Multifamily vs Single Family Homes: Evaluating the Best Investment Opportunities

For my 40th birthday last year, I found myself craving an adventure that challenged me physically but also provided stunning scenery, delicious food, and the opportunity to make new friends.

You see, I’m a mountain runner (some say “ultrarunner” but I’m not quite ready to own that title yet.) Rather than cobbling together the logistics for an epic mountain escapade, I opted for a “run-cation” package. For three days, I surrendered to the allure of big mountain adventure runs in the epic North Cascades of Washington state, where all my needs – from food and lodging to expert guiding – were seamlessly taken care of.

It was a dreamy experience, reminding me that sometimes, the most fulfilling paths require less legwork. (Or at least the kind of “leg work” I’d rather not have to do.)

My path in real estate investing has shown a strong parallel here. We often believe that maximum returns necessitate endless sweat equity, akin to the exhaustive preparation for a wilderness expedition. However, just as my “run-cation” delivered immense joy with minimal effort, there’s a similar distinction between single-family vs multifamily investing. While single family investing demands considerable hands-on involvement and hard work, multifamily investing offers a smoother, more passive path to financial success.

Let’s dive into what real estate investors can actually expect when they look to grow their real estate portfolio with either single family homes as rentals or the illustrious multifamily property.

Are you considering the pros and cons of the financial potential of multifamily vs single family homes for your investment portfolio? Each investment type offers distinct advantages and challenges, from rental income streams to property management. This guide cuts through the complexities to help inform your choice, balancing profitability with personal investment style without getting into the weeds of real estate jargon.

Key Takeaways

  • Single-family homes can be easier to manage but offer limited cash flow and depend on local market trends, while multifamily property investments offer diversified income streams, economies of scale, and can be more resilient during downturns.
  • Transitioning from single-family to multifamily investments involves scaling up, thorough market research, leveraging networks, and strategic use of financing like ‘stacking’ or entering syndications through residential real estate.
  • Financing for real estate investments varies by property size and type, with residential loans for smaller properties and commercial loans for larger multifamily investments, each offering different benefits, tax advantages and requirements.

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Multifamily vs Single Family: Key Differences

Comparison between multifamily and single family properties

In the realm of real estate investing, there’s a constant debate between the pros and cons of single-family and multifamily properties. These two investment options offer divergent paths, each with its own unique set of characteristics. Let’s delve into the key differences in:

  • Property types
  • Ownership structures
  • Management responsibilities
  • Investment returns.

Property Types

Firstly, examining property types is important. A single-family home is exactly what it sounds like – a freestanding residential unit designed for one family. On the other hand, a multi family home, which is a type of multifamily property, is a residential dwelling consisting of more than one living unit. These come in a variety of sizes, from duplexes and triplexes to large apartment communities with hundreds to thousands of apartments.

Moreover, some multifamily properties incorporate both residential real estate and commercial uses in multifamily buildings. This might include designated spaces for shops, offices, or other commercial enterprises alongside living units. This diversity in property types offers a range of investment opportunities, from smaller, more manageable properties to larger, more complex investments.

Multifamily vs Single-Family Home Ownership Structure

Ownership structures in real estate can vary widely. Single-family homes typically have individual property owner, with one owner per property. In contrast, multifamily properties can be owned by a single landlord or a group of owners. The market for single family real estate differs from that of multifamily properties, as they cater to different types of buyers and investors.

It’s also possible for investors to come together in a syndication to purchase a larger multifamily property, sharing in the profits without the burden of property management or landlord ownership. These are passive real estate investments and are open to both accredited and nonaccredited investors.

Property Management Responsibilities

Managing a property can be straightforward or complex, depending on the type of investment. If investors are choosing to self-manage, single-family homes generally seem easier to manage due to:

  • Dealing with a single tenant’s occupancy
  • Simpler rent collection
  • Fewer maintenance issues
  • Renters also tend to stay longer in single-family homes, reducing turnover and associated costs.

However, in order to build wealth, investors find that they must purchase multiple single family homes, which increases the workload and complexity with property management.

On the flip side, multifamily properties typically demand more frequent maintenance and repair work. This may involve managing relationships with multiple tenants, addressing repairs promptly, and ensuring compliance with local regulations. However, this type of investment often allows for economies of scale; as the number of units increases, the cost per unit typically decreases. Additionally, most multifamily property owners, leverage property managers who are located on site. These owners or operators may also hire an asset manager to better manage operations on different multifamily property sites.

Investment Returns

When we talk about investment returns, there is great variability between individual properties. Generally, investors can see great returns with either single-family properties, which have a proven track record of appreciating at a fast rate, or multifamily properties, which show consistent demand and increased value.

It is worth noting that, the value of your single-family property is influenced by the value of similar homes in your neighborhood (called “comparatives” or “comps”), meaning a downturn in the local real estate market could negatively impact your investment, which is out of your control.

Conversely, multifamily properties are valued based on their Net Operating Income (NOI), much like a business is valued. If income increases (due to offering a newly renovated apartment at a higher rate, for instance), then the value of the property increases no matter what is happening in the neighborhood. In this way, landlords have slightly more control over increasing the value of their investment.

Multifamily properties also offer several advantages that impact returns:

  • Diversified rental income streams
  • Potential to increase income by adding streams of income or reducing operational costs
  • More resilient during market instabilities, performing well even during inflationary periods

These factors contribute to the increased value of multifamily properties.

Finally, different operators, or syndicators, may have very different track records for the types of returns they are able to deliver to investors. It is important to dive into a team’s track record to see how their previous deals have gone and whether they’ve been able to delivered on their projections.

Related Article: How To Grow From Single-Family Landlord To Multifamily Millionaire

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Pros and Cons of Investing in Single Family Homes

Advantages and disadvantages of single family investments

Investing in single-family homes comes with its own set of pros and cons. On the bright side, these properties are generally less expensive to acquire and easier for investors to evaluate. However, they also come with their own set of drawbacks, such as limited cash flow and higher maintenance costs.

Let’s explore further.

Pros of Single Family Investments

Single-family homes have a lower entry cost, making them an attractive option for beginner investors compared to a multifamily investment. They’re also easier to acquire, thanks to platforms like Zillow and Redfin that provide comprehensive property details at your fingertips. Plus, single-family properties tend to attract long-term tenants, leading to lower turnover and reduced maintenance costs.

Moreover, single-family properties offer several advantages for investors:

  • They generally maintain a stable rental market with high occupancy rates.
  • Investing in multiple single-family homes across different markets can help you navigate economic trends.
  • You can enjoy tax benefits by investing in single-family properties.

Cons of Single Family Investments

However, single-family homes also come with their share of disadvantages. One of the main challenges is limited and vulnerable cash flow. Since rental income depends on a single renter, vacancies can significantly impact your income stream. Additionally, maintenance costs can be higher for single-family properties, as you don’t have the benefit of spreading these costs across multiple units as you would in a multifamily property.

Plus, the real estate market can be unpredictable. If property values in your neighborhood start to decline, your investment could lose value. And while you can control the condition and management of your property, you can’t control market trends or the behavior of your neighbors.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Multifamily Properties

Pros and cons of investing in multifamily properties

Now let’s pivot to multi family property investments. These multifamily properties offer the opportunity for multiple streams of income and the benefits of economies of scale. However, they may also come with higher maintenance costs and responsibilities.

We will delve into these aspects further.

Pros of Multifamily Investments

One of the major advantages of investing in multifamily properties is the diversified rental income. With multiple units, apartments or homes under your belt, you can offset the risk of vacancies and ensure a steady income stream. Plus, economies of scale come into play here – as you scale up your investment, you can consolidate property management and maintenance efforts, reducing per-unit costs.

