I have developed a recent obsession with quadplex buildings as an amazing real estate tool and I want to tell people all about why I have fallen in love with them.
I have a quest to make my home less of a burden. It’s not just that I hate raking leaves, organizing the garage, and shoveling the driveway. I want to break away from the financial burden of owning a home when I want to travel.
How I’m going to do that I’m not exactly sure, but I’m eyeing the idea of buying and living in a quadplex. They seem to make for great real estate investments and the ultimate lucrative home.
We’ll be talking about:
- How quadplexes work with mortgages
- Who would want to live in a quadplex
- Why they can be more profitable (but not always)
- “Tenant diversification” isn’t the secret weapon everyone says it is
- And one bonus tip that should help you make it all work
Renting vs Owning (Do both!)
There is a debate about whether us millennials should own or just rent forever. I’m not solidly on one side or the other yet but if I only need to pay for a small fraction of my home’s costs, I’d be in financial heaven.
I didn’t invent the concept of renting out part of your house (AKA House Hacking), but I am a recent convert. What gives?
What is a quadplex?
Everyone has heard of a duplex (duplexes are great too). Well the “du” is for Duo-Plex or 2-plex – a house with 2 units. Triplex is a common term too for 3 unit houses.
Then quadplex is the awkward way to say 4-unit house which sounds like a wrestling move, yet somehow isn’t! Sometimes quadplexes are also called quads.
If you decided to rent out your basement, you’re just a regular homeowner with some side-money coming in. With a quadplex it’s the same thing, the rules are the same, except most of your house is a virtual basement. It changes the game drastically!
The real magic is that as far as the banks are concerned it’s still just a normal house which means they still give amazing financing.
A 5 and 6-plexes exists too but it doesn’t have the special features you’ll see below.
After quadplexes you tend to enter ‘commercial’ AKA ‘commercial apartment complex rental’ financial rules which are much more complicated and questionably less lucrative.
4 reasons for quadplexes
1. It’s easy to get a loan against a quadplex
The financing is simple. It’s just as if you were buying a home for yourself. If you’ve taken on a mortgage before you have already been through the same process.
No extra paperwork needed.
In fact a quadplex is the most units you can have in one building and get financing under conventional loans.
They can be FHA and VA backed too. The finance term for this is a conforming loan which means it meets government qualifying standards for government organizations to buy the loans up. Sounds irrelevant? It is except that it improves rates and terms for you which is VERY relevant.
5-plex or 6-plex. No luck there. Too many units so you are getting a commercial loan.
What’s so bad about commercial loans?
There are different types of commercial loans you can get so I will just speak generally.
The downsides are:
- Larger down payments
- Rules about cash reserves
- Non-conforming means fewer buyers for the bank to sell off your mortgage, meaning worse rates.
- Must prove real estate investing experience
- Must prove worthiness of home as a rental
- Larger origination fees
Overall, commercial loans can be great for scaling your business (no one cares about how much debt you have if the property will be profitable) but your average real estate investor can make a lot of money by leveraging their income to get a mortgage.
You have good credit and an income so use it!
2. Quadplexes qualify for huge amounts of financing
Leverage in real estate via mortgages is a great thing. So what makes quadplex buildings better as investments? Bigger mortgages.
If you have more units, the limits for conforming (government-approved loans) increase! Hell, you can get up to $1.4M on a conforming quadplex conventional mortgage without raising any flags at the bank.
Plus you can use some of your projected rental income to qualify for a larger loan than what you’d typically get based on your day job income.
Can that be dangerous? Sure, but if your house is consistently profitable the bigger the loan the better.
3. Quadplexes can be your home too
Quadplex buildings have lots of units. I need to live somewhere, so I can lessen my financial burden of living by only living in a fraction of my house (and try to make it feel big). This is the biggest benefit to me and why I’ve become so obsessed all of a sudden.
Imagine reducing your cost of living to about zero.
In the past, I thought quadplexes were odd. Why not just buy four different houses? [I realize that is a rich person question, but I’m here to make you rich too :)]
I figured it out though. This way, I can live in a better part of town. Plus my tenants are nearby to keep an eye on!
And more importantly, a quadplex doesn’t have any wasted space – all those extra nooks and crannies in normal houses get transformed into rentable units! Hurrah for efficiency!
Maybe it’s a dealbreaker for you, I get it, but it’s a huge relief for me. As far as I’m concerned, I could lock the doors to half of the rooms in my house and it wouldn’t matter much to me.
So buying a quadplex, is kind of like committing to a house with zero waste!
My real life example:
I own the cheapest home I could have bought in my part of town. If I were to rent it out, I’d get $2500/month.
However, there’s a triplex nearby and each unit rents for $1300 including utilities. If I were to live there, I’d still have all the space I need for my family of 4 and I’d cut my expenses by more than half.
ORRRR. If I owned it, I could rent out the other 2 units for 2x$1300 and basically live for free.
And if I owned a quadplex, I could do the same thing but even more extreme. So I’d get the benefits of:
- Spending less on my home
- AND living in the area I like
4 – Quadplexes can be more profitable
This is just my experience, but you can charge more rent for a house that’s broken into units than you would for just one place. It’s partly because you can buy the house in a nicer part of town, and partly because there are “virtual bottoms” in rental prices that people will adhere to.
For example, a bachelor apartment in an apartment building in my area would rent for over $1300. So if I were to rent out a unit for $1000, that’d be a steal for the tenants, right?
That said, I don’t think that they’re really that much more profitable once you factor in all the extras. BOOOOO.
I have a first hand example of this. I own a single family home and a duplex down the road from each other.
The duplex rents at $675/unit ($1350 total) and the single family home rents for $1050/month. (And I bought them both about $60K because I’m good at this stuff.)
So, yes, it seems like the duplex has a 30% higher yield, but the costs get up there too. The utilities are higher. Maintenance is wayyy higher. It adds up.
Most importantly, though, I pay for property management on those houses. And the costs for the duplex tend to be high given that they charge per unit.
To make it worse, multi-unit buildings have higher turnover rates, which is when property managers take their big cut.
The solution? Self-managing.
Read: Why managing your rental properties could be your secret weapon
I have property managers since I don’t live nearby, but they’re expensive.
But if I lived there, I could manage it myself very easily and remove most of those costs.
So yes, quadplexes are amazing – for people who plan to live there and self-manage – since you can both have a place to live and have all your living expenses covered.
Know what’s not amazing? Tenant Diversification.
Know what I don’t mention as part of this amazingness? Vacancy averaging or tenant diversification that comes with multi-unit rentals.
When I did my research, most people rave about the fact that when a tenant moves out – you only lose a fraction of your income – which levels the bumps along the way.
Sounds smart, right?
If you only had one rental property, if that tenant moves out, you lose ALL your income for who-knows-how-long. Oh no!
Except, that never happens with my single-family rentals.
I have never had a tenant leave my single family homes. As long as you have your house in a nice area and are good to your tenants they likely will just stay forever.
Disclaimer: The second house I bought did not match this, but I sold it off. It was a mistake on many levels.
So I don’t care how much vacancy averaging allegedly helps. I have 0% turnover. Multi-units have higher turnover and I guarantee it will be above 0%.
One bonus recommendation:
So you just got my 4 benefits to owning a quadplex, but wait, there’s more!
I’m going to add one more rule. From my yet to be released choosing a good house article. Don’t buy a place that rents below $1000 per unit. From experience with that duplex, lower rents cause long-term issues.
(Though, to be fair, that $675/unit duplex has been pretty good to me, I still think my life would be easier if I spent a bit extra money for a house 2x $1000/mo units).
Maybe $1000/month in a quadplex might be a little steep in some places, so I think my absolute cutoff is $850/unit. If you can’t pull that off in your neighborhood, then drop down to a triplex or even a duplex until the math works out.
Is a fourplex a good investment?
A fourplex is the best investment you could ever make most likely because:
1 – You can live in it to cover your own living expenses
2 – Most of a quadplex is rentable units
3 – Tenants are very close so you can avoid paying for property managers
4 – Fourplexes still qualify for ‘residential real estate’ rates
5 – Quadplexes actually help you qualify for a higher than normal mortgage (via rental income)
Is a quadplex considered an apartment?
A quadplex is not considered a commercial apartment building according to the Federal Housing Authority.
Buying a quadplex actually helps you to qualify for a larger non-commercial mortgage than normal via special quadplex rules and being allowed to count rental income as personal income.
One you have 5+ units though you enter apartment building rules which are different than typical personal mortgage rules.
Is a triplex considered an apartment?
Duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes are not considered commercial apartment buildings according to the FHA.
Buying a triplex even helps you to qualify for a larger standard mortgage than you typically could because of some special rules and having rental income factor into your income.
Many people still call triplexes apartments because there are multiple units in one building. It doesn’t come with any special legal obligations though.
TL;DR – Quadplex the greatest of housing inventions
- Quadplexes are awesome real-estate loophole IF you plan to live in a unit and self-manage
- Same mortgage rules as a regular house – but better
- No wasted space
Okay. So that’s my plan at the moment. Anyone have any experience with Quadplexes or renting in general? Leave me a comment!