Becoming a landlord can potentially be a smart investment, especially in our current national climate. The number of Americans who rent their homes is at an all-time high, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association. But the current supply of apartments and rental homes isn’t keeping up with the demand.
When the process goes well, buying a rental property can generate a passive income stream that can help you now and in retirement. A rental property may also diversify your investment portfolio and create an asset that grows in value over time.
Yet even if you find the perfect investment opportunity, securing small business loans to purchase the property can sometimes be a challenge. Thankfully, you have loan options. Below we’ll cover a few of the most common types of investment property loans along with insights into how they work.
What Are Rental Property Loans?
A rental property loan is a commercial real estate loan designed to help investors purchase a property that will be rented out to tenants, whether they are residential or commercial tenants. These types of loans are only given for properties you will not be living in, but strictly purchasing to generate income or sell for a profit.
How Rental Property Loans Work
Just like any other commercial real estate loan, the lender will set terms for how long the loan must be repaid, the interest rate, and the monthly payment. If the borrower defaults on the loan, that is, doesn’t pay it all off, the lender may foreclose on the property and sell it to cover what the borrower didn’t pay.
The Difference Between Rental Property Loans and Conventional Home Loans
If you’ve taken out a mortgage for your primary residence in the past, you’ll find similarities in the process whenever you try to finance a non-owner-occupied property. With an investment loan, you’ll still need to fill out an application, verify your income and assets, and the lender will check your business credit scores.
But there are also some key differences you may experience when you apply for your first rental property loan.
1. Lenders are more stringent.
Loans for investment properties are inherently riskier for lenders than standard, owner-occupied mortgages. The probability of late payments and default on rental property loans is higher. When money gets tight, real estate investment loans usually aren’t at the top of someone’s priority list.
Imagine the following scenario. You’re a homeowner, and you owe the bank a mortgage on your primary residence. You also own a rental home, and you owe a mortgage on that property as well.
Now, imagine something changes in your financial picture. Your income decreases and your tenant stops making his rent payments on time. All of a sudden, you can’t afford to make the mortgage payments on both your primary residence and your rental property. So which mortgage do you choose to keep current? Many people will choose their primary residence.
Because of the increased risk involved with investment property loans, lenders may require you to jump through more hoops before they approve your mortgage application. For example, you might need:
- A larger down payment (commonly 20% or higher)
- More cash reserves (often six months per existing mortgage plus the new mortgage)
- Sufficient income to cover existing debts and a new mortgage (debt-to-income ratio, aka DTI, should ideally be at or below 36% for the best rates and terms)
- A higher credit score to secure better rates and loan terms (often 720 and up)
2. Interest rates may be higher.
Not only may it be tougher to qualify for a rental property loan than for a mortgage on a primary residence, but it’s generally more expensive too. Again, the pricing of your mortgage is directly related to the amount of risk the lender believes its taking.
Even borrowers with excellent credit scores may pay a higher interest rate on a rental property loan than they would on a traditional mortgage. How much higher? Rates can vary widely from lender to lender. It’s common to see interest rates between .5% and .875% higher on real estate investment mortgages compared with standard residential mortgages.
For example, say you qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3% interest for your primary residence. In this scenario, you might expect to pay around 3.5%–4% for a similar investment property mortgage.
3. Qualifying property types may be different.
According to Quicken Loans, an investment property typically needs to fit into one of the following categories:
- Single-Family Unit
- Multi-Family Unit
In general, you’ll need to stick with one to four-unit properties when you apply for a rental property loan. If you want to buy an investment property with more than four units, you might need to consider a commercial residential loan or an apartment loan as an alternative. FHA multi-family financing might also be a good fit.
It’s worth noting that if you purchase a multi-family unit and plan to live in one unit yourself, you might be able to take out a primary mortgage on the property. For owner-occupied properties, you may be able to use an FHA loan or VA loan to finance your purchase. A conventional mortgage could also be worth considering. Any of these financing options might translate to a lower interest rate and better terms on your mortgage. Loan-to-value ratio (LTV), down payment requirements, and DTI requirements may be less strict in this scenario as well.
4. Private mortgage insurance doesn’t apply to many rental property loans.
On the positive side, you often won’t be charged private mortgage insurance (PMI) for rental property loans. PMI generally doesn’t apply to investment property loans when you’re putting down 20% or more to secure a conventional mortgage. But, the CFPB warns, if your down payment is less than 20%, PMI might raise the cost of your loan.