Furthermore, multifamily investments offer several advantages:

  • They are generally more resilient during economic downturns.
  • The continuous and affordable housing demand in high-cost areas ensures a steady flow of tenants.
  • There is potential for higher rental income and cash flow.

Cons of Multifamily Investments

However, multifamily properties aren’t without their challenges. They tend to have higher maintenance frequency and costs. From more frequent cleaning and repairs to upkeep of shared spaces and appliances, the maintenance list is extensive. It is essential that the business plan can accommodate these potential costs and still deliver projected returns.

Furthermore, the time to realize profit may be longer with multifamily properties. If the ownership team decides to hold onto the property for longer, your capital could remain illiquid for an extended period. Cash flow can be lower in the first few years of these investments as value-add strategies are implemented and cash flow increases. Luckily, most business plans account for this type of growth and can produce great returns over the full hold period. When contemplating multifamily investments, weighing these factors is crucial.

Related Article: The 4 Multifamily Asset Classes, And How To Decide Which To Invest In

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Transitioning from Single Family to Multifamily Investing

Transitioning from single-family to multifamily investing is a significant step for any investor. This transition involves scaling up your investments, conducting comprehensive market research, and leveraging networking opportunities. It can also result from just wanting to not be as active in your real estate investments, which can occur at anytime in your journey (even at the beginning).

Strategies for Transition

One popular strategy for transitioning is the ‘stacking’ strategy. You start with smaller properties, such as duplexes, then move onto larger ones. This allows you to incrementally increase your investment scale. Alternatively, you could leverage earnings from your single-family investments to enter into multifamily residential real estate syndication deals.

Another crucial step is forming a business entity, such as an LLC, and establishing a credit history specific to that business. This can provide you with more credibility and potential tax advantages.

Short-term multifamily loans can be strategically used for financing property renovations, especially for properties in need of significant improvements.

Market Research

Comprehensive market research is a prerequisite before venturing into multifamily investing, especially if you plan on owning and operating yourself. This involves examining demographics, local amenities, and potential urban development plans. For instance, understanding whether renters are predominantly young professionals, empty nesters, or young families can significantly influence rental demand and property values.

Local amenities and urban development plans are also significant factors. They can vastly affect the attractiveness and growth potential of multifamily investments. Analyzing local rental demand is a critical step, ensuring alignment with market needs and maximizing occupancy rates.

If you join a real estate syndication, you can leverage the expertise and experience of a team. Typically, they do the deep dive research into markets and present data. As a passive investor, you can then use that data to ask questions and do your own verification.

Investment Networking Opportunities

Networking is another crucial aspect of transitioning to multifamily investments. Building relationships with industry veterans and contractors can provide invaluable insights. Furthermore, relationships with brokers can reveal off-market deals, giving you an edge in a competitive market.

Professional associations, real estate conferences, and online communities are key networking platforms for real estate investors. They can help you gain market knowledge, connect with peers, and build your real estate portfolio. Remember, your network is your net worth in the real estate investing world!

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Passive vs Active Real Estate Investing: Choosing Your Path

Choosing whether to pursue passive or active real estate investing depends on your investment goals and desired level of involvement. Both paths have their pros and cons, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision.

Passive Real Estate Investing

Passive real estate investing involves less maintenance effort on your part as the landlord or investor. This can include owning shares of a REIT, being a limited partner in a real estate syndication, or engaging in crowdfunding initiatives. Passive investing allows individuals to generate real estate income with less upfront capital, making the entry barrier significantly lower than active investing.

However, while passive real estate investing requires less day-to-day involvement, you sacrifice some control. Just as with single-family investments, your funds are also illiquid for the duration of the hold period. Your work is on the evaluation of the deal and the track record of the team that will be operating and managing your investment. On the upside, returns can be even better than investing actively and you benefit from a reduced need for extensive real estate experience.

