College Graduate - To Rent or to Own

12 Replies

Hi All -

I'll do my best to keep this as brief as possible, but I would like to give a bit of a brief background before getting to my big questions. 

I am currently a senior in college, expecting to graduate with a degree in finance in May. I have held an internship with a good company for almost a year, and they offered me a full-time position early last month - so my hunt to find a place to live (in the Milwaukee, WI area) begins. I know 'most' graduating college students just limit thinking to renting/leasing a place. But, maybe due to my degree, I HATE the idea of putting money into nothing. Especially in this area, where a single apartment might cost around $900 (might as well get a mortgage and a roommate). I have recently been in contact with my banker trying to get pre-approved for a loan and things are looking good. I guess working to pay off loans and building a good credit is paying off (expecting to only put down between $10-15k and deal with PMI, initially).

I have been looking at purchasing duplex homes in my area, renting out one side, and living with a roommate in the other (yes my roommate will also pay me rent). I obviously don't want to put myself at much risk, so I am looking for places with a good price range (something that I could handle by myself without tenants). But as I mentioned, the end-goal is to live for fee while establishing a good equity right away! 

Since you are all much more educated in the topic than me, I would love to hear any advice/input you guys might have on my current situation. Am I on the right track? Should I not be making such a big investment early on? What makes a good deal? Should I expect a mortgage payoff and extra cash flow each month? What should I be taking into consideration when looking for places? What would you be doing in my situation?

Thanks everyone!


@Mitch Jorgensen considering you haven't even graduated yet, I would definitely say you're on the right track. It took me three years and $33,000 in Chicago rent to find BP and realize I had the ability to dramatically improve my financial situation. 

In July I bought a 3-bedroom and have 2 roommates who cover almost 90% of all the bills, and I wish I started a lot sooner than that. I wasn't able to live for free like you may be able to with a duplex + roommate in Milwaukee, but right now I'm paying $250/month when not long ago I was paying $1,000/month for rent. If you won't be spending all your savings on the down payment and you will be cash flow positive once it's time for you to move out, I don't see why you shouldn't start right out of school. You'll be living with roommates one way or another, so you might as well be the one collecting the rent.

With the help of my savings rate shooting up since getting roommates, I closed on my first 20% down buy and hold rental last Friday; just 7 months after closing on my first property. 

First off congrats on graduating! Hopefully college was a blast for you like it was for me.

I used to live near Milwaukee last year and still have friends who went to school and now live around there. I’m originally from WI myself.

I graduated college about 18 months ago and own 3 rentals while still renting myself. So I guess I’m encouraging a sort of hybrid model. What you described in your post is called househacking on this site. It’d s great way to go, just be sure you plan on keeping the property for a while, even if you move. Milwaukee can be a great market to own rentals as I’m sure you already know. Just beware of some of the high tax areas.

Feel free to message me if you want. Love seeing other young guys get into real estate. Once you get that first rent check it’ll change your life forever lol.


I absolutely think you are on the right track. I also have a degree in Finance as well as Management and I absolutely understand how your mind is working and thinking about your finances.

I definitely think you should consider a duplex! I'd recommend living in whatever side needs the most work and then fixing it up. You increase the value a little bit, it gives you some projects to work on, and then when a tenant moves out you have the option of moving into their unit and probably renting the fixed up unit for more.

Good luck!

Hi Mitch,  

I recently purchased a duplex and rented out two rooms on my side of the duplex and I am able to cash flow on my property in Milwaukee. It has allowed me to save quickly for the next one. One piece of advice is get FHA financing verses WHEDA. I went with WHEDA to increase the likelyhood my offer would get accepted and the lower payments, but it requires you to live in the property the whole life of the loan. I am now just planning to do the BRRRR strategy on my next property while still living in my duplex.

Good Luck

Great idea if:

- You plan on staying in that area for at least a few years.  Coming out of school, you may want to try a new job in a year or two, and selling in a short timeframe rarely works in your favor - and managing from afar is difficult.

- You have some money saved up for a rainy day.  Jobs get cut, renters leave, maintenance happens.  Make sure you have some money set aside for these potential issues so you don't get yourself in a bad spot.

It's a great idea, just make sure you're really ready for it!

@Mitch Jorgensen you are on the right track!  My advice is to DO IT!!!!!!  Was I too subtle?  

I wish someone had encouraged me to do so at your age.  Minimal risk and you are at the best point in life to take a risk.  Take it!  If you did get relocated etc., I wouldn't sell, I'd rent the whole thing and do the process over.  This is a very good way to get started in Real Estate and life!  Keep learning and do this.  I applaud you for thinking about this early on.

Good luck!


@Mitch Jorgensen Your plan is awesome and congrats on graduating in May! House hacking is an awesome way to get started in real estate, if I was starting over that is what I would do.

You are on the right track however based on all the uncertainty start out after graduation you would be wise to rent first until you are certain of your future. Blips happen and having the pressure/responsibility of ownership is not a plus. Take your time, rent is not wasted, get established before you decide to put it all on the line.

Keep in mind the majority of individuals on a forum such as this are extremely biased.  9 in 10 times will advise to go for it without concern for your risk and potential unexpected consequences that can easily be avoided by going slow.

Everyone here believes it is in principal a good idea but do not consider it is not their life, risk or money.

Hey @Mitch Jorgensen welcome to BP!  You're absolutely on the right track - house hacking can save you thousands of dollars every year in rent, allow you to build equity, benefit from appreciation, and you gain experience as a landlord without the risk of a sole investment property.

Similar to yourself, I recently graduated with a Finance degree and just bought a 3/3 duplex to house hack in Milwaukee. To give you some perspective, the PITI on the duplex is $1,275 and the other unit will rent for around $1,050. I won't be completely living for free, but having another roommate will take care of it.

One thing I would do immediately is get connected with an experienced agent and start analyzing deals every day.  When it's time to pull the trigger, you'll be confident that you're buying a good deal.  It seems we're in a pretty similar situation in life so feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions.

Hope this helps!


Hi @Mitch Jorgensen good for you, for being a critical thinker and not following the crowds! LIke Drew said, you are headed in the right direction. By the way, if you need a recommendation for an agent you could ask @Drew Markert - we have been working together for quite a while and he has grown a deep understanding of the economics surrounding a house hack.

Getting started in a professional career after school and creating a life for yourself is already a hand full. The fact that on top of that many graduates have to deal with student loans (I grew up in a country with free college education) and then become a profit source for apartment buildings does not really help with their future. 

House hacking is a complete no-brainer and will give you such an advantage over the next years compared to your peers. Financially you will not only have saved a huge amount of money on rent over let's say 5 years, but also have a good chance to build up some equity, pay down a mortgage and tax shelter some of the profits. On top of that you are acquiring business skills, learn landlording and it will change the way you look at money, our financial system and give you a completely different outlook of what you could do with your life (outside of a cubicle job).

After you are done house hacking you have three choices: a.) rinse and repeat; buy another one and start growing a portfolio. b.) rent it out and use the cashflow to help with your single family home payment. c.) sell it (duplex' are easy to sell) and use the equity to buy something else.

One way or another you will be involved with an apartment, the question is which side do you choose; will you be the hammer or the nail?

@Mitch Jorgensen I graduated with an Engineering degree and bought my first place shortly after rented out to three friends as well as myself, since most people have covered the basics, here are some extra tips/things to consider.

I believe @Mike McCarthy and @Thomas S. make good points in that there are definitely understated benefits to having the ability to move fairly quickly at our age, and moving into a SFH or Multi-Family home that does not immediately pay for itself plus enough for property management means that it will keep you from moving. If you want to hear some great reasons for NOT buying your own home, listen or re-listen to the podcasts from Grant Cardone. He is a multi-millonaire and still believes they are horrible purchases, and I think some of his arguments are at minimum important to consider, and I wish I had before moving into my place. Some include: much better amenities, ability to move fairly quickly, usually better location leading to less or even no transportation costs (another 1/3 of most Americans budgets), lower net out of pocket so you have more to invest (assuming your duplex does not pay for itself completely).

However, if you love your job, the location, and have some reserves on top of what you use to buy the house for repairs and random life events, then it can be a great option. I just completed my first year of taxes post purchase and the amount of things I get to use as write-offs are insane! If you have any other questions, feel free to PM me.

I think there are no "right" answers, but what is right for you. Many great points in different threads and it is often hard to tell at this transition time for you from college to employment, what is the right track. 

To me, it comes down to understanding the difference between an asset and a liability (yes Rich Dad, Poor Dad) and what your personal goals are. If you can buy a property that needs rehab and can use it to leverage in the near future to scale up to another property or possibly even another area if you decide to move, this may be the way to go which allows you to build wealth and yet provides you with the flexibility to move in the near future. Of course, all of this depends upon your risk tolerance.

Where you are on the right track is having a solid wealth mindset. Research, learn, set goals, and then take the final step and implement.

Congratulations on the new job, achieving the goal of graduation, and good luck in your decision-making process.

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