How to Buy Your First Rental Property

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Contributor, Benzinga
September 5, 2023

Buying a rental property can be a great starting point for real estate investors. You can try different ways to attain properties, as well as several funding options.

The real key is in understanding the right way to go about it, and that depends upon each person’s individual long-term goals and financial situation. Anyone can have a successful investment future in rental properties with the proper tools and real estate knowledge. Start with Benzinga’s guide to learn how to buy rental property now.

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Who Should Buy a Rental Property?

Investing in the real estate market is a great investment opportunity because anyone can do it. Even owning just one rental property can offer financial stability and passive rental income. If you can take the time and put in the effort to research neighborhoods, schools, crime, property taxes and vacancy rates in a particular area, you can invest in a rental property.

In addition to everyday investors interested in a residential rental property, businesses can profit from owning a commercial rental property. Say a business rents a space in a building. They will be one of the first ones to know when the entire building goes up for sale and can buy out the whole building. Then that business can begin collecting rent from the other tenants in the building, while keeping their business comfortably in the same location, with extra income now coming in from their investment.

Businesses can also establish rental divisions to diversify their investment property. Businesses can rent out apartments or retail space within the building or buy out a nearby building as residential or commercial rental property. With a knowledge of the area and the housing market, a business has a great understanding of what type of rental is needed in that particular area and can take advantage of that knowledge.

Whether opting for investing in commercial or residential real estate, the end goal is making a profit. With a rental property, an investor can make a steady, reliable income. With leases in place, you can count on that money coming in for the duration of the leases on however many rental properties you own. The result can be a steady stream of passive rental income, as long as you always have tenants lined up and no major gaps in leasing.

Anyone interested in owning a rental property needs to know about the tax advantages. Although this type of investment may seem like a huge undertaking, deductions on a rental property can help offset some of the costs. For example, landlords may be able to deduct operating expenses such as home insurance, repairs, mortgage interest, travel costs and attorney and advertising fees. It’s worth a conversation with your tax adviser to see what deductions are possible in your individual situation.

A rental property can be housing or business security in some circumstances. If something happens to your primary residence or work office, you may have the ability to move yourself or your business into a property that you already own.

Do You Need 20% Down to Buy a Rental Property?

No, you do not necessarily need 20% down to buy a rental property. While a 20% down payment is a common requirement for conventional mortgages, there are other financing options available for purchasing rental properties if you meet certain requirements. These include:

  • FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans with lower down payment requirements, typically around 3.5% of the purchase price. However, FHA loans have specific guidelines and restrictions for rental properties.
  • VA Loans: If you are a qualified veteran or active-duty military personnel, you may be eligible for a VA loan, which often allows for zero down payment. However, similar to FHA loans, there are specific requirements for using VA loans for rental properties.
  • HomePath Financing: HomePath is a program offered by Fannie Mae that allows investors to finance the purchase of Fannie Mae-owned properties with as little as 10% down.
  • Portfolio Loans: Some lenders offer portfolio loans specifically for investment properties, which may have more flexible down payment requirements and terms.
  • Seller Financing: In some cases, the seller may be willing to provide financing for the purchase of a rental property, which could eliminate the need for a traditional down payment.

It is important to note that each financing option has its own requirements and considerations, and it is advisable to consult with a mortgage professional or financial adviser to determine the best financing strategy for your specific situation.

How to Acquire a Rental Property

There are several different ways you can acquire a rental property. Here are a few of the most common.

Rent Out Your Home

The simplest way to acquire a rental property is to move out of your current home and rent it out instead of selling it. Many people need the down payment or equity from selling their current home in to purchase a second. If you don’t, it can be a great opportunity to start renting to tenants. It’s also a plus because you already know the ins and outs of the home, the maintenance included, the fees associated and the ages and functions of the major systems. It could be a great opportunity for anyone looking to downsize or relocate. In addition, it’s faster and usually much easier to get a tenant in and begin collecting rent than finding a buyer, depending on your market. The selling process can take months while renting can take mere weeks. In the long run, you could end up making even more from the house, especially if it’s in a good location and in good condition.

Get a Second Loan

Another option to get started with your real estate investment is to get a second loan for a rental property. Generally, the down payment for a rental property is about 20 to 25%. However, there are many options for non-owner-occupied loans and competitive interest rates.

Take Out a Commercial Loan

As a business that wants to purchase a commercial rental property or as a developer or investor interested in commercial properties, a commercial loan is a typical go-to. Purchasing a commercial rental property has its advantages, such as longer leases (5 to 10 years as opposed to a 1-year residential lease) and options like triple net leases, which make the tenant responsible for all of the expenses of the property, including rent and utilities, maintenance and even real estate taxes and building insurance.

Keep in mind that if you own a business and you want to acquire a property, you may need to pay the prepayment penalty on the seller’s loan. The fee is typically a percentage of the prepayment based on the timing of the payoff.

Alternative Forms of Real Estate Property Investment

If you don’t think owning a rental property is the right route for you, alternative real estate investments might work. The market has opened fractional opportunities, so you can invest with just a minimal commitment. Here are some of the most common alternative forms of real estate property investment.


Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are another investment opportunity for those interested in real estate. REITs are companies that own and operate income-producing real estate. They generally deal with commercial real estate such as apartment buildings, offices and retail shopping centers. The great part about REITs is that as an investor, you put money into the company and receive dividends quarterly based on your investment. You do not have to maintain or own any real property. You don’t have much control over specific properties that you are investing in, but the idea is more of a hands-off approach to investing. REITs manage and control the properties and tenants, paying out at least 90% of their profitable income to shareholders.


Another great alternative in real estate property investing is real estate crowdfunding. Through crowdfunding, varying amounts of money are raised by several investors, typically over the internet. It’s a great way for entrepreneurs to team up with investors and grow their business, or at least get it started. The investment money raised is used to fund a project or real estate venture. Billions of dollars have been raised over the years through this alternative financing platform.

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Buying Rental Property for Passive Income

Many people don’t realize how easy it really is to buy a rental property. Once you get started investing in properties, more opportunities, options, ideas and rental properties pop up. Before you know it, you may just have a serious stream of rental income coming and the capital for more investment.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is buying rental properties a good way to make money?


Buying rental properties can be a good way to make money, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and risks. On the positive side, rental properties can provide a steady stream of passive income and potential tax benefits. Real estate tends to appreciate over time, allowing for potential long-term wealth accumulation. However, it requires careful research, due diligence and ongoing management to be profitable.


Is rental property really a good investment?


Owning a rental property can be a great source of income. Owning several properties, multi-family complexes or commercial real estate can be an even greater source of income. It’s all about your end goal and your knowledge of the market. A good investment is one that is thoroughly researched and makes a profit. Rental properties are an excellent investment when done right.


How much do you need to buy a rental property?


You can find a mortgage for a rental property for as little as 3.5% down if you plan to also live in the investment property and rent out a portion of it.

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