travelers are avoiding staying in hotels in favor of vacation rentals.
Why Vacation Rentals?
Some of the benefits of vacation rentals include:
- Variety – Vacation rentals offer different decor, amenities and views among other things. Travelers select their own vacation rentals and preferences based on their budget and how they want to define their vacation such as close to the beach or a golf course among other locations.
- Additional space – Vacation rentals are more spacious than hotels and are therefore popular with people traveling with their families.
- Comforts of home – Vacation rentals provide the comforts of home and some of the things that a typical home does not have. There are multiple bedrooms, comfortable living rooms and adequate space to sprawl out. Vacation rentals are more comfortable than staying in the bedroom of another person like with Airbnb.
- Privacy – Vacation rentals have private entrances and private balconies. Therefore, patrons do not have to walk through the lobby after returning to their unit.
- Cost effective – Since vacation rentals are spacious, families often rent them together. This makes the homes more cost effective than hotels.
- Easy booking and check out – Technology such as online payment platforms enable guests to save time. They do not have to wait in line to check in or out.
Improving Vacation Rental Technology
Technology has played a huge part in making the short-term rental market grow. Online listing firms such as Airbnb make it easier for guests to book the home they want to stay in.
With this software, you can manage rental channels. These include HomeAway, Expedia, and Airbnb using one app or platform to reduce management time and increase profits. This means that you can manage your property without having to enlist the services of a professional management firm.
Are Vacation Rentals Really Profitable?
Investing in vacation rentals is an excellent way to earn passive income.
A survey done by HomeAway, which is a short-term rental marketplace, found something interesting. People who rent out second homes earn more than 33,000 dollars annually in rental revenue. On the other hand, at Airbnb, the average vacation rental owner collects yearly rental revenue of about 11,000 dollars.
Most of the vacation rental owners using the Airbnb platform don’t perform as well. They may only rent out only a single bedroom or rent out their homes irregularly. They do not treat their homes as true vacation rentals.
I’ve spent the last 10 years developing my systems and growing my business until now I have over 480 units of rental property.
It’s no joke and I’m not pulling your leg…and I started with just one small rental property.
I’ve put together and outlined the simple 5-Step System that I used to get from broke student to retired by 30, and it’s yours now, totally free!
Do the Math
It is not that straightforward to figure out the amount of money your vacation home can bring in. However, online tools can enable you to calculate the potential cash flow to your property.
You can use these tools to calculate the average daily rental rates, revenue, and occupancy rates. By using these projections, you can then subtract items such as interest, PITI, management fees and maintenance expenses. Then you’ll get a cash flow forecast.
Evaluate the Location
The other factor that will determine the amount you will earn as rental revenue is the location. If you buy a vacation home, which is close to a popular destination like a ski resort or beach community, then it is likely that it will bring in a higher rental income. An excellent location close to a major airport or a vacation spot that people visit year round will have the best impact.
Assess the Scene
Apart from the accessibility and popularity of a destination, you also need to consider the setting. For instance, it is more cost effective to invest in a vacation home located in the mountains compared to a beachfront vacation home. However, such a home is not likely to bring in as much income as a beachfront property can.
The peak season for vacation rentals lasts about 12 weeks.
The trick is trying to rent the vacation home during the off-peak periods or when you do not want to live in the house. Try your best to keep your vacation home occupied by advertising it on platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb. You can even seek advice on the best ways to keep a property occupied from a property management firm that manages vacation homes.
Set the Price Right
To maximize occupancy, you should price your vacation home well. You can price your propertyslightly lower than similar properties so that it will be occupied more frequently. Furthermore, you should keep an eye on events like festivals and conventions that occur close to the location of your vacation home. When the demand is high, take advantage of it and adjust your rental charges accordingly so that you will not miss out on revenue.
Vacation homes are unique in that they are both an investment and a lifestyle upgrade. While they perform equally as well as conventional rental properties, they offer the benefit of having a place to stay for your own vacations.
A vacation home can bring in a good return on investment if you can keep it rented out most of the year. If you hold the vacation rental for many years, then you will make a return, which is comparable to or greater than you would have made if you had invested in stocks.
What is Debt Service Coverage Ratio and Why it’s Important?
There are few numbers more important in commercial real estate than the debt service coverage ratio.
It’s one of the first things and one of the last things that any commercial lender or broker will talk about. It’s first and last because it’s simply that important!
A lot of people toss this term around without explaining it while others are using it without fully understanding it. It’s a lot more than just a simple formula and when you understand the debt coverage ratio, you’ll be able to control it to get maximum financing.
Let’s dive into it.
Why the DSCR is Important
Imagine finding a commercial property worth $400,000 and you need to put 25% down.
You think, “alright, I can afford that!” and move forward with the deal, expecting $300,000 in loan proceeds.
As you approach closing, your mortgage lender calls you to say “The maximum loan we can give you is $225,000 because the debt coverage ratio is too low.”
Now what do you do?
This is real and happens every day. To avoid a situation like this, you need to fully understand the debt service coverage ratio before you make offers.
The fact is that it’s regularly used by banks and loan officers to determine if a loan should be made and what the maximum loan should be. If you don’t have the extra money laying around, you won’t be able to close the deal and you’ll lose a lot of money.
Debt Service Coverage Ratio Defined
The debt coverage ratio is a simple ratio that tells a lender how much of your cash flow is use to cover the mortgage payment. It’s known as the debt service coverage ratio, debt coverage ratio, DSCR, or DCR.
