How to Make One Million Dollars Investing in Rental Properties

Investing in rental properties can provide fantastic returns when you have a lot of money to invest. Even if you have little money, you can invest in rental properties and make one million dollars. It will take some time, and it is not easy to make that much money from rental properties, but I will show you exactly how to do it in this article. I am going to walk through how many years it will take someone to accumulate one million dollars from investing $7,500 a year into long-term rental properties. To see how much money you can make with much more money to invest, check out this article.

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You will have to invest some money to make one million dollars from rental properties

The more money you make and save, the easier it is to make one million dollars from rentals. However, even people who do not make a lot of money can get to one million, although it may take a little longer. I am going to write out this plan assuming someone has a $75,000 salary, and they can save 10 percent of their income a year. I am using real estate as the investment tool because I invest in long-term rentals myself and make over 15 percent cash on cash returns on my properties. Check out my guide to investing in long-term rentals to see how I do it.

What will you need to do first to make one million dollars with rental properties?

When you first start out, $7,500 does not go very far, and it takes a lot of money to buy an investment property. Luckily there are many ways to buy a rental property with much less money, if you are an owner occupant or use some of the techniques I discuss here. In the first year, the best bet is to buy a HUD home or REO that needs some work, but will still qualify for a FHA or conventional loan. The key to my strategy is buying homes below market value. HUD or REO homes are a great way to do that. We will assume the investor can buy a home similar to the homes I purchase in my area which cost around $100,000. There are closing costs that the buyer is charged when they get a loan, but you can ask the seller to pay most of your costs.

Your first steps to make one million dollars with rentals

The first step is to buy a house. But you cannot buy just any house; you want to buy a house as an owner occupant that you can later turn into a rental. You also want to get a great deal on a house to gain instant equity. To get a great deal on a house, you may have to buy a home that needs some repairs. With a HUD home, you can roll $5,000 of the repairs needed into the loan with the FHA escrow (explained in my HUD articles) and only put 3.5 percent down for the down payment. If the home needs a lot of work, you could use a FHA 203K loan to roll more repairs into the loan. We will assume this house needs $4,000 in work to qualify for a loan, and you bought a HUD home with the costs rolled into the loan. With a FHA loan, you have to pay mortgage insurance every month and an upfront mortgage insurance premium (could be $200 or more a month).

How does mortgage insurance work?

With a conventional loan, the mortgage insurance is much lower than FHA, and you might be able to remove it after two years. However, you may not be able to roll the repairs into the loan, but you could get the seller to fix some items before closing. If the repairs are cosmetic items, you should be able to get a loan without making the repairs before closing. I will assume the total cash needed to close on this hypothetical house is about $5,000. Hopefully this house was bought the home below market value because it needed some repairs and was a foreclosure. Once the house is repaired, it should be worth around $125,000.

Since you bought this house as an owner occupant, you have to live in the home for at least one year.

How to determine how much it will cost to repair a house.

What do you need to do in your second year to make one million from rental properties?

After one year, you have gained about $22,000 in net worth; $125,000 – $100,000 purchase price – $4,000 repairs rolled into the loan, + $1,000 gained in equity pay down. In year one, no rent was collected because the home was owner occupied to get a low down payment. In year two, the house is rented out and you can buy another owner occupied home using the same strategy. When you try to buy a home right away, you won’t be able to count the rent from the first house as income right away. It is best to buy houses priced low enough that you can qualify for two houses at once to make this work. Otherwise, you may have to wait up to a year for the rent to count as income and you can buy again.

You can only have one FHA mortgage at a time, so this time you have to get a conventional loan with 5 percent down. In the second year, you have saved up another $7,500 from your job and have $2,500 left over from the first year for a total of $11,500 saved. The second home also costs $100,000, and the seller pays 3 percent closing costs. The down payment needed is $5,000 and $5,000 in repairs are needed on this second house. The total cash needed to buy an owner occupied home is $10,000 and the repaired value is $125,000.

The first house is rented for $1,300 a month (which I will do all the time on a $100,000 purchase), and the payment is $550 with taxes and insurance. Add in vacancy, maintenance, mortgage insurance  and we’ll assume $300 a month in positive cash flow.

Year three to one million dollars with rental properties

In the second year, you made $25,000 from buying house number two (equity) and made $3,600 from cash flow. You also made $2,500 from equity pay down on both loans (I am assuming each loan will pay down $500 more each year). In year two, all the savings was used from year one, but you saved $7,500 and made $3,600 in cash flow, for a total of $11,100 savings. Buy another house using an owner occupied loan and use $10,000 of cash. Net worth increases to $53,100 after adding the equity pay down, cash flow and equity gained in the purchase of a new home.

The second house is rented out again using the same figures, although the mortgage insurance may be less, because we are using a conventional loan instead of a FHA loan.

Year four to one million dollars with rental properties

Another house is bought below market value in year four. Cash flow increases to $7,200 a year plus $1,100 in previous savings and $7,500 saved this year. You now have $17,300 cash saved up before we subtract another $10,000 for the purchase of a new house as well as cash for the repairs. Net worth has increase $25,000 on the purchase plus $4,500 in equity pay down. Total net worth increase is now $90,800 for the last four years.

You own four houses and three of them are rented out. At this point, you may be able to remove the mortgage insurance on the conventional loans that have been held for two years, but I am not going to in my calculations, to keep things simple and conservative.

Here is a great article on what loans allow little money down.

Year five to one million dollars with rental properties

In year five, we repeat the entire process again and come up with the following numbers. Cash flow increases to $10,800, previous savings $5,800 and $7,500 saved up equals $25,600 saved cash. The investor purchases another property, and uses $10,000 in cash to leave $15,600 in his cash account. Net worth increases by $7,000 for equity pay down, $10,800 for cash flow and $25,000 for the purchase of a new property. Total increase in net worth is now $133,600.

You may have noticed this investor just mortgaged his fifth house. For many people, getting a loan on more than four houses is very difficult. However, the investor is buying houses as an owner occupant, which makes it much easier to get a loan.

Year six to one million dollars with rental properties

The same process is repeated all over again. Cash flow is $14,400, previous cash is $14,100, savings equals $7,500 for $37,500 cash minus $10,000 for a new purchase. The investor has $27,500 left in his bank account. He increases his equity pay down to $13,500, has an increase of $25,000 in net worth from a purchase, and an increase in net worth from cash flow of $14,400. He now has increased his net worth by $186,500.

.nhj.How 11 Rental Properties Increased My