PMI is a type of insurance that protects the lender in the event you borrow money but eventually default on your monthly payments. Although PMI isn’t designed to protect you, you’re the one who pays for this insurance when it comes to conventional financing. The monthly insurance premium is usually added to your mortgage payment.
You could potentially save a lot by securing a conventional mortgage with no PMI for your rental property. PMI adds an average fee of 0.5% and 1% of your loan amount per year. So, on a 250,000 rental property, you might pay an extra $2,500 per year — potentially adding $208 to your monthly mortgage payment. Providing a 20% down payment (as is the norm with many rental property loans) would likely help you avoid the extra cost of mortgage insurance.
The Best Rental Property Loans
Like mortgages designed for the purchase of owner-occupied residences, you have more than one option when you’re shopping for the perfect investment property loan. This is true whether you’re taking out a loan for a new rental property or are refinancing an existing investment property loan.
Below are three types of loans for non-owner-occupied real estate loans to consider.
1. Conventional Financing
Conventional loans, also called conforming loans, are mortgages that are guaranteed by a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE)—namely Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Conventional loans often feature the lowest interest rates and fees available when you want to finance an investment property that you don’t plan to live in personally.
You’ll need to supply a down payment of at least one-fifth of the purchase price to avoid paying mortgage insurance. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines allow real estate investors up to 10 mortgages (restrictions apply). However, many lenders won’t approve you for an additional mortgage loan once you already have four of them.
2. Blanket Mortgage
Another way to potentially secure financing as a real estate investor is to consider cross-collateralization. If you want to take out multiple rental property loans at once, a cross-collateralized blanket mortgage might help.
With a blanket mortgage, you finance multiple investment properties under a single loan. Developers commonly use blanket mortgages, for example, when they want to purchase a large property and build multiple homes. Blanket mortgages often appeal to house flippers as well.
If you’re considering a blanket mortgage, be aware of the following benefits and risks:
- The properties serve as collateral for each other. This may reduce the bank’s risk while increasing yours. If you default on the loan, you could lose multiple properties.
- Ideally, you should look for a blanket mortgage with a release clause. This may allow you to sell individual properties separately when you’re ready to do so.
- You might be able to refinance existing properties you own under a blanket mortgage. This could serve as a cash-out refinance if you need to free up funds for other investments.
- Blanket mortgages are usually short-term loans. Often, you’ll need to pay off the loan or refinance within one to five years.
Also, consider these Nav suggested options below:
3. Portfolio Loan
While conventional loans are sold to investors and therefore have to meet GSE guidelines (that’s Government-Sponsored Enterprise), portfolio loans are held by the lender who issues them. As a result, portfolio lenders approve or deny your mortgage application based on its own approval criteria, and it’s often not as strict.
A portfolio loan might be a good fit if you’re not able to qualify for a conventional mortgage to buy an investment property. However, because the loan guidelines are looser, there’s usually a cost. Translation: You might have to pay more for a portfolio loan.
In addition to potentially higher interest rates, there may be other downsides to using a portfolio loan to finance your rental property, such as:
- Balloon payments
- Prepayment penalties
- Higher fees (origination, closing costs, etc.)
Some recommended portfolio lenders include:
2. North American Savings Bank
3. Lime One Capital
4. CoreVest Financial
If you’re considering a portfolio loan, be sure to carefully review the terms offered. It’s also wise to compare rates and fees from several lenders to help you find the best deal available.
Another option to finance your rental property is a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Rather than getting a lump sum, you can get some cash now and more later. This could be helpful if you’re renovating the rental property and aren’t sure how much you’ll need to do so.
You can get some of the best HELOC options from these lenders:
1. US Bank
2. Bank of America
4. PenFed Credit Union
Options if Your Credit Isn’t Great
Most of the options we’ve covered require good to excellent credit. But what happens if your credit scores aren’t that great? You could consider a hard money loan, which is a short-term loan from private individuals or companies. Just like with traditional mortgage lenders, hard money lenders can take your property if you can’t pay off the loan. They’re easier to qualify for, and you can get your money faster, but the interest rates may be higher.