Related Article: The 5 Basic Phases Of Value-Add Multifamily Real Estate Syndications

Active Real Estate Investing

Active real estate investing, on the other hand, involves hands-on management and direct involvement in property transactions. This can lead to higher returns due to the potential for increased profit margins. However, active investing also requires more effort and comes with increased risks.

As an active investor, you’re in charge of tenant selection, lease renewals, and decisions on turnovers and maintenance. While this offers potentially higher profits, it also means more responsibilities (and profits can also be minimal depending upon your expertise, the deal, the market, and more). Each investment requires careful management and strategic decision-making to ensure profitability. Partnering with a property management company can help alleviate some of these responsibilities.

Financing Options for Multifamily and Single Family Properties

Comparison of residential loans and commercial loans for property financing

Financing is a crucial aspect of any real estate investment. Whether you’re investing in single-family homes or multifamily properties, understanding your financing options can make all the difference.

Residential Loans

Residential loans, such as conventional multifamily mortgages and government-backed loans, are available for smaller properties. These loans are typically used for properties with four or fewer units. They come with eligibility requirements set by entities like Fannie Mae, including the property’s condition, the borrower’s income, and their credit standing.

Government-backed loans, such as FHA or VA loans, offer advantages like competitive interest rates, higher loan limits, and more accessible qualification criteria compared to conventional loans. These can be a great option for first-time investors or those looking to expand their portfolio with smaller properties while managing their mortgage payments.

Commercial Loans

For larger multifamily property investments, commercial loans are the way to go. These include portfolio loans and bridge loans. Portfolio loans offer more flexible qualification requirements and potential policy exceptions, which can be beneficial for investors looking to invest in larger properties.

Bridge loans, meanwhile, are short-term loans used for financing property renovations with the aim of swift resale. They can be particularly useful for properties in need of significant improvements, allowing investors to increase the property’s value and sell it for a profit.


In conclusion, investing in real estate offers exciting opportunities, whether you choose single-family homes or multifamily properties. Each has its benefits and challenges, and understanding these can help you make informed decisions. Remember, the key to successful investing lies in thorough research, strategic planning, and networking. So, are you ready to embark on your real estate investment journey?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key differences between single-family and multifamily properties?

Single-family and multifamily properties differ in various aspects including property types, ownership structure, management responsibilities, and potential investment returns. Consider these factors when deciding between the two.

What are the pros of investing in single-family homes?

Investing in single-family homes can provide lower purchase and maintenance costs, stable rental markets, and diversification opportunities. These factors make them a promising investment option.

What are the pros of investing in multifamily properties?

Investing in multifamily properties provides diversified rental income, economies of scale, and resilience during economic downturns. This can make them a strong investment option for long-term financial growth.

What strategies can help transition from single-family to multifamily investing?

To transition from single-family to multifamily investing, consider leveraging existing equity, using a ‘stacking’ strategy, and forming a business entity. These strategies can help you make a successful transition.

What are passive and active real estate investing?

Passive real estate investing requires less maintenance effort, while active investing involves hands-on property management and decision-making.

Next Investing Steps

Whether you’re considering investing in turnkey properties, real estate syndications, or a combination thereof, passive investing can be a great way to get your money to work for you in real estate.

As you continue to explore turnkey rentals and whether they’re right for you, we’re here to help! As a first step, we invite you to join the Goodegg Investor Club, so we can keep you in the loop on insights, as well as opportunities to invest alongside us in real estate syndications, if that’s the right fit for you.

You can also check out our open deals page to learn more about our current or upcoming opportunities.

Learn More

If you’re not yet ready to invest but are curious about how all of this works, we invite you to dip your toe in the water with us through our free 7-day email course – Passive Real Estate Investing 101

You can also get a copy of our book – Investing For Good – or check out our Life & Money Show Podcast.

To learn more about us and our experience, be sure to download a copy of our track record, which shows the projected and actual returns we’ve achieved across all the deals we’ve exited to date.

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If there’s ever anything we can do to help you on your journey, feel free to email us at [email protected] or call / text us at (888) 830-1450

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