Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Not-So-Amazing Aspects of Multifamily Investing (That Single Family Homes Avoid)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties
24 Articles Written

I am a huge proponent of multifamily investing and the ability it offers its owners to achieve financial independence. I rarely show any love for single family investing, but there are several characteristics that allow SFH to stand out above multifamily homes. My previous article outlined the benefits of multifamily investing. This article will outline the negative aspects of multifamily investing and make the case that you can achieve financial independence through investing in single-family homes.

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Let me list the negatives of multifamily and detail each one:

  1. Smaller pool of buyers
  2. Dealing with tenant turnover
  3. Escalating prices
  4. Higher level of education
  5. More costly to enter
  6. Higher maintenance costs
  7. Less diversification

7 Not-So-Amazing Aspects of Multifamily Investing (That Single Family Homes Avoid)

Smaller Pool of Buyers

This first characteristic can be viewed as a positive and a negative. In the previous article, I argued that the competition in single-family homes led to an increase in prices and a reduction in profits. But selling a single-family home is much easier and quicker than selling a multifamily home. The pool of buyers is smaller in multifamily, and the barriers to entry may maintain the prices lower. When the market decides to slow down, the ability to attract fewer buyers will affect the prices in a negative way. With single-family homes, there will be owner occupants who will always need a place to live, and you can also turn to investors to sell.

Dealing With Tenant Turnover

Tenant turnover is one of the highest costs for a multifamily operator. Turnover can be minimized with excellent customer service and a superior product, but there will always be a level of turnover in apartment investing. Single-family homes do experience less turnover and usually cater to a better quality of tenant. I understand this is a generalization and oversimplification, but most people would rather enjoy the privacy and comfort of a home over living in an apartment. Living in an apartment setting can create tension among residents.

Related: 17 U.S. Markets With the Best Predicted Single Family Rental Returns for 2016

We experience a smaller turnover in our apartments due to the type of tenant we cater to. Our tenants are typically blue-collar workers who work in manufacturing and the retail sector. For the most part, many of them do not look to purchasing a home. But if the job market weakens or if home buying becomes affordable, we will undoubtedly lose more tenants.


Escalating Prices

This characteristic is prevalent in the entire real estate sector, but multifamily is currently leading the charge. We have seen the national cap rate drop to around 5.7, and money continues to rotate into the sector. What troubles me is the fact that some foreign investors are foregoing yield for capital preservation. I guess they just want to keep their money safe, which does not bode well for us value investors. Although foreign investment has slowed a bit, it continues to drive up prices.

Another troubling sign is the escalating stock market. Investors have turned to multifamily to chase returns, just as they did to single-family homes back in 2008-2011. These investors are also bidding up the prices and making it difficult for smaller operators to uncover deals.

Higher Level of Education

The prevailing thought is that multifamily investing is more complex than single-family homes. There may be some truth to that, but any successful single-family home investor has spent countless hours educating themselves on their craft. I think people can relate to buying a home, and there is a certain level of comfort. Once you mention apartment complex, the limiting beliefs begin to fly.

Multifamily investing warrants an investor to become an expert in the space, and material is far less than in single-family homes. Some of the concepts can be regarded as high level, but anyone has the ability to learn the tools. Nobody was born an expert in multifamily. You don’t have to look any farther than me, someone who has graduated from the school of hard knocks. A mixture of experience and education is needed to excel in multifamily investing. 

More Costly to Enter

The amount of capital needed to invest in multifamily investing varies, but no one can argue that you need more capital than you do to buy a single-family home. The financing is also more expensive, along with capital repairs. Fortunately, once an investor becomes savvy, who is to say that he needs any of his own capital to invest? An investor can employ owner financing, raise private money, or even seek out multiple partners to buy a property. But for new investors who do not have these skills in their toolbox, having to raise money for the down payment is a huge impediment to entering the niche.

Higher Maintenance Costs

In certain instances, tenants are required to maintain their single-family homes by performing maintenance. In multifamily, the operator is required to cut the grass, clean the breezeways, fix the laundry machines, clean the pool, etc. These operating expenses can add up and are necessary to stave off tenant turnover. The tenants in SFH usually maintain the yard and pay their own utilities. 


Related: 6 (More) Hidden Costs That Blindside Multifamily Investors

Less Diversification

When you purchase a 30-unit complex, all 30 units are located in one area. We view this as a positive, but there can be negative consequences. What happens if the path of progress decides to take a turn, and your neighborhood becomes less desirable? You are pretty much stuck with a bad situation. On the other hand, if your portfolio was diversified and you only owned a couple of homes in the neighborhood, you have just averted a catastrophe.

I hope this article has illustrated the “cons” of owning multifamily investing. My goal was to shed light upon the risks of investing in the space, while comparing the asset to single-family homes. I think it is up to each investor and their own personal goals which niche is a better investment for their own personal situation. I am still going to stay on the “dark side.” From the beginning, my goal was to create wealth, and I firmly believe that multifamily is still the best vehicle to help me reach my goal. When are you going to join me?

Any other cons you’d add to this list?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

Gino Barbaro is a father of six and the co-founder of Jake & Gino LLC, a real estate education company focused on multifamily investing. He has grown his portfolio to 674 units in three years ...
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    Alex Brookbank Investor from Cincinnati, Ohio
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Good article Gino. It’s really the “simplest” model as well. More of the responsibilities can be transferred to the tenant, and financing is easier – down payment requirements are less (20% vs 25%). No personal experience with SF investing, I’m a MF guy, but one of my buddies does it, and that’s his theory.
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Nice article Gino. Your resume is especially impressive. I cannot imagine acquiring that many units that quickly. Thanks for taking the time to write this.
    Gino Barbaro Rental Property Investor from St Augustine, FL
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Neither could I. It helps that I chose a great market and have fantastic partners
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 4 years ago
    The smaller pool of buyers is a big thing. Apartments usually aren’t as liquid as houses (although in this market, that might not be true).
    Nancy E. Rental Property Investor from Charlotte, NC
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Hello Gino, Great article! It has provided me with some insight on some of the aspects I will need to comprehend before starting my search for the ideal multi family unit. Thus far, I have only purchased single family, but my ultimate goal is to be the owner of several multi family unit. Keep reading this information has been helpful. Thanks.
    Chris Field Investor from Milford, Connecticut
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I really think the multi family market is getting frothy. I see to many people getting into it and banks are way to eager to throw money at deals. YMMV but after I finish my project this year I’m pulling out of this market for a bit. When I start to sense a gold rush mentality I get skittish.
    Gino Barbaro Rental Property Investor from St Augustine, FL
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I think the entire market is getting overbought. There are still deals out there, but you need to spend more time locating them. Just as Buffet says “When people are greedy, become wary and when people are afraid it’s time to buy.
    Chris Jackson Investor from Southold, NY
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Great article again Gino. An honest and transparent review of the negative aspects of multifamily. The positives still outweigh the negatives if you have the patience to find the right multifamily deals in the current market cycle. Well done
    Gino Barbaro Rental Property Investor from St Augustine, FL
    Replied about 4 years ago
    So you reside on the dark side with me (LOL) Thanks for the kind words Chris Gino
    Jaquetta Turner Real Estate Agent from Winston Salem, North Carolina
    Replied about 4 years ago
    s “When people are greedy, become wary and when people are afraid it’s time to buy… I definitely agree with the this statement. Thanks for the article