Nav recommends these hard money lenders:
1. RCN Capital
How to Qualify for a Rental Property Loan
The key to getting a rental property loan with a low-interest rate is to have good credit and a low debt-to-income ratio.
When applying for a rental property loan, you may be asked to provide your tax returns, profit-and-loss statements, and/or bank statements. Lenders will review your personal and possibly business credit reports as well.
The most common type of loan for a second home is a 30-year mortgage. But there are also terms of 10, 15, 20, or 25 years. The right loan term for your investment property will depend on how much you paid for it, the rate of interest, and how much you can afford to pay each month.
How to Get Lower Rental Property Mortgage Rates
Because rental property loans involve more risk for issuing lenders, interest rates for this type of financing can sometimes be much higher than traditional mortgage rates. If you’re hoping to secure a lower interest rate on your rental property mortgage, these ideas might help. To figure out how much financing you can take on and still maintain positive cash flow, run the numbers in a rental property calculator or spreadsheet.
- Put up a bigger down payment. Many lenders require a down payment of 20% on a rental property loan, and some require down payments as high as 25%. You might find lenders that will accept lower down payment amounts. However, smaller down payments often lead to higher interest rates on your mortgage.
- Improve your credit score. Credit scores aren’t just a significant factor in your ability to qualify for a rental property loan. Your credit also influences the interest rate you’ll pay for financing. If you want a chance to secure the best rates available from lenders, you should aim for a credit score of 760 or higher. (Note: Some lenders may extend their lowest rates at the 720 credit score threshold.)
Don’t underestimate the importance of shopping around for the best deal when you’re financing an investment property purchase. Research from Freddie Mac reveals that comparing five loan quotes could save borrowers around $3,000 on average.
Alternative Rental Property Financing
If you can’t find the loan, you need to purchase a rental property, there is one other option you might consider: seller financing. With seller financing, the person you’re buying the property from acts as the lender, at least initially. Often, you may have a few years (perhaps three to five), after which you’ll owe a balloon payment of the remaining balance to the seller. By this point, you would need to have the cash to pay off the property or another form of financing lined up.
If you’re hoping to buy a rental property with no money down, this might be something you can negotiate with the seller. Just keep in mind that no money down may be a big ask, depending upon the situation. Many sellers may turn down your request.
In addition, there are five credit cards for real estate investors that can also help towards your overall business goals:
Preparing for a big business purchase often includes preparing for a loan application. You can put yourself in the best position possible with Nav’s Business Loan Builder plan. You’ll be able to see where you stand before diving into an application and even access your FICO SBSS score, which lenders will check if you choose to apply for an SBA 504 loan.
Forecasting Rental Property Performance
Getting a return on your investment in the real estate industry is important. So, forecasting a rental property’s financial performance to determine the value of the investment can either save you a headache or make you some money. Here’s how you can forecast a rental property’s performance:
1. Income Approach
Using the income approach technique to purchase a rental property, an investor evaluates the amount of income generated and other criteria to calculate the property’s potential selling price under current market circumstances. In addition to analyzing whether the investor can earn a profit from the rental property, a lender will consider the potential risk of non-repayment before extending a mortgage.
2. Cost Approach
The cost approach focuses mostly on the value of a property being determined by what it can be used for. This approach is calculated by combining the depreciation of any improvements with the land’s value. So, if you purchase multiple acres of land intending to build an apartment complex but the area isn’t zoned for residential use, then its value would be reduced. Therefore, this approach is considered much more useful for newer properties than older ones.
3. Sales Comparison Approach
Real estate agents and appraisers commonly use the sales comparison approach. Investors use this method to make a comparison of similar properties that were rented or sold in the same area over a longer period. A price value is also determined by various factors, including, the number of rooms, whether the property has a pool or deck, a driveway, etc.
Final Word on Rental Property Loans
Buying and renting out the right investment property could help you to establish a passive rental income stream and diversify your investments. According to Zillow, home values in the U.S. increased by more than 16% in the past year and are predicted to keep rising.
But it’s important to understand that investment properties are also a gamble. You shouldn’t consider the potential financial upside of investment properties without also acknowledging the risk.
Also, don’t rush into a decision without doing your homework. Before you make any big commitments, you should thoroughly research the rental property you want to buy and the local real estate market. Then you’ll be ready to shop for the best type of loan to use for the purchase.
This article was originally written on October 31, 2019 and updated on February 3, 2023.