The multifamily property is a real estate class that in most cases requires a significant amount of money to invest, and while having disposable income to invest will help you immensely in your investing career, you should know it is not the only way to get started in real estate.

In fact, there are ways to buy a multifamily property with very little to no money down! All it takes is a little creativity. If you want to build wealth, but you’re also tight on funds, then this article is definitely for you.


Acquiring real estate with no money down?


Traditional lenders, like a bank or credit union, require a down payment when you buy rental properties like a multifamily complex, which is typically 20% or more of the purchase price. That can equate to tens of thousands of dollars just to get your foot in the door to owning your first property.

When someone says they are buying real estate with “no money down,” they mean putting none or very little of their own money into the investment upfront. The less money you have invested in a property, the higher the likelihood of an increased return, and experienced real estate investors use some of the following methods to reduce how much they bring to the transaction:


1. Make your primary residence a rental

young woman carrying box to new home while unpacking car

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This practice is widely known as House hacking, which is consist of buying a multifamily property to live in as your primary residence and renting out the remaining units. House hacking is becoming a popular method for new and young real estate investors to get started in multifamily property investing with very little money down.

Using down payment assistance programs or low down payment loans like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and 203k loans, you can buy a property for as little as 3.5% down. While it’s still money out of pocket, it’s a lot better than 20%.


2. Leverage other property


If you have a high credit score and own other property with equity, you can leverage the property’s equity by getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan. This special type of financing allows you to take out a loan or line of credit up to 75% or 80% of your property’s equity, as determined by a formal appraisal.

For example, if you own a property worth $200,000 and you only owe $100,000, you could pull out $75,000 to $80,000 of your property’s equity in cash. You could then use that money to buy another property. Depending on the amount of equity you have in your real estate business, you can easily buy a property with zero or no money down.


3. Use owner financing

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Owner financing, also called seller financing, is when the seller or owner of a property holds financing for the buyer. The seller or owner of the property acts as the lender for the buyer instead of them going to a bank to get traditional financing. The buyer repays the loan over time according to the terms outlined in a formal agreement, like a note and mortgage.

Some sellers will know exactly what terms they will accept or hold for the financing, such as a specific interest rate, down payment, or loan period, while others are open to negotiation. If you are able to determine the seller’s needs and know how to negotiate, it is possible to achieve financing with no money down or have the seller carry a second mortgage, while getting a first mortgage from a bank. Usually, this only works when the need to sell or reach the desired sales price exceeds the owner’s desire for a down payment.


4. Assume a seller’s mortgage


Another option for buying a multifamily property using little money down is by assuming the seller’s current mortgage, also called a subject-to deal. You buy a rental property subject to the terms of the owner’s current mortgage. This option generally requires a small down payment. But, depending on the seller’s needs, it may be possible to assume a loan for no money down.


For example, if the property is worth $100,000 and the current mortgage balance is $80,000 with 12 years remaining, you pay the seller $20,000 to sell the property, taking over their $80,000 mortgage, paying the monthly principal and interest payment to the bank. The investor avoids having to find alternative financing from another lending source and gets to benefit from paying down a loan further in the appreciation schedule.


Buying subject to is a super creative way to buy distressed properties, but it isn’t always an option. Depending on the lender, the loan may not be assumable. Some lenders include a “due on sale” clause, which means the entire loan balance is due if the property is transferred or sold. While rare, some lenders will allow this.


5. Consider a hard money loan

lending money

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Hard money loans are an alternative financing option commonly used to finance properties that won’t be approved for traditional financing. Investors can secure financing for a property up to a certain percentage of the property’s current or future value (after repair value) and will include the cost to renovate or repair the property into the loan.

This means if you negotiate a great deal with a super low purchase price, and you are within the hard money lender’s loan-to-value requirements, you could possibly purchase the property with no money or very little money down.

Hard money loans are normally short-term, lasting anywhere from 6 to 18 months, with very high-interest rates, around 5% to 10% higher than a traditional mortgage. So this method of buying a rental property with no money down is typically best if you have good credit and plan to do a cash-out refinance after the property is repaired and rented.


6. Get a partner for your investment


One of the most common methods of investing in real estate with no money down is to buy an investment property using other people’s money (OPM). You can find a private lender or funding partner willing to partner on the investment, giving you the funds needed to purchase the property. This could be the down payment alone or the entire purchase price in cash in exchange for a return on their investment.

Partners could be family members, friends, or colleagues, and there are a variety of ways to structure their return, like:

  • A joint venture (JV), where ownership of the property or company is shared in respective percentages. Rental income, equity, and appreciation are typically shared with the partners respectively.
  • A lending agreement, where the investor receives a preferred return on their initial investment.
  • A private loan, where the partner is repaid with a monthly payment, which could be interest-only with a balloon, or a principal and interest payment.
  • A combination of the above.


The bottom line


Most successful real estate investors will use a variety of the methods above to structure an offer to a prospective seller. It’s likely you’ll experience a lot of noes in response, but it’s also not a rarity to buy a property with very little to no money down. 

In some deals, it will make sense to put more money down in exchange for a lower monthly payment and often a better interest rate. Analyze each investment opportunity to see if these creative strategies make sense for the purchase of the real estate property you’re looking at. Buying rental property with no money down is not the easiest method of buying real estate, but it can be worth it — and it is possible