Debt Service Coverage Ratio Calculation
In general, it’s calculated as:
Net Operating Income = Gross Income – Total Operating Costs
Debt Service = Principal + Interest
To calculate the debt coverage ratio of a property, first, you need to calculate the NOI. To do this, take the total income, subtract any vacancy, and also deduct all operating costs.
Remember, operating costs do not include debt service (principal and interest), or capital expenditures. Insurance and taxes are operating costs, so don’t forget to include them.
Next, take the Net Operating Income and divide it by the annual debt service, which is the sum of all principal and interest payments during the year.
To do this you must take the entity’s total income and deduct any vacancy amounts and all operating expenses. Then take the net operating income and divide it by the property’s annual debt service, which is the total amount of all interest and principal paid on all of the property’s loans throughout the year.
How The Debt Ratio is Used
A Debt Coverage Ratio below 1 means the property does not generate enough revenue to cover the debt service while a debt ratio over 1 means the property should, in theory, generate enough revenue to pay all debts.
It’s very common for lenders to require a 1.2 DSCR, give or take.
If your debt coverage ratio is too low, the only way to make it work out better is to reduce the loan balance. Your NOI is the same but now your principal an interest decreases, making the ratio go up.
And that’s how you can get your loan proceeds cut dramatically.
Debt Coverage Ratio Example
Let’s say there is a property that generates $10,000 in revenue, has total operating costs of $4,800, and yearly debt service of $4,000
NOI = $10,000 – $4,800 = $5,200
In this example, the debt coverage ratio is above 1.2, so this would be a good risk for the bank and they’d likely give the loan.
Let’s say that interest rates change and the bank gives a slightly higher rate, causing a new debt service of $4,500.
Notice how a small change can suddenly change everything!
The Bank Will Reduce Your Loan
In this situation, the bank probably won’t reject the loan. Instead, they will reduce the loan balance until the payment comes in line with their minimum DSCR requirements.
In this situation, the lender will simply reverse the formula and determine what the maximum debt service can be. We can plug in the variables we know to solve for the allowable debt service
1.2 = $5,200 / Max Debt Service
Max Debt Service = $5,200 / 1.2
So, the maximum debt service can be $4,333. Now they just need to figure out what loan balance that will be based on their interest rate and loan term.
…and you’ll be stuck trying to squeeze some quarters out of your couch to pay for the extra down payment.
How the Debt Ratio Affects Returns
In the example above I showed how a loan can be adjusted down before the lender will give the loan. This can significantly reduce your cash on cash returns.
Let’s say you are buying a property in the example above costs $100,000 and requires a down payment of $25,000.
Let’s also say that it generates $10,000 in cash each year and has an NOI of $5,200.
Originally the debt service was supposed to be $4,000 per year, leaving $1,200 in total cash flow.
Now, let’s calculate our cash on cash return. We know that it’s calculated as:
Cash on Cash Return = Total Cash Flow / Total Cash Invested
CoC = $1,200 / $25,000 = 4.8%
This means that for every $100 you invested, you get back $4.8 every year, cash in the bank. This is not to be confused with the overall return on investment.
But due to some fluke, the terms changed and now the debt service will increase. Let’s say that the interest rates increase so your $75,000 loan is at 4.5% now and your debt service goes up from $4,000 per year to roughly $4,560/year. You can see that the new debt service coverage ratio is well below the 1.2 minimum.
I’ll spare you the math, but when I punch it into a calculator I find that the maximum loan value is now roughly $71,000. This creates a yearly debt service of $4,320, bringing you back to 1.2
Comparing The Two Scenarios
Since you’re loan has gone down, you will need to invest an extra $4,000. You’ll also have a lower cash flow because of the higher debt service.
Cash Flow = $5,200 – $4,320 = 880.
Now let’s compare two scenarios. Imagine if you were still able to get 25% down, your cash on cash would look like:
CoC = $880 / $25,000 = 3.5%
Not very good, right? But, that’s because of the increased interest rates.
Now, let’s see how the change in the loan amount affects your return. Remember, your down payment is no longer $25k because it became $29k.
CoC = $880 / $29,000 = 3.03%
Never Neglect the Debt Coverage Ratio
You can see how important this simple ratio is to banks. It can change your returns, your down payment requirements, and it can even kill your deal.
How To Put That Extra Space In Your Property To Good Use
A lot of investment properties have something we call bonus space.
It’s space that isn’t quite a bedroom, maybe not really living space, but doesn’t have any one specific use.
So, how do you use this space to create value for your investment property?
Well, that depends…
Can It Become A Bedroom?
A bedroom is almost always going to be the highest value use of any bonus area, so let’s try that first. So, it’s time to look up your local health/building codes to determine the requirements for a bedroom.
The International Residential Code, which most states follow, has several requirements to be considered a bedroom. States and municipalities are free to add on top of this, and some areas don’t use the IRC as their code.
Most places have a square footage requirement and also require a window and a closet. But, different states/municipalities may have different requirements so look them up.
Note About Egresses
Basements and Attics are notoriously bad places to be during a fire. There may be requirements for additional egresses for any living space that is in these two areas. Make sure you know all of the requirements before trying to make a bedroom.
Once you know the requirements, you can determine if a simple project can convert this random bonus space can be used as a bedroom.
For example, if it just needs a larger window, simply hire someone to install it. If you need a closet, get one put in.
It becomes more challenging if you need another egress added to a basement though.