How to Buy a Property and Get Paid to Live There

Buying a home and then getting paid to live there. It sounds like an impossible thing, but it’s actually a canny way to invest in real estate and still save. Another word for this phenomenon? House Hacking.

What is House Hacking?

House hacking is when an owner lives in their property and rents out other parts of the property.

Ultimately, the tenants are the ones paying the monthly mortgage payment while the owner lives rent-free. For example, a person can buy multi-family property (e.g., triplex), live in one of the units, and rent out the other units. Another example is a person who owns a single-family home, lives in one of the rooms, and rents out the other rooms.

The Benefits of House Hacking

Looking for your first investment property but unsure of where to begin? House hacking provides multiple benefits, especially to rookie investors.

You Live Rent-Free

The first big benefit of house hacking is living rent-free! A mortgage payment is composed of the principal amount, interest payment, and potentially mortgage insurance. However, the tenants are the ones paying back the debt service.


Lenders offer lower interest rates to people who will occupy their property compared to investors who do not. They do this because people who live onsite tend to take better care of the property. Thus, these investments are less risky. 

Low Down Payment

Owner-occupied properties don’t require as much of a down payment compared to non-owner-occupied borrowers. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgage loans and only requires a down payment of less than five percent of the purchase price.

Non-owner-occupied properties require 20 to 25 percent of the purchase price for a down payment. The down payment for owner-occupied borrowers is significantly lower compared to non-owner-occupied borrowers. This low down payment makes house hacking a steal!

Passive Income

Aside from living rent-free, successful house hacking can generate monthly cash flow, known as the net operating income.

You can calculate the net operating income (NOI) by subtracting the monthly operating expenses from the gross rental income.

Net Operating Income = Gross Rental Income – Operating Expenses Below is a list of monthly operating expenses to consider:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Property Taxes
  • Property Insurance
  • Utilities
  • HOA fees
  • Property Management Company

How To Get Started In House Hacking?

Step 1: Become Creditworthy

The most powerful thing in real estate is leveraging other people’s money. Therefore, for a lender to approve you for real estate financing, you need to be as creditworthy as much as you can. You can become creditworthy by improving your good credit score, having a stable income source, and reducing your debt-to-income ratio.

Step 2: Build a Relationship With a Local Bank

I always recommend new investors build a relationship with a local bank or a credit union. A banker at a local bank can sometimes have more influence over your loan than a banker at a “big name” bank.

Communicate with your banker what you’re trying to accomplish with house hacking. A creative banker can develop loan suggestions to help you reach your goals, such as an FHA, 203k loan, or HomeStyle Renovation loan. 

Step 3: Study Your Local Real Estate Market

Study your local real estate market and look for areas with good opportunities: research property values, rental income, and the kind of tenants in your market.

Practice analyzing multiple properties before making your first offer on an investment property. Get used to calculating various numbers, such as the cash-on-cash return and the return on investment. By the time you receive a lead, you will quickly know if it’s a potential deal or not.

Step 4: Create a Process to Find Leads

Finding real estate deals is the hardest part of real estate investing. Hence, you need to create a process that leads to potential deals, such as finding absentee owners. Below is a list of ways you can generate leads:

  • Driving for dollars
  • Direct mail campaign
  • Signs
  • Online marketing
  • Reviewing property tax records
  • Work with a real estate agent.

Step 5: Make an Offer

There are always other investors looking for great deals. So, once you’ve analyzed the property, it’s time to pull the trigger and make an offer! But, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get your offer accepted.

As you make more offers on multiple properties, you’ll grow to see that you can’t win them all. You just need one. 

How to Grow Your Real Estate Portfolio

Rental property investing is a great way to generate passive income. However, if you’re looking to replace your income or become financially independent, you’ll need to scale your real estate portfolio.

BRRRR Method

BRRRR stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat.

The BRRRR Method is a real estate strategy that allows investors to recoup their initial investment and put it towards another investment property. The method can be challenging to grasp at first. Therefore, it’s easier to explain through an example:

BRRRR Method Example

Joe BUYS a $100,000 property. His down payment is $5,000, while a bank lends him $95,000. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll ignore closing costs. He spends $10,000 on REHAB costs to increase the after-repair-value and RENTS his property for $1,300 after he made improvements. Therefore, his overall initial investment is $15,000.

After a few months, Joe requests a bank to perform a cash-out REFINANCE. The property appraises for $150,000, and a bank creates a loan 75% of the appraisal valuation. Therefore, the principal balance of the loan is $112,500 ($150,000 x 75%). The new loan of $112,500 replaces the other loan of $95,000, pays Joe back his down payment of $5,000, and the rehab costs of $10,000.

Refinanced Amount – First Loan Balance – Down Payment – Renovation Costs = $112,500 – $95,000 – $5,000 – $10,000 = $2,500

The rental income of $1,300 pays down the $112,5000 mortgage loan. Joe recouped his $15,000 investment along with an additional $2,500 from the cash-out refinance.

Joe can REPEAT the process and use the $17,500 as a down payment toward a new investment property. The key to this strategy is purchasing an undervalued property and force appreciation through renovations.

1031 Exchange

A 1031 exchange is an Internal Revenue Service tax code that allows an investor to defer paying capital gains tax on their property’s sale. According to the 1031 exchange rules, an investor needs to exchange their current property with one that has a replacement value greater than or equal to its own.

Regarding house hacking, you’ll need to own the property for at least two years before you can take advantage of this tax code. For example, Nathan purchased a house hacking duplex for $150,000 and made improvements to the property over time. After a couple of years, the property value became $600,000, and the net proceeds of the sale are $500,000.

  • Original Purchase Price: $150k
  • Fair Market Value: $600k
  • Net proceeds: $500k

Nathan can keep the net proceeds. However, the government will heavily tax him. He can also scale and put it towards a more significant investment property, such as a 24-unit apartment complex or multiple short term rentals!

Besides paying capital gains tax, Nathan has also increased his ability to generate more monthly cash flow, reduce his maintenance costs, and improve tenants’ quality. He went from a real estate rookie living rent-free to becoming an experienced real estate mogul!

Common House Hacking Mistakes

Treating Investing as a Hobby

Real estate investing is a business and should be treated as one. A common mistake that new investors make is treating it as a hobby. They don’t give their investing the necessary attention required, which can lead to financial ruin.

Not Following The Law

The city can shut down your business if you ignore any rental laws, such as not following local zoning ordinances. 

Not Property Screening Tenants

Screening your tenants and doing a background check is essential! You might feel desperate to have anyone rent your property to pay the mortgage. However, unfavorable tenants could lead to damages to your property. Those damages could cost thousands of dollars in repair or even force your property into vacancy.

Not Budgeting For Repairs

Another common mistake is that new investors don’t account for potential repairs or vacancies as part of their analysis. Also, they don’t have sufficient cash reserves to pay for these potential expenses. It’s important to strive to maintain at least three months’ worth of rental income for each of property in cash reserves.


These house hacking strategies are a great introduction to anyone interested in getting into real estate. Keep in mind that the road to success is often not straightforward. Like any investment, you need to analyze your local market to make sure it’s a great deal. Do your due diligence, follow the rules, and follow your instincts. 

Good luck!

Original post published on The Female Professional and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks

Featured image credit: pixabay

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Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional in order to give women a voice, a community, and provide resources to help them overcome hurdles and achieve success.

With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands the struggles and frustrations that women face. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top.

Through this platform, Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic, selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest.