Interested in Learning How to Invest in Real Estate?
Interested in Learning How to Invest in Real Estate?

Tips & Tricks For Apartment Investing Like A Pro

Written by Paul Esajian
| Reviewed by Than Merrill

Investing in apartment buildings is a big commitment to make, as it is sometimes described as a career and not just an investing strategy. Investors may find that managing apartment complexes requires a deeper level of involvement than managing single-family units, both physically and financially. On the other hand, investing in apartment buildings brings about unique benefits not experienced in other niches. Keep reading to find out if owning an apartment complex is right for you, as well as tips and tricks on how to get started successfully.

[ Thinking about investing in real estate? Register to attend a FREE online real estate class and learn how to get started investing in real estate. ]

apartment investing

How To Buy An Apartment Building

Learning how to invest in apartment buildings is by no means easy to grasp, but by familiarizing yourself with the five steps below, you will make the process seem much more approachable. To get started, first make sure that entering this investing niche is absolutely the right fit for you:

  1. Make sure owning an apartment building is right for you: Whether you have already built up a portfolio or are completely new to real estate investing, making sure that investing in apartment buildings is right for you is a crucial question to explore. There are several considerations, such as cost and time. The costs of owning an apartment building include the initial capital requirement, as well as an ongoing cash flow matrix associated with managing several tenant units at a time. Second, managing an apartment building arguably requires more involvement and management, such as dealing with tenant turnover, leasing paperwork, and addressing maintenance issues. Before diving into this new endeavor, make sure both your schedule and finances are equipped to accommodate a big change.

  2. Determine the type of apartment building: One might recognize, from general life experience, that apartments come in all shapes and sizes. One building could be a rehabbed Victorian mansion that has been divided into several units, while another may be a modern multi-story building in a metropolitan area. Determining how much apartment you can afford will help narrow down your search, as well as identify what types of buildings will offer the best return on investment for your budget. Investors face a tricky trade-off between purchase price against the costs of repairs and renovation.

  3. Identify a property: Once you have determined the type of apartment complex you would like to own, the next logical step is to hunt for properties. You can choose to search for properties on your own, with the help of a professional or service, or a combination of both. One way to search for a deal autonomously is to join your local real estate investing club or association. By networking with other professionals, chances are, you will connect with a fellow investor who will know about a property for sale. On the other hand, real estate agents, especially commercial real estate agents, can prove helpful in this process. Not only do they have access to multiple listing services, they often have listings from commercial brokerages. However, note that the commission fee on commercial deals is slightly higher than those of residential deals.

  4. Mind your due diligence: Before making an offer on any property, investors should mind their due diligence and perform an in-depth analysis of the deal. For apartment purchases, factors to evaluate include the location, the number of units in the building, available amenities, and the building’s condition. These aspects will help you calculate how much rent you might be able to charge, as well as how much you will need to spend on necessary repairs and improvements. Also, the overall condition of the building can help signal how often repairs might affect your monthly cash flow. Moreover, the property’s location will point to local socio-economic factors that will affect profitability in the long run in terms of rental yield, occupancy rates, or resale value. Once you are serious about a particular property, be sure to hire an inspector, and obtain copies of leases, tax returns, and any other legal documents from the prior owner to help identify any hidden problems, if any.

  5. Make an offer, finance, and close the deal: To make an offer, the value of the apartment building can be appraised using market comparisons, potential income, as well as the replacement approach, where investors estimate how much it would cost to build a similar building. Because properties with five or more units do not qualify for government-backed loans, commercial loans typically come from traditional and private lenders. Be prepared for when lenders require interest and cash reserves and for when they favor properties with good market potential and high occupancy rates. However, the good news is that commercial lenders tend to emphasize the property’s income potential and not focus less on the investor’s personal finances and credit history.

Ways to Invest In Apartment Buildings

Like any other form of real estate investment, there are several different ways to find funding and get started. Which one you pick will depend on how involved you want to be, how much money you already have, and how much time you are willing to spend. Here are 5 of the most common ways to invest:

  1. Purchase It Yourself: This is the most hands-on strategy on this list. It requires the most capital, time, and knowledge than all of the others. However, it is also extremely rewarding to be the sole owner in charge of your building. You can make all of your own decisions and shape how you want your business to operate. This strategy is only recommended for individuals who are prepared for the financial and mental demands it requires.

  2. Partner Up: Apartment investing with a partner can be an excellent place to start for many novice investors. You can combine your respective capital and purchase a property that you couldn’t have before. Of course, this also means that you will not be your own boss all of the time. You will have to make many important decisions together, so choose your partner wisely.

  3. Syndication: Syndications collect capital from investors that want to take a passive role in real estate investing. In this case, the person running the syndication would be responsible for all of the important decisions related to the chosen apartment building. All you have to do is add your money to the pile and share in any potential profit in the long run.

  4. Real Estate Fund: Real estate funds are similar to syndications, but on a larger scale. These funds typically as for higher minimum investments and invest in multiple properties at a time. Also, you may not know where exactly your money is being used, so do your research on any particular fund before deciding to invest with them.

  5. REITs: An REIT is a company that manages real estate investments, that oftentimes include apartment buildings. When you invest with an REIT, you invest in the company itself, much like buying stock in any other company. Read our article on REITs for beginners to find out more about this investing strategy.

Factors To Think About Before Buying An Apartment Complex

Not all apartment buildings are the same, and like any other type of deal, investors should take care to work every angle and address any variables before making an offer. Here are some factors to take into consideration when performing your market and property research that will help you think like a seasoned professional:

  • Apartment classifications: In the U.S., apartments are classified on a scale from “A” to “D,” which can help investors decide what type of apartment building they’d like to own. Typically, apartments increase in class as they increase in quality, size, “newness,” and the number of amenities offered. Older buildings with fewer amenities are usually more affordable, but investors should be mindful of hidden costs such as repairs and improvements.

  • Return on investment: One of the trickiest factors associated with investing in apartment buildings is evaluating your return on investment. Investing in small apartment buildings will be more affordable than properties with more units or those offering amenities. However, due to their size, they may produce less rental income. In addition, investors should evaluate the cost of maintenance and repairs based on the building’s condition.

  • Construction details: Don’t let common construction problems surprise you when looking at apartment buildings. Old roofing, especially flat roofs, old plumbing, asbestos, and lead paint are all associated with expensive repairs. Hire a professional to inspect any building under serious consideration to make sure hidden issues will not impact your budget.

  • Preliminary numbers: Assessing preliminary numbers and financials allows investors to compare purchase deals. The rent roll, which is the total rent charged for all units multiplied by twelve, combined with occupancy rates, will provide an idea of the annual rental income. Dividing the purchase price by the number of units will help compare apartment buildings with different amounts of units and amenities. In addition, investors can estimate their net operating income by netting out expenses from the rent roll, which is then used to calculate the capitalization rate.

  • Property Management: Investors should also evaluate the opportunity cost of the time required to manage an apartment building. Because this type of investment will require a hands-on approach in terms of dealing with tenant turnover, paperwork, maintenance, and repairs, to name a few, owners will find that they will have less time to pursue other investing activities. Although hiring a property management company requires an added cost, investors should seriously weigh this option.

How Much Can You Make With Apartment Investing?

How much you can make by owning an apartment complex is a function of the property value and net operating income. For a direct question asking, “is owning an apartment building profitable,” the short answer is “it can be.” Although the initial cash outlay of purchasing an apartment is great, owners can make a profit if the rent prices exceed any required mortgage payments and expenses. Many investors will measure this profitability by calculating their capitalization rate. However, investors should not underestimate the costs of owning an apartment building; the possibility of big-ticket repair and maintenance issues, as well as unexpected vacancies, can greatly affect the bottom line.

Courtney Bishop, the owner of CarWrenching, suggests that when investing in apartments “find one with a total cost that is less than the rent you can charge. You’ll also need to hire a property manager if you don’t want to be the one who shows up with a provided space to fix a leak — and the one after who calls that person.

On the other hand, investors should consider the benefits brought about by economies of scale. Let’s say you set a goal of 10 rent checks per month. As a single-family property investor, it could take you many years to build your way up to 10 properties in your investment portfolio. You’ll also need to consider the cost, time, travel, and effort associated with maintaining and collecting rent from 10 different properties located in different areas. The initial outlay to acquire a 10-unit apartment building is considerably high, but the economies of scale achieved can be worth it in the end. You get to collect the same number of rent checks from a single location. You’d only have one utility bill, deal with less transactions, and maintain the interior and exterior of a single building. Thus, your overhead per unit will be much lower, making it easier to grow your business.

Best Cities To Invest In Apartment Buildings

The best cities to invest in apartment buildings are a culmination of several socio-economic factors such as employment rates, industry growth, population growth, and occupancy rates, to name a few. According to Shad Elia, CEO of New England Home Buyers, “a property’s location is critical if only to expedite leasing. The longer the period of vacancy, the smaller the annual return. Tenant markets that are active are frequently located in close proximity to service clusters, universities, and hospitals. Additionally, tenants desire an apartment that is close to a supermarket, public transportation, and other usual metropolitan amenities”. Below you will find a list of some of today’s top markets for owning multifamily properties:

[ Learning how to invest in real estate doesn’t have to be hard! Our online real estate investing class has everything you need to shorten the learning curve and start investing in real estate in your area. ]

apartments investments

Apartment Investing Pros And Cons

There are several pros and cons associated with owning an apartment complex, and investors should make sure to familiarize themselves with each to appreciate the commitment they are about to make fully. Some may even describe being an apartment owner like having a career in itself, so investing in apartment buildings should be approached with vigilance.

Pros Of Investing In Apartment Buildings

  • Recurring rental income

  • Creates opportunities for more creative sources of income

  • Multifamily properties with a single vacancy aren’t as much of a risk as single-family homes with a vacancy

  • Tax benefits

  • Property appreciation

  • Portfolio growth

  • Lenders tend to lend based on the asset’s potential

Some advantages to owning an income property include having access to recurring rental income from each of your units until you decide to sell. In addition, owners can find creative sources of income by adding extra amenities and services, such as extra parking spaces. Managing a property with multiple units also ensures against the risk of absolute vacancy. In the case of a single-family property, the owner must absorb all costs without any income until the property is filled. When it comes to an apartment complex, if one unit is vacated, the investor avoids losing 100 percent of the rent for the building as long as other units are filled.

When investors purchase an apartment building, they are adding multiple units to their investment portfolios through each deal. This offers an excellent opportunity for growth, as each unit adds to the total number of investments. While single-family homes are purchased one by one, an apartment building investment represents the acquisition of several assets with one transaction.

Apartment owners are also eligible for two of the most popular benefits real estate offers: tax perks and property appreciation. Over time, investors will build up equity in the apartment building due to payments and gradual property appreciation. Keep these perks in mind as you begin researching financing options. When it comes to rental properties, lenders will mainly evaluate the profitability of the building, as opposed to the investor’s personal financial and credit situation. This profitability is also used to calculate the building’s value.

Cons Of Investing In Apartment Buildings

  • Tenants tend to not take great care of rental properties

  • Investing in an entire apartment building is much more expensive than a single-family home

Owning an apartment building is not without its potential downsides. When tenants move into a single-family home, they tend to occupy the property long-term. This could be for various reasons, such as being close to local schools, workplaces, and neighborhood preference. Because of this, tenants tend to think of the property as their own and treat it well. Conversely, apartments tend to have higher turnover, with tenants who treat their units with less care. This will generally require the owner to take up more time managing tenant turnover and maintenance issues. Also, the overall cost of maintenance will often be higher than that of a single-family property.


After all is said and done, investing in apartment buildings is a vocation that brings about unique advantages for investors to enjoy. Although the process may seem daunting at first, those who are willing to stay vigilant, mind their due diligence, and put in the hard work are bound to reap the benefits of investing in multifamily complexes.

Ready to start taking advantage of the current opportunities in the real estate market?

Click the banner below to take a 90-minute online training class and get started learning how to invest in today’s real estate market!