I gotta be honest this really was a rough one. This book is loaded with quality information, but it is so dense and tough to read and to write about and I’m going to apologize for this on in advance. The reading time suggested on this book is 6 hours and 57 minutes at 332 pages. It took me two goal periods to do it as well because I was a chore to read but I finished it. I never gave up on it, I will give a quick summary just to keep myself honest with you guys, but I think your time would be better spent watching some YouTube videos or doing specific research online rather than read this book just because it would be much more enjoyable and quicker.
Build a Rental Property Empire: The no-nonsense book on finding deals, financing the right way, and managing wisely by Mark Ferguson. You can follow Mark’s blog at Investfourmore.com
Career highlights: Owns 16 rentals which generate $8,000 monthly income and have $1.6 million in equity. Flips 10-20 houses per year with averaged profit of $30,000 each. Started InvestFourMore.com real estate blog in 2013 and gets over 300,000 views a month.
“If you focus on mastering one thing, you will be much more successful than if you halfway do 10 things at once.”
Chapter 1: Why Rental Properties Will Help You Retire Faster than Investing in the Stock Market.
Mark goes very deep in this chapter and considers historical return rates, inflation, his personal surveys he’s conducted, tax benefits, outliving retirement etc. I’ll quickly summarize this Real Estate produces more cash flow than the equivalent investment in dividend paying stocks. Real estate also appreciates consistently in the long term just like the stock market does. You can retire earlier than 65 with real estate, in fact you can “retire” when your passive rental property income exceeds your living expenses. Because dividend paying stocks, bonds, savings accounts etc. can not keep up with your living expenses you will have to withdraw money from those accounts, once they are depleted you are simply out of money. If you have rental property which generates income above your living expenses than if those rentals are occupied and paying rent, you will be able to live off the cash flow without tapping into the foundational equity (selling the property). People are living longer than they were before, so it is not unlikely that my generation (currently 22 years old) could have a life expectancy of 90+ years and you wouldn’t want to run out of money during your retirement.
Chapter 2: What are the Risks of Investing in Real Estate?
I’m sure you’ve all seen it before, the little disclaimer saying something to the effect that all investments carry a certain amount of risk and the investor should be aware of that risk. Rental properties are no different as they are just as much of an investment as a stock, bond, bitcoin etc. I believe the risk is lower than some of the previously mentioned and here’s why. A stock can go to zero, if a company goes bankrupt a stock can go to zero or near zero levels, resulting in 99% loss. They don’t make any more land, the very land that your property sits on has some inherit value because there is a limited amount of land in the world and as the human population continues to grow we need to utilize the land for some productive use whether for living or growing food or infrastructure. The exception would be if you had a hazardous waste situation or radioactive event on the land (think Chernobyl) which would render the land useless for some long stretch of time. So looking at the worst case scenario real estate already is winning. Another aspect is people always need a place to live, they may not always need to product or service that a company provides (think typewriters). These are the extreme scenarios now let’s get into the more common ones. Often people over estimate their returns and revenue, they may forget or underestimate the costs to acquire the property and or renovate it. In general, when doing the number crunching for a property it would be wise to use worse case scenario numbers and incorporate buffer into your calculations. Your rental property needs to be cash flow positive from day 1 and you should not count on appreciation for your pay out because that may never happen with the changing market conditions. Another money related risk people don’t consider is having funds in reserve, typically banks require 6 months of mortgage payments in reserve on all properties. Besides that, you should always have some extra cash on hand in case the renovations or repairs are costlier than anticipated.
“Resistance is a sign that you are close to your goals and close to a breakthrough” I believe that with all my heart, as this internship I am currently working as well as life has taught me that this is very true.
“The key to any successful real estate investing strategy is to purchase properties below market value.” This is because you receive instant equity, for example if a house’s market value is $100,000 and you can purchase it for $90,000, while the cash is not in your pocket you have effectively made $10,000 from that deal.
“A great piece of advice I recently heard is to never work below your income. If you are worth $100 per hour, do not do tasks you can delegate for $20 an hour. Focus on things that make you that $100 per hour or more and let someone else do the less important work.” This is just sound advice to anyone making elevated levels of income and are looking to grow. The $40 you save every week by cutting your own grass, while frugal, could be hurting you overall if that time could be better spent developing your business, making more sales, expanding your presence in the community/social media.
Chapter 3: How do you know what makes a good rental property Investment?
- Did I buy it below market value and by how much?
- How much does it cash flow each month?
- What are my cash-on-cash returns?
- What do the prospects look like for the market in which I am buying?
You can use his cash flow calculator on his blog to help calculate that. He also goes over how he accounts for vacancies (table shown below), and maintenance (table shown below.
|50 Years +
He also suggests not using blanket rules to determine profitability, because they simply aren’t accurate enough and do not account for all situations. This means that you’re going to need to do some number crunching.
Here’s a simple rule to avoid losing your property to foreclosure, “buy for cash flow, have reserves, and don’t expect appreciation as your only way to make money.” Mark states that his target for cash flow is $500 a month for the $80,000 – $140,000 properties he buys and likes to see a 15% cash on cash return but prefers closer to 20%. Don’t worry about your cash on cash return until all expenses are paid, and the house is rented. Until that happens you’re only guessing.
Chapter 4: How do you Know what type of investment property to buy?
