The Complete Guide to Financing an Investment Property

There are many reasons and ways to invest in real estate. It can be a hedge against market volatility when stocks tumble, and there are many perks associated with owning an investment property.

Whether you are buying and holding land for future development, flipping a property, purchasing a property for an elderly relative to live in and enjoying the appreciation when it sells, or creating a passive income stream by renting the property, purchasing an investment property is a great way to diversify your portfolio. Unlike investing in the stock market, which can be done for very little money, investing in real estate has a generally high start-up cost. Once you have decided that investing in real estate is right for you, done your research, and found a good deal, you need to consider how to secure financing for your investment property.

Four types of loans you can use for investment property are conventional bank loans, hard money loans, private money loans, and home equity loans.

Investment property financing can take several forms, and there are specific criteria that borrowers need to be able to meet. Choosing the wrong kind of loan can impact the success of your investment, so it’s vital to understand the requirements of each kind of loan and how the various alternatives work before approaching a lender.

Key Takeaways

  • There are a few ways to finance investment properties, including using the equity in your personal home.
  • If you don’t have the cash to fund a down payment yourself, it may be possible to use gifted funds, but the gifts of cash must be documented.
  • Buying properties and renovating them to resell for a profit is called flipping in real estate jargon.
  • Hard money loans act as short-term financing, and most often have a shorter payback period than a conventional mortgage.
  • Banks do not offer hard money loans, only conventional mortgages.

Option 1: Conventional Bank Loans

If you already own a home that’s your primary residence, you’re probably familiar with conventional financing. A conventional mortgage conforms to guidelines set by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and unlike a Federal Home Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, it’s not backed by the federal government.

With conventional financing, the typical expectation for a down payment is 20% of the home’s purchase price. With an investment property, however, the lender may require 30% of funds as a down payment.

With a conventional loan, your personal credit score and credit history determine both your ability to get approved and what kind of interest rate applies to the mortgage. Lenders also review borrowers’ income and assets. And obviously, borrowers must be able to show that they can afford their existing mortgage and the monthly loan payments on an investment property.

Future rental income isn’t factored into the debt-to-income (DTI) calculations, and most lenders expect borrowers to have at least six months of cash set aside to cover both mortgage obligations.

Option 2: Hard Money Loans

A hard money loan is a short-term loan that is most suited to flipping an investment property as opposed to buying and holding it, renting it out, or developing on it.

While it is possible to use a hard money loan to purchase a property and then immediately pay off the hard money loan with a conventional loan, private money loan, or home equity loan, starting out with one of the other options is more convenient and cost effective if you are not intending to flip your property.

The upside of using a hard money loan to finance a house flip is that it may be easier to qualify for compared to a conventional loan. While lenders still consider things like credit and income, the primary focus is on the property’s profitability.

The home’s estimated after-repair value (ARV) is used to gauge whether you’ll be able to repay the loan. It’s also possible to get loan funding in a matter of days, rather than waiting weeks or months for a conventional mortgage closing.

The biggest drawback of using a fix-and-flip hard money loan is that it won’t come cheap. Interest rates for this kind of loan can go as high as 18%, depending on the lender, and your time frame for paying it back may be short. It is not uncommon for hard money loans to have terms lasting less than a year. Origination fees and closing costs may also be higher compared to conventional financing, which could chip away at returns.

Option 3: Private Money Loans

Private money loans are loans from one individual to another. The source of most private money loans are usually from the friends and family of an investor. If you do not have friends or family in a position to loan money to you for an investment property purchase, a great place to start looking for private money lenders is by going to local real estate investment networking events. The popular real estate investment podcast BiggerPockets keeps a directory of local real estate investment clubs that you can join for networking.

Actual loan terms and interest rates on private money loans can vary significantly, from extremely favorable to predatory, depending on the relationship between the borrower and the lender. These loans are typically secured by some sort of legal contract that allows the lender to foreclose on the property if you default on payments. If you are new to real estate investing, consider carefully how your relationship with the person lending you private money may sour if you default before you sign an agreement with a loved one.

Option 4: Tapping Home Equity

Drawing on your home equity, through a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or cash-out refinance, is a fourth way to secure an investment property. In most cases, it’s possible to borrow up to 80% of the home’s equity value to use toward the purchase, rehabilitation, and repair of an investment property.

Using equity to finance a real estate investment has its pros and cons, depending on which type of loan you choose. With a HELOC, for instance, you can borrow against the equity the same as you would with a credit card, and the monthly payments are often interest-only. The rate is usually variable, however, which means it can increase if the prime rate changes.

A cash-out refinance would come with a fixed rate, but it may extend the life of your existing mortgage. A longer loan term could mean paying more in interest for the primary residence. That would have to be weighed against the anticipated returns that an investment property would bring in.

What is required to be approved for investment property financing?

Each lender and type of financing will have varying requirements. Private lenders may simply require a relationship with the borrower. Hard money lenders may only require a hot real estate market and a good estimated after-repair value (ARV). Home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), and conventional loan lenders will have the strictest requirements on income and credit scores.

Is a home equity loan or a HELOC better for investment property financing?

Home equity loans and HELOCs are very similar products with important differences. If you intend on buying a single property and need an exact dollar amount for purchase, repairs, and rehab, then a home equity loan is a good choice. If you plan on buying and selling multiple properties in quick succession, then a HELOC is more convenient because you will have revolving access to cash as you draw from and pay down your credit line with each purchase and sale, as opposed to taking out and paying off multiple home equity loans.

The Bottom Line

Investing in a rental property or tackling a house-flipping project are risky ventures, but they offer the potential for a big payoff. Finding the money to take advantage of an investment opportunity doesn’t have to be an obstacle if you know where to look. As you compare different borrowing options, keep in mind the short- and long-term costs and how each one can affect the investment’s bottom line.

Article Sources

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  1. Rocket Mortgage. “Buying an Investment Property: 3 Signs You’re Ready and What You Need to Know.” Accessed Dec. 3, 2021.

  2. BiggerPockets. “Directory of Real Estate Investment Clubs.” Accessed Dec. 3, 2021.