Feedback/Guidance for Couple Attempting to House-hack in Philly

7 Replies

Hello BP Members!

My wife and I are currently trying to start our real estate investment journey by house-hacking a property in Philadelphia, PA. Ideally, it would be a multifamily property, but we are also open to the idea of a single family residence. Since my wife's current workplace is located in 'Center City', we have been looking for houses in the 'South Philly' region; for this region provides for more affordable pricing. All-in-all, we are looking to get a house in a safe enough area for my wife to live in by herself (as I will be going away soon for military purposes), that needs no major renovations, and that can cashflow, at the very least, $200 after PITI and variable expenses (i.e. vacancy rates, capex, repairs and maintenance, and management fees). We have around $40k saved to implement on this purchase and are planning on financing the deal with ither an FHA loan or VA loan.

The reason I am writing this post is because in the attempt to find a deal that can fit this description, we have yet to be successful. All the houses that fit this description, after analyzing them through the BP rental analysis tool, always come to be cashflow negative (even after we move out of the property). This has me very frustrated and confused. I do not know if I am over-estimating variable expenses or under-estimating rent prices, or if I am doing a combination of both.

If anyone could please provide us with some feedback/guidance/thoughts, we would be very appreciative of it!

Thank you in advance for your responses!

Ricardo - If you want to post an example of one of your specific analysis the group might be able to provide some specific feedback. However, I can tell you that some areas will be difficult to cash flow no matter how you run the analysis - based on their overall price point and relative rental income sometimes certain areas just don't work. Those areas are more "owner occupant" and harder to cash flow. At a high level this is where he 1% rule can come in handy in order to eliminate areas that are going to be much difficult to cash flow. For example, if you have a house that is $500,000 in value you'll likely need $5,000 in rent (or around that amount) to have a good chance of cash flow. If the area rents are $3,000 it will be hard to cash flow. This is not an absolute ratio, but high level guidance. If you want to look further into your specific area I would focus on house values relative to rental income and see what that might indicate. Good Luck! (FYI - I'm outside Philly in the burbs)

Hey @Ricardo Suris

I love hearing that you guys are getting into house-hacking and this will be a great start for the both of you! As you may have figured out so far in your search, Philly is a block-to-block area and you need to be very particular about what you are looking for. Some properties may look good, but the neighborhood may be regressing, while on the other side of the spectrum the neighborhood could be progressing better than ever and the house may just need a lipstick renovation. 

I'd love to help you guys out more! Don't hesitate to reach out! 

Live Free, 


Originally posted by @Ricardo Suris:

Hello BP Members!

Thank you in advance for your responses!

Hi Ricardo, it might be easier if you gave some more details on what you all are looking for to help narrow down the search. $40k using a FHA loan means you could buy a $1M+ dollar property. Id be curious your price target. How many unit MFH are you looking at? What areas of South Philly are you looking in? Any reason to only look in South Philly and not the rest of the city? Then break down your assumptions so far for maintenance/capex/vacancy/etc. That way folks might be able to help a bit more.


Hey there gents!

Thank you for all your responses, and please excuse me for the late reply. I was on-the-go for most of the day yesterday, and did not wanted to engage in the forum without my undivided attention.

@Greg Kasmer , I appreciate you bringing up the 1% rule/test to the mix. After reading your post, I looked further into it and found that most of the properties we have been looking into do not pass this test. Now, in regards to your suggestion--looking into house values relative to rental income--I am a bit uncertain as to how to properly estimate the rental income of the area. For example, I am currently using the BP rental estimator along with Zillow listings and the like to gauge rents per units, and FB Marketplace and Craigslist for room rentals. But in doing so, even within the same zip code, the variability between rents is substantial. I definitely hear you, @Jonathan Dempsey , when pointing out the "block-to-block" particularity of Philly. What suggestions/tips could you provide us in this area (accurately estimating the rental income given the block-to-block essence)?

@Eric Greenberg , allow me to correct myself. We do have $40k saved, but are not intending to lay it all down on the down payment and closing costs. That said, the idea is to spend up to $25K on the aforementioned, and keep the rest for reserves. Don't know if you can already tell, but I am a very risk adverse individual haha. We were pre-approved for $400k (VA and FHA wise). So this would be the maximum price range. The pre-approval is for a 2-unit MFH (and could be more for a 3 and 4-unit one, but can't tell by how much). The zip codes of the South Philly areas we are looking into are 19148 & 19145. The reason we have been looking into the South Philly region is based on perceived safety, proximity to work location, and affordability. And, as for the variable costs, I am literally using the lowest percentages provided as guidelines in the BP calculators (3% vacancy, 5% repairs & maintenance, 5% cap rate, and 7% management fees).

Again, sorry for the late reply, and thank you so much for the valuable inputs you have already provided us with!

We have Philly investor Zooms every third WED of the month from 7-9 PM EST. You will find it in the events under Zen and the Art of Real Estate Investing - Philadelphia. In the past 18 months, investors in the group have closed about 30 deals, many of them house hacks. You can reach out to @Daniel Klein or @Brandon McNulty or @Anthony Zayas , just to name a few who house hack in Philly.