Mark analyzes single family vs. multi-family vs. college rentals. Essentially its best to invest in the type of property the follows the above-mentioned criteria in chapter 3. Not all areas are going to be the same. You may be able to get single family homes below market value in Colorado, but perhaps multi-family complexes are cheap in Illinois, and a recent state college has had enrollment increase 5% for consecutive years and the college rentals are dirt cheap in the area with rising rents. All situations are different, but I can review the pros and cons of each type of property. Single family generally have better vacancy rates and less turnover than the other two. They also have plenty of opportunity to be bought below market value. The multifamily buildings have multiple tenants so if there is a vacancy it is not a 0 or 100% situation. That as well as in today’s market climate people tend to move more often and apartments are becoming more popular. College rentals typically can get higher rent rates than the previously mentioned types of properties however they typically require more maintenance costs. I am very interested in college rentals however due to my feeder system for people to move into it as well as my love for my fraternity and my college town. There is a lot of detail in this chapter in fact according to my kindle it takes 45 minutes to read this chapter. Condo’s, HOA, vacation real estate, commercial real estate, CAP rate, what neighborhood to buy in, and more are included in this chapter.
Expenses that should be included in the calculations are:
- Property taxes
- Property Insurance
- Property Management Fees
- Utilities paid by property owner
- Ongoing maintenance paid by property owner
- Expected maintenance expenses
- HOA fees
- Any onsite management
- Crime rates
- School ratings
- House prices
- Age of houses
- Size of houses
- Size of the town
- Proximity to large populations areas
- Local economy
- Types of houses (multifamily or single-family)
- Tax rates
Chapter 5: How do you buy real estate below market value?
Mark suggests using a professional opinion to figure out market value of properties. “I would not trust Zillow to provide house values, although you can get some great information from Zillow.” Mark goes in depth on how exactly to buy homes below market value in short sales, HUD homes, banked own properties, how to get great deals from the MLS etc. Some notes that I have highlighted are, “with rising prices, real estate agents or sellers sometimes underprice houses.” “If a real estate agent is not paying attention to market price increases; if a house needs some work or if the sellers simply want to sell their house quickly, it could mean opportunity for investors.” Speed often is the difference between getting a great deal and missing out, a bidding war indicates that a house is priced great and many people want it.
Some things to look for include: Aged listings, MLS comments, Fast price changes, back on the market. “Do not give up if another offer is accepted, and do not burn bridges.” Again, this is a 45-minute chapter with lots of detail, so I will again highlight some of the key points.
“When you talk to a seller, you want to highlight the advantages of selling to you:
- No repairs needed
- No commissions
- No closing costs
- Fast closing
- Cash Closing
- No showings
- No appraisal
Successful investors know their market like no on else, and they are honest and follow through on deals if they say they will buy a house.
Chapter 6: How to finance and pay for Rental properties.
In this chapter Mark discusses financing vs. cash deals, highlighting the use of leverage and the ability to acquire more properties in a shorter amount of time. As far as how much money you will need to start investing in rental properties typically 20-25% down is typical, from there closing cost, repair cost, carrying cost are all needed. Typically, the bank requires 6 months of payment reserves and you must also need adequate cash for any major repairs that may arise. Good credit scores and financial stability are of course desired for financing, most lenders want to see a debt-to-income ratio of 45% or lower. He then goes in depth on various loans and how to improve your debt to income ratio, and various loan alternative.
Chapter 7: How to invest in rental properties with less cash
There are various no or low money down alternatives to real estate investing, but due diligence is certainly required. There is also hard money, house hacking, private money, turn key rental properties, seller financing, partnerships, using credit cards for cash advances, a 401k, and cash out refinance. Usually standard financing practices are better than the above mentioned, less headache hassle and risk.
Chapter 8: How to repair and maintain rental properties
Typically, Mark spends less money on long term rentals in terms of repairs than his fix and flips. Renters typically are not as picky as buyers which also helps with this. In a flip he repairs and updates nearly everything, in a rental its what’s needed. Finding a great contractor is vital and most investors are not well suited to do the repairs themselves in terms of opportunity cost and how well they can do the work versus a professional. Constant communication between you and the contractor is vital as it will affect the quality and time it takes to do the work.
Chapter 9: How to manage your rental properties
Most of the time it takes to manage rental properties happens at the beginning when it comes to finding tenants, the repair process etc. Once that has been completed it takes much less time to manage, however, once you have four or more you should consider hiring additional help. You may open a can of worms if you do not have enough time to screen tenants and check your properties. Proper due diligence is needed to find good property management, as with all things involving real estate, taking the cheap way may cause more headache than necessary.
Chapter 10: What are the different exit strategies with Rental Properties
There are several exit strategies to consider, sell the property and pay closing costs and taxes, 1031 exchange the property for a similar one, pay off the mortgage early and sell. All of these are again discussed in detail, a quick note on paying the mortgage off early, if you plan to keep buying rentals I would not recommend because you’re wasting prime cash to pay the down payment on your next purchase. Also, debt that makes more than the interest on the note is good debt and leverages your returns. The only negative aspect of incurring multiple loans on rentals is your debt-to-income ratio increases which may make it difficult to obtain another loan.
Chapter 11: How to buy rentals in an expensive market
For one the cost associated with selling your rentals, the taxes you’d have to pay, closing costs, the headache and hassle often isn’t worth the gain from appreciation, and the lack of steady cash flow that you’ve been receiving. If your market is overpriced you may need to look at turnkey rentals, however this makes it very difficult in executing the purchase, knowing the market. Investing near your area is in your best interest although it’s not always possible.
Chapter 12: How do you build a rental property empire
Here’s some basic steps to build a rental property empire:
- When do you want to buy your first property?
- What type of property will you buy?
- What type of financing will you use?
- How much money will you need?
- How much money will the property generate?
“Saving money gives you options that allow you to make much more money, such as investing in rental properties and buying fix and flips. Saving money also allows you to be more flexible with your career or even a start a business.”
Chapter 13: What is the next step?
Here’s the book: