Two Ways to Force Appreciation with Turnkey Rental Properties

by | BiggerPockets.com

How many times have you heard that forcing appreciation is the key to being profitable with real estate investing? And how many times have you heard there’s no way to force appreciation with turnkey rental properties?

Surprise! There are two ways to force appreciation with turnkey rental properties.

But first, let me make sure we are all still on the same page with terminology here. I don’t want to leave out anyone who is newer to the real estate game and may not know what I’m talking about.

  • Forcing appreciation. This, for example, is what flipping a property does. You buy a cheap distressed property, you rehab it, and suddenly the value of the property is higher than the cost of the property and the rehab combined. It’s like magic money! So maybe you buy a property for $50,000 and then you put $50,000 into rehabbing it, and all of a sudden it’s worth $130,000 instead of just the $100,000 you put into it. So you are forcing appreciation by going in and doing that rehab. This is also the premise behind the BRRRR (buy-rehab-rent-refinance-repeat) method you might have read a lot about. You are going into a property and increasing its value by rehabbing it and renting it out. You are forcing it to be worth more.
  • Turnkey rental properties. Technically this means that a property is in rent-ready condition when you buy it, and in more in-depth levels of turnkey, it may mean there are already paying tenants living in the property. The idea is that all you have to do is “turn the key” [in the door]and boom, that’s it. It may be spelled “turn-key” on occasion. So while the term turnkey really actually only applies to the condition and status of a property, meaning it could be any property, quite often if you hear people talking about buying turnkey properties, they are talking about buying the property from an actual turnkey provider. A turnkey provider, in this context, is a company who produces turnkey properties in bulk and sells them to investors. Buying from a turnkey provider would be a different experience than just finding an individual property on your own that could be appropriately labeled. Neither is better than the other necessarily, they are just different and I only specify the two so you have a clear picture of turnkey options. Usually, if I refer to turnkey properties, I am referring to properties sold by turnkey providers, but it really doesn’t matter which I’m talking about as ideas expressed in this article are the same for either.

Now that we have our terminology defined, let’s get back to this claim that you can’t force appreciation with turnkeys.

Oh, one more clarification about the turnkeys and why people make this claim. Most often, turnkeys are sold close to market value. It makes sense, of course, because the property isn’t distressed in any way so there wouldn’t really be a reason to discount the property. If they are sold at market value, you’d be hard-pressed to suddenly value the property any higher when the market won’t support it (i.e. you can’t just charge someone any amount you want for a property, you have to base it off the market value).  Even if you could somehow get away with valuing the property at a higher value, what would you do to create that higher value? A turnkey property is already freshly rehabbed or renovated and tenanted.

So it makes sense that people want to claim you can’t force appreciation on a turnkey rental property because, how could you?

Fortunately, the reality about turnkeys is that they aren’t completely hopeless for forcing appreciation. You don’t do it in exactly the same way you would with a distressed property, and one of the methods isn’t always an option, but there are options.

Hang onto your seat, you’re about to take a ride on the appreciation train!

Related: Yes, Turnkey Rentals CAN Be a Solid Investment Choice: Here Are the Numbers to Prove It

2 Ways to Force Appreciation on Turnkey Rental Properties

There are two ways which you can try for appreciation with your turnkey. While they are two totally different options, one thing they have in common is that you must decide before you buy a property that you are going to do one or both of these things. You may be able to do both of the options together, you may only be able to do one of the options, or you may be able to do neither of them.

I’ll explain each method as well as the criteria for when you can do each one.

Option 1: BRRRR your turnkey

Wait, what? Oh yes, you heard me. BRRRR your turnkey.

A couple years ago I wrote an article that explained two different kinds of turnkey rental properties. You can check out the article at What Are The Different Kinds of Turnkey Properties? BRRRR-ing your turnkey is what I call in the article “option 2”. At the time I wrote the article, I admit I was a bit more pessimistic about this approach to buying turnkeys due to the risk involved, but after working successfully over the last year or so with a turnkey provider who offers this approach, I have gained some confidence with the idea.

I’m going to trust that you’ll read that article to get a full handle on the in’s and out’s of this model, mostly so I don’t have to write it all out again. But in short, you are following the BRRRR exactly as you would if you were doing it all yourself, but the turnkey provider is doing all of the work for you.

Normally if you are buying a turnkey, the turnkey provider uses his own funds to buy the distressed property, rehab the property, place the tenants, and get it ready to sell to you. Once you verify everything is in place and functioning as advertised, you buy the property and start collecting your cash flow. The nicest part about this model—the normal turnkey model—is there is significantly less risk to you in it because you aren’t putting any money down until you have verified everything. That’s huge! That means all the risk is on the turnkey provider because he is using his own funds to buy the property, rehab it, and tenant it. All of those things are arguably some of the riskiest parts about an investment property. The property could prove to be total bunk for any one of a million reasons, the rehab could end up significantly more costly than budgeted for, and maybe they can’t get tenants in at the rental amount they intended so no investor will want to buy it.

The problem with this model is that once you buy it, the money you put into it is just in there. There’s no sudden forced appreciation, you can’t really pull any of that money back out, and now it’s just a waiting game for cash flow. That’s not a bad thing, but it can pose challenges to people who are wanting to increase their portfolio size with more properties but they only have so many “20% downs” to keep putting down on properties.

The BRRRR version of turnkeys is another story because, if it works right, you can oftentimes pull most of your money back out of the property fairly quickly! The downside is that it’s your money at risk while the property is being made up to turnkey status, not the provider’s. Meaning, if any of the aforementioned things happen, it’s your money on the line and not theirs. Because of this, it’s a much riskier model than a standard turnkey. But in return (ha, pun), you may be able to get most of your money back out and use that money to do it all again, all still while maintaining the cash-flowing property that now has forced equity in it. This is a much easier way to snowball your purchases and increase your portfolio much faster.

BRRRR-strategy-deal

So what would happen is—you connect with the turnkey provider who is going to do this for you. He shows you the available inventory and tells you what the total cost is going to be. This will include the distressed property cost and the rehab cost. You fork over that amount to buy the property and fund the rehab. The rehab typically takes 4-6 months or so and the turnkey provider is the one doing all of the work. You are hands-off. When the rehab is completed, they place a tenant in the property who begins to pay rent. Once that is all in place, you go to your lender and tell them you would like to do a cash-out refinance on your property. When they assess the property, they will include the fresh rehab and the income-paying tenant. That will maximize the value of the property, and they will base the loan amount off of this value.

Related: The Definitive Guide to Finding Investor-Friendly Lenders

Assuming all of this works as planned, you now have a high-cash flowing property, with 20-25% equity in it, and most of your cash back in your hand. Now, rinse and repeat and do it again. In addition to building your cash flow and equity that way, you are also now increasing your tax benefits with each property you buy.

I know it may sound confusing if you aren’t familiar with this concept, but feel free to reach out or write any questions you have in the comments section and I’ll answer them as best I can.

A major disclaimer on using the BRRRR+turnkey method to force appreciation—as I said, it’s your money at risk doing this! In no way do I advocate working with just any company offering to do this for you. There’s a lot to lose if done wrong, and it will be your money lost. The turnkey provider I work with on this style of turnkey, in attempt to mitigate the levels of risk, offers multiple guarantees—appraisal guarantee, fixed cost guarantee, and a rental guarantee. Those eliminate the risk of any of those major items taking out all of your money. So be extremely cautious of who you are working with and only work with the providers that have a proven track record with this style of turnkey.

Option 2: Buy in an appreciating market

This is the one that isn’t always going to be an option. How much a market may be able to experience appreciation is very dependent on the general real estate economy at the time.

For example, right now we are midway through 2017 and prices everywhere are extremely high. There are no markets right now that are expected to see major appreciation. Whereas in 2011, when I started buying turnkeys, there were a handful of markets expecting massive appreciation. At the time, the real estate economy was just coming out of a major crash so there was a lot of room for prices to increase. Atlanta, at the time, was one of the markets that was expecting higher appreciation than just about anywhere. Or, at least anywhere that was also cash-flowing. I bought my turnkey properties right then, knowing it was about to boom, and every one of them ended up more than doubling in value.

Dallas was another big city that this happened to. The time to buy in Dallas was much shorter than in Atlanta…only about a year, two years max…but sure enough, the market boomed all of a sudden and everyone who had bought experienced significant appreciation fairly quickly. Even the turnkeys! I remember just a couple years after buying ~$100k turnkeys there around this time, those properties experienced about $40,000 in appreciation within a couple of years.

So, people can say what they want about not being able to force appreciation on turnkeys, but I can speak from personal experience of having all of my turnkeys double in value that the market can play a big role in accomplishing some fantastic appreciation!

I will say, however, $40,000 in appreciation or doubling a property’s value is not the norm. There is a lot of strategy in that in terms of when and where you buy. I do know that if you are one of those people who waits until a market is ‘proven’, it’s too late. If you are trying to buy in Atlanta now, any appreciation potential is very minimal because we are post-boom. So, sorry, you’re too late. Same for Dallas. Same for Phoenix from way back in the day—anyone remember when there were turnkeys in Phoenix?? I bet most of you don’t. On the flip side, you also have to be careful about assuming a market will boom. For instance, Detroit and Cleveland have been projected to boom now for a lot of years and it still hasn’t happened. There are variables you need to understand about market fundamentals to know how to hit the markets right, but if you are on top of those, the market can absolutely help you with appreciation on your turnkey.

Again though, right now for instance there aren’t really options for doing this because of where we are in the current real estate economy. There are a couple options, but nothing to the levels Atlanta or Dallas hit. So don’t hold onto unrealistic expectations.

Be smart on when and where you buy, and take it from someone whose turnkey properties all doubled in value—the market can help you with appreciation!

Related: How to Determine Residential and Commercial Property Values (and Why It Matters!)

Keep in mind, the point in investing in turnkeys is not appreciation. Turnkey’s focus is always cash flow, and cash flow should be the only main variable that you rely on. Appreciation should always be considered a bonus and never part of the final assessment that makes you decide whether to pursue a turnkey property or not. Investing for appreciation is speculation, and that’s not a strategy I’m a huge fan of for real estate investing. Personal preference!

There are risks involved anytime you are banking on appreciation, so in both of these cases—BRRRRing your turnkey and buying at certain times in particular markets—be sure that you are as educated as possible and understand exactly why you are making the decisions you are making!

Anyone else have good turnkey appreciation stories? Any other turnkey investors in Atlanta or Dallas during 2011–2013 who experienced insane appreciation like I did?

About Author

Ali Boone

Ali Boone(G+) left her corporate job as an Aeronautical Engineer to work full-time in Real Estate Investing. She began as an investor in 2011 and managed to buy 5 properties in her first 18 months using only creative financing methods. Her focus is on rental properties, specifically turnkey rental properties, and has also invested out of the country in Nicaragua.

23 Comments

  1. Chris Soignier

    Interesting concept about financing your turnkey rehab to restore it to market value.

    With all due respect, however, buying in an appreciating market is not forcing appreciation. You’re passively riding the wave of the market, w/ no control, whether the market goes up or down. That’s like saying you forced appreciation in Tesla stock by buying at the right time!

  2. Nate Reed

    The term “forced appreciation” is misused quite a bit on Bigger Pockets.

    You cannot force appreciation in single family homes, since their value is based on comparative market analysis.

    The term comes from multi-family, where increasing NOI directly increases the value of the property due to the way that commercial buildings (5 units or more) are appraised (NOI / cap rate). Adding to NOI — by doing things that increase rents or decrease expenses — literally *forces* the value higher.

  3. Erik Whiting

    I do not understand the “forced appreciation” using turn keys that this article discusses.

    The BRRR scenario laid out is no different than if I bought the property and rehabbed it myself except the turn key provider is managing the rehab and using his own subs vs. me playing the role of project manager. Also…what about the turn key provider’s profit margin? If I’m putting up the purchase AND the rehab price, don’t I also have to pay the turn key provider their profit margin. That is going to consume the bulk of the 20-25% equity spread. Normally, a turn key provider would pocket that spread for himself because, as you say in this article, turn key providers normally sell very close to market value. All you’ve really added to the equation is you are floating him the money vs. him using his own money, and quite frankly he’d be making a mistake to do this at a cost of 20-25% profit spread when even hard money only costs around 10-12% typically.

    I agree with CHRIS SOIGNIER too. Buying in an appreciating market isn’t rocket science nor novel nor new. It’s what every real estate investor tries to do. Newbies often try to find pristine, freshly built or rehabbed properties with paying tenants and ride the wave up, assuming the rents will cover their loans. 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t work. There’s nothing really to say about this except it’s a reiteration of “buy low, sell high.”

    I want to believe this article truly has some insights I haven’t considered, but either I totally missed the point or the point simply isn’t there. As always, I’m happy to have my understanding corrected.

    • Ali Boone

      You’re not completely off-base Erik, but I can correct a couple things…. 3 main points you make:

      – The model is the same as BRRRR, and is just that someone else is doing the work. The reason it’s grouped as a version of “turnkey” is most of the same advantages to doing turnkey are applied here- mostly that you don’t have to do the work yourself. That specifically is the major point in focus.

      – The turnkey provider’s cut is grouped into the original amount paid for the property/rehab, so there is nothing additional paid on the part of the buyer so the margin isn’t cut more than is already known.

      – You’re right, the market part isn’t new or rocket science, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t grasp it. Hence all of the people buying from turnkey providers in declining markets currently. And when there is a major market opportunity for appreciation, like there was in Atlanta when I bought there, people don’t jump on it because they don’t realize how it works. You and I understand it, but a lot of readers don’t.

      It sounds like you are much more on the advanced scale of investing. This article is a little more focused on less advanced, hence the general concepts. I know it’s harder as an advanced investors to realize what other people don’t know.

  4. Sonia Spangenberg

    Nate, I disagree with your statement “You cannot force appreciation in single family homes, since their value is based on comparative market analysis.” If a SF property is in a deteriorated/dated state, it’s market value is lower. You must admit you would not pay a market comparable rate for a deteriorated property and neither would most market buyers. I just doesn’t make sense. Hence there is room for improvement and appreciation. Your statement is too general to be true.

    • Nate Reed

      Sonia, perhaps I’m splitting hairs, as it seems there is no generally accepted nomenclature for the profit sources in RE.

      My mentors taught me the example you described is “equity capture”. You’re bringing a deficient property up to market value. They explained that “forced appreciation” is only available to multi-family investors, who have 6 ways to make money vs. only 5 in single family:

      1) Equity capture – buying below market, often a distressed property and bringing it back to good condition by rehabbing it. Since you can get it at a discount, you can acquire well below market and capture the delta between the all-in costs (including repairs) and the market value.
      2) Appreciation – This refers to a market-wide increase in prices for SFH’s or a decrease in cap rates in multi-family. It comes from the market, hence you have no control over it.
      3) Depreciation
      4) Amortization (note paydown)
      5) Cash flow
      6) Forced appreciation: Only available to MF investors who increase NOI.

      I’m just going to start saying I “super-sized” my properties and see if anyone has a problem with that.

  5. Chris Soignier

    Sonia, I’m w/ Nate, and was tempted to mention that as well in my first post, but passed since it’s mostly a matter of semantics. When you buy and rehab a distressed home, my perspective is to look at it as restoring it to its non-distressed value vs. forcing appreciation.

  6. John Murray

    I have done BRRRR for about 2 years and make about $250K per year. You have to do it a booming market where the local building skill level is low. The investor must be highly skilled in building trades to make the money I have made. If you are not that skilled you will not make as much as you can with this method. Turn keys are not very good candidates for the BRRRR method. The best candidates are the worst house in the best neighborhood possible. You must purchase at a 20-30% discount rehab in 60-90 days and refinance within 18 months. Watch the IRS tracing rules, do all your own work, treat tenants fairly and you will be wealthy someday. If you think you can do this remotely behind a desk you are very wrong and you will fail.

    • Ali Boone

      Valid, John. But a little hasty in terms of what is available to everyone. Not everyone has the time, skill, or ability to do it as well as you do. So a lot of people, me included, just have to do it the best they can. Certainly, if they do it themselves on the worst property in the best neighborhood, returns will be maximized. The turnkeys may not offer that high of ability, but it can offer plenty of it and enough to be plenty acceptable for those lacking the time, skill or ability to follow in your footsteps.

      Different strokes for different folks!

  7. Christopher Smith

    My last rental property acquisition was a turn key (really all of mine are turn key for that matter). I got it last year in the Jun-Jul time frame in a really nice little suburb (Springboro) between Dayton and Cincinnati. Had to go out of state because where I live (Bay Area), prices have gone totally out of sight which has been truly great for what I acquired in the 2010 to 2012 time frame, but now is a total non starter for any new acquisitions.

    In any event, my 2016 Springboro acquisition was an example of how to pick a pristine turn key property and achieve some rapid substantial appreciation. In this case I managed to find a top shelf property in a top shelf neighborhood where an original buyer backed out at the last minute, and the couple selling the property was just finishing up a new home (in the very same development) so they were on the verge of being on the hook for two fairly large mortgages,

    I was very fortunate in that I had the cash and the ability to close immediately and so acquired for 185K their property that had been listed for 205k. It now Zillows one year later for 240k, and its been rented for another 15k in net rent over this last year. Again as I noted earlier this was a pristine turn key property ready for tenant habitation literally on day 1.

    So that was 20k in below market appreciation on acquisition day, another 35k in first year post acquisition appreciation and another 15k in net rent during that period. My only regret was not getting another because I fear there is no chance now given the huge run up in price there in the last year. Running out of markets :(.

    • Ali Boone

      That’s awesome Christopher! Congrats on that property. And great insight into how appreciation on turnkey-level properties can happen….especially for turnkey properties bought outside of turnkey providers so there’s room to profit on the buy. Just like you did. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Marin Rodriguez

    Chris Smith…I don’t think that we will ever fully run out of markets. They will just shift as they always do. Eventually places like Detroit WILL come back and it will be the next darling for investors. ONLY the brave dare go there now, but they will be well placed…eventually.

    • Christopher Smith

      Detroit is a little outside my comfort zone and professional expertise. But I’m sure for those who know how to play that market it could pay off big. As Sun Tzu says if you know yourself and your opponent you will never be defeated, unfortunately I know little to nothing about Detroit. 🙂

  9. Marin Rodriguez

    Alternative to fronting money to a turnkey provider for an eventual cash flowing property, is acting as a private lender. Many turnkey providers use private money themselves to finance their acquisitions and subsequent rehabs. If you have the cash to pay for the acquisition AND the rehab, just be the lender at 10%. Yes, its a short term loan and gain, but once you have your money back PLUS interest, rinse and repeat.

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