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What is the best way for me to build a rental property portfolio?

Scaling your rental property portfolio is one of the best ways to increase your passive income stream. First, consider your goals as a real estate investor.

Next, take a hard look at the time and effort that you want to invest into building your real estate empire. Is this something that you want to set and forget? Or are you interested in a more hands-on approach? The answers to these questions may dictate some of your next steps. Property management takes effort—how much time do you have to devote to your new portfolio?

Here are a couple of strategies that you may want to consider to build your real estate portfolio.

The ABC investment strategy

There are generally three types of properties:

Property A—This property is ready to rent. It is in good condition, well-maintained, and has all the necessary amenities to start renting immediately.

Property B—This property is maintained and has the basics, but it could use simple renovations, limited updates, or some minor repairs. You could delay the work to rent right away or you could perform the updates and get a higher level of rental income.

Property C—This property needs a lot of work because it is in bad shape. It is not ready to rent right away, and you may need to invest time and money to get started. Some of these properties might be available through a foreclosure sale or auction.

With the ABC investment strategy, you have a mix of each property type. Property C may have the most significant return on investment, but it also carries the most risk. On the other hand, Property A might generate immediate income, but it might take longer to recoup your initial investment.

The stack strategy

If you already have one rental property and want to expand, you might employ the stack strategy. This strategy involves owning one rental property for the first year to help you figure out how to be a landlord. You learn the ropes and earn experience in the world of real estate.

After some time, you could add new properties of the same type at regular intervals. Each year you double the number of properties could result in quick expansion and an increase in profits.

Multi-unit properties

To grow your portfolio quickly, you may consider multi-family homes or apartment buildings. These properties are great investment choices because they quickly provide several sources of income. They may also lead to more growth because of the immediate increase in income.

Look for areas with good job markets and high rental demand to help increase profitability.

What are the pros and cons of owning residential versus commercial rental properties?

Residential real estate investments include both single-family homes as well as multi-family units. They are generally any property that is zoned for residential use. Commercial property, on the other hand, includes a wide range of other properties. As a rule, anything non-residential is considered commercial.

The benefits of commercial real estate investment

Longer rental terms—Perhaps the most important benefit of commercial real estate investment is that leases with a commercial tenant are often longer than residential leases. As an investor, you can count on lease revenue for a long time without having to renegotiate the lease or find a new renter.

Triple net leases—Many commercial leases are also Triple Net Leases, which means the renter takes care of not only utilities, but also maintenance, insurance, and property taxes. These leases are much more hands-off for landlords.

Higher return on investment (ROI)—Commercial properties may have a higher ROI compared to houses or even smaller multi-family properties. You can often integrate small improvements, such as covered parking or other amenities that commercial clients might pass onto customers, that could increase the rent.

The drawbacks of commercial real estate

Problems with lease termination—Although long-term leases have their advantages, they have drawbacks, too. For example, if you have a problem tenant, you might have trouble forcing them out as soon as you want. The eviction process requires certain notice periods, cure periods, and more.

Demanding renters—The renters who occupy commercial space can sometimes be more demanding than residential tenants. Commercial leases may be more complex and might require the assistance of an attorney to help negotiate terms each time the lease is up for renewal.

Increased risk—While accidents can happen anywhere, they are more likely to occur on commercial properties where there are more visitors.

The benefits of residential real estate

Demand—Everyone needs a place to live, so demand for residential properties is higher than commercial properties. Generally, the residential rental market is less susceptible to market fluctuations and economic swings.

Several exit strategies—Residential properties may have more flexibility compared to commercial properties. In most cases, you can get out faster compared to commercial properties. It is also easier to adjust to the economy because residential properties generally have shorter leases and a larger pool of renters.

The drawbacks of residential real estate investment

Relative risk—While residential real estate may have less risk, it still has some risk. Turnover costs and vacancies are the priciest risks. Individual renters are also less likely to take care of a property, which can cost more in maintenance.

Many areas have laws that apply to residential rentals that limit evictions, cap how much you can charge for rent, or limit increases from year to year regardless of the current market. For example, during COVID-19, many residential renters received special protections to avoid eviction, even when they could not pay their rent.

Adding value can be a challenge—There are only so many things you can do to increase a residential property's value so that you generate more rental income. Remodeling and expanding parking are two avenues. On the other hand, commercial tenants are more willing to pay for extra services that might add value for their customers.

How can I manage multiple rental properties myself?

The more properties you add to your portfolio, the harder it becomes to maintain them on your own. However, it can be done. Being diligent about calendaring important dates can help you stay on top of important deadlines, such as providing a timely Landlord’s Notice of Nonrenewal when you want a tenant to leave at the end of a lease. Many investors choose to enlist a property management company to stay on top of the many tasks, but you can also take on this responsibility yourself.

Below are a few tips to help you manage multiple properties:

  • Create a formal process for tenant complaints.
  • Use the same lease renewal process every year.
  • Perform regular property inspections.
  • Use rental payment reminders and enforce late fees (accepting online payments might address this issue).
  • Screen tenants with extensive background checks before they start renting.

Generally, being proactive and staying ahead of regular maintenance and leasing obligations can help your investment portfolio demand less of your time.

What kind of help can I get managing my properties?

A property manager or management company can handle maintenance, finding tenants, and more. They will generally oversee all or part of your rental business for a flat fee or a percentage of the rent payments each month.

You can also enlist individuals to help with your business, such as a bookkeeper, maintenance person, or real estate agent to help find tenants. Reliable tenants may also serve as on-site managers in exchange for reduced rent or other forms of compensation.

Each property owner is different, and only you can decide how involved you want to be. You may, however, benefit from lining up the right support for when you do need help.

Are there tax considerations if I own multiple rental properties?

In general, you can deduct and credit the same items for each rental property, regardless of how many you own. These include things like:

  • Real estate taxes.
  • Maintenance and improvements.
  • Insurance.
  • Mortgage interest.
  • House depreciation.

Although you can manage all of your properties as a sole proprietor, it might make sense to incorporate or form an LLC for your real estate business for tax or liability reasons. You may find there are significant benefits to incorporating your real estate business.

If you have more questions about growing your real estate empire, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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