I will show you exactly how to accurately estimate rental expenses.
Don’t be the investor who believes the rental expenses he’s given from the property seller!
Intro to Estimating Rental Expenses
I will give you formulas and methods to make accurate estimates even if you don’t have someone local in the area you can compare notes with.
There are several different methods for doing this. I’ll let you know which work best.
The ideal situation for accurately estimating expenses is to get the information directly from another investor that has rentals in the same area as you.
You can find these people through local clubs like a real estate investing association (REIA) or other investing group. Often these groups are on Facebook. You can find by searching key terms such as REIA or real estate investing and the name of your city.
If you can’t find investors that will help, talking to property managers is the next best thing.
Whether you get information from these people or not, it is still a good idea to use the tools here to make sure their rental estimates make sense.
Maintenance and Repairs
Maintenance and repairs are variable costs. These are difficult to predict and change often.
There are several “rules of thumb” that can help you estimate what repairs will be. I’m gonna break them all down for you, and tell you my favorite:
The 1% Rule for Expenses
The Square Footage Formula
The 5X Rule
The 5% Rule
The 50% Rule
Repairs are the most underestimated and neglected rental expenses in real estate investing.
Here are the rules to help estimate them:
1% Rule for Expenses
Don’t confuse this 1% rule with the more common 1% rule for rent. (Rents should be at least 1% of purchase price)
1% Rule for Expenses Definition: Maintenance and repairs will cost about 1% of the property value per year.
A property valued at $100,000 should cost $1,000 a year for repairs on average.
Pros: Easy to do in your head. Accounts for higher prices in high cost of living areas. Labor and supplies cost more in these area.
Cons: Not accurate on older properties under $100,000
I can tell you from personal experience owning 30 properties with an average cost of $75,000 each, this isn’t accurate at the low end of home prices.
Often when you find a property that cash flows well under $100,000, it is going to be a bit older and comparatively in worse condition. These two traits make repair prices higher.
From my experience, a 1.5% calculation off purchase price would be more accurate for run down properties purchased under $100,000.
Square Footage Formula
Plan on $1 per square foot for yearly maintenance costs.
A 1,000 sq ft home should cost about $1,000 in maintenance per year
Pros: More conservative than 1% rule above. Makes sense that larger homes have more costs due to increased area.
Cons: Does not accurately account for cost of living differences.
My average costs for repairs in Montgomery, AL are a lot lower than those in high cost of living areas (HCOL) like San Diego or Honolulu. This rule doesn’t account for those differences on the same size house.
Labor and supplies will cost more in high cost of living areas. To estimate rental expenses, adjust as needed.
Yearly maintenance costs will be approximately 1.5 times the monthly rental rate.
If your home rents for $1,000 a month, the estimate should be about $1,500 a year.
I’m not sure why it’s called the 5x Rule, but that’s how its described in several different places.
Pros: Rent prices tend to correlate with age, condition, and desirability of neighborhood
This rule is actually not widely used compared to the rest, but I find it the most useful because of its flexibility.
Cons: No rule is perfect, but this one is pretty good.
You should expect to spend 5% of your total income (total rents) on repairs and property maintenance.
$100,000 property rents for $1,000/mo X 12 months
$12,000 a year x 5% = $600 a year budget for repair expenses
Pros: Easy to calculate. Half of ten percent. You can do it in your head.
Cons: Estimates come out too low.
While this a fairly well-known rule, I find it to be an unusually low estimate.
First, this is out of line with the 5x Rule, which states expenses will be 1.5 times monthly rent. I felt the 5x rule was the best estimate so far. If you do the math, that rule works out to 12.5% of total income on repairs.
The 5% rule here is way too low.
Not even half the estimate of the 5x rule.
Unless your property is close to new and in excellent repair, 5% expenses would be unlikely in reality.
That being said, I often see pro formas (estimate of expenses) on turnkey real estate or on other promotional literature about real estate investing that claim a 5% maintenance estimate.
To add insult to injury, they often don’t include an estimated expense for capital expenditures, which means the 5% is meant to cover both.
This it why uniformed investors lose money on rental properties they buy.
Total operating costs will equal approximately 50% – or half – of your yearly rental property income.
This is probably the most popular formula for expenses, but it applies to all rental expenses, not just repairs and maintenance.
The 50% rule also applies to capital expenditures, property management, taxes, insurance, vacancy, and all other operating expenses.
Since property management is included, if you self-manage, you could probably use 40% as your rule, although the value of using your own time for management is worth something.
The estimates you get from these rules may need to be adjusted based on the following criteria:
age of the property
condition of the property
amount of turnover/crime in the area
cost of living
You should consider how much your prospective property differs from the average property. If yours is much older or in a much higher crime area, you should consider raising the estimates for your rental expenses to make up for the increased likelihood of higher expenses.
I believe the best formula is the 5x rule (1.5 x monthly rent). It can account for these variables better than the rest, and it’s conservative enough to keep you out of trouble.
To accurately estimate your expenses, you need to know the difference between maintenance/repairs and capital expenditures.
Capital expenditures are a separate category from maintenance/repairs. You need estimates for both.
Most people grossly overestimate the cash flow they are actually getting on their rental property.
At the same time, the people trying to sell you investment properties also have a habit of fudging the numbers on cash flow and return on investment.
I’m here to make sure you can spot these inflated numbers a mile away.
The mistake most people make is believing that your money left over after paying a mortgage each month is your cash flow.
You need to subtract your mortgage from rent, then subtract all other expenses to arrive at your actual cash flow.
In many people’s case, this is a negative number.
That means you are not cash flowing, you are paying money out of pocket to own this investment.
Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
It is helpful to understand two simple concepts for this all to make sense.
Those two things are the 1% rule and 50 % rule, which are easy to do in your head, and can save you the trouble of breaking out the calculator for rental properties that clearly won’t make money.
The 1% rule is quick and easy. Monthly rent should be at least 1% of the acquisition price. The acquisition price may be a higher number than the purchase price. It is purchase price plus the money to get the house ready to rent.
$80,000 to purchase house plus
$20,000 remodeling equals
$100,000 acquisition cost.
$100,000 home should rent out for at least $1,000 a month, or it would not be a good investment.
What is the logic behind the 1% rule?
If a house will give you 1% of the purchase price each month in rent, then it gives you 12% of the purchase price each year. That apparently means the investment makes 12% a year!!!!
Getting rich with a TSP is not as hard as you would think. One of the big problems with the TSP is how confusing it is. It has different funds than a 401k or IRA. But that shouldn’t confuse you. It is easy to follow these three simple (but not always easy) steps to ensure … Read more
What do I know about long distance real estate investing?
As a military member:
I’ve moved every 1 to 3 years while investing in real estate
I currently have 20 paid-off single family homes
I’ve self-managed and used management companies
I bought 16 properties while living overseas
I read a blog post this morning that said investing long distance requires a slightly different approach than normal real estate investing.
It’s a different ball game altogether.
The secret to mastering long distance real estate investing is getting these 5 things right:
The Importance of Boots on the Ground
The Best Real Estate Agent for Long Distance Investing
Choosing a Property Manager from Long Distance
Choosing the Right Property from Long Distance
Managing Contractors from Long Distance
The Importance of Boots on the Ground
This is where I feel a lot of new investors make their first mistake.
They are neglecting the importance of having boots on the ground.
There have been good books written about long distance real estate investing and how easy it can be done using video, pictures, docusign, and aligning yourself with a great “team.”
This all sounds great, and might work for an experienced investor.
I can tell you from a practical standpoint, however, that nothing replaces the importance of having boots on the ground that you can trust in the location you are investing.
Whether it is a contractor trying to rip you off, tenant trashing a house, or just a need to respond quickly to an emergent situation at your property, there is nothing like having someone you trust that can tell you what is actually going on with your property.
This post was originally published on August 8, 2018. I updated, lengthened, and added a table of contents to it.
Investing in rental property with VA Loan is a tricky subject. There are many rules that dictate how a VA should be used. Investing with a VA loan, even in multi-family, is possible. I will show you how to do it so you can get rental income.
The VA doesn’t say you can use the VA loan for investing, but if you understand the rules, and buy properties as you move from assignment to assignment in the military, it is possible.
You can’t just buy a home and make it a rental property without living in it first. There is an occupancy rule I’ll be discussing.
You can, however, buy a house at your current assignment using your VA benefit, live in it for a short period of time, turn it into a rental property when you leave, and buy a house at your next assignment with a VA loan repeating the entire process.
Another possibility for investing with a VA loan is buying a 2, 3, or 4-plex using your VA benefit and living in one of the units for a short period of time. When you move on to your next assignment, you’ll be able to turn the entire property into an rental property legally.
Let’s start digging into the details!
The first thing we need to understand is the occupancy rule.
The TSP Loan program lets you borrow money from your own TSP account while you are either in the armed forces or employed by the federal government.
HOW IT WORKS
When you borrow the money, it comes out of your actual TSP account. It can be any amount between $1,000 and $50,000, not to exceed your contributions and earnings from those contributions. It does not include any agency contributions (blended retirement system or BRS) or earnings from agency contributions.
As you are repaying this loan, it is repaid with interest through payroll deductions back into your own TSP account. This means that this large amount of money will not be growing tax advantaged in your TSP account during the time period you have borrowed it. You lose the opportunity for that growth. More on this later.
Keep in mind, even though you are paying interest, it’s a low, low rate and you pay it back to yourself, so it’s not really a cost to you. The interest, however, is not tax-deductible.
To be eligible for a TSP loan, the following must apply:
Employed by uniformed services or federal government
In pay status
Only have one outstanding general purpose loan and one outstanding residential loan from any one TSP account at a time
Have at least $1,000 in your TSP account not counting agency contributions and earnings
Have not repaid a TSP loan of the same type within the past 60 days
Not had a taxable distribution of a loan within the past 12 months unless it was the result of your separation from Federal service