Buy Condos and Multi-Family Properties

  • Real estate investor and consultant Zeona McIntyre says that investors overlook condos.
  • While some investors may see HOA fees as a turn-off, she doesn’t mind them.
  • If she’s not investing in a condo, she prefers multi-family properties over single-family homes.

Before Zeona McIntyre, 37, had the funds to buy her first property, she rented the extra room of her apartment on Airbnb to make some extra cash. That was in 2012 in Boulder, Colorado.

She borrowed $4,000 to acquire a second apartment in Boulder, started renting the individual rooms in each apartment, and lived in whatever room was vacant on any given day.

“I spent about two years living out of a suitcase just bopping around,” she told Insider. But it paid off: Her Airbnb income helped her save up to buy a one-bed, one-bath condo in 2014, which is ultimately what catapulted her to financial independence.

“I started very small,” said McIntyre, who now owns 12 units across nine properties, according to settlement statements viewed by Insider, and has written a book on her latest real-estate strategy that involves mid-term rentals.

While a condo — which is different from a single-family home, in that you own the home itself but not the land it sits on — was all she could afford at the time, she still believes this type of property is a smart investment. 

“Investors often overlook condos. A lot of people immediately say, ‘Oh, I don’t want an HOA to tell me what I can and can’t do,'” she said. 

When you buy a condo, you’re buying into a homeowner’s association (HOA), which is a private organization that maintains the quality of a neighborhood — and you’ll own HOA fees each month.

For McIntyre, the condo fees aren’t necessarily a turn-off. 

In her experience, the fees are worth it, she said: “There are certain condos where a lot of the utilities are shared. So in my particular condos that I buy, the units don’t have furnaces because there’s a communal set-up and there’s no water heater because they’ve got a boiler for the heat and the water. I also buy buildings that don’t have a washer and dryer in the unit. Instead, they have a communal one in the building. My HOA fee is going towards all of these utilities.”

That can simplify your monthly bills and eliminate headaches. 

“It makes the possibility of anything breaking in my units almost zero because the only things I have are kitchen appliances,” she said.

McIntyre doesn’t mind that condos are underrated. It means less competition, she noted: “A lot of people don’t like condos so they’re a little easier to get. That’s my secret sauce.”

Another way McIntyre reduces headaches, costs, and general upkeep is by investing in multi-family properties. These are single buildings that are divided to house more than one family living separately, and range from duplexes to triplexes to fourplexes. (Buildings with four or more units are typically considered commercial real estate properties.)

Consider the maintenance required for a single-family home, she said: “You have just one property but you’re paying for everything: You have to deal with the landscaping, the roof, the lawn. It’s a lot.”

Multi-family properties, on the other hand, offer economies of scale. If the roof goes out on your triplex, you only have to replace one; if the roof goes out on three single-family homes, that’s three roofs you have to replace.

If she’s not purchasing a condo, where the maintenance and utilities are covered, McIntyre prefers to have two to four units. “That’s the better way to go,” she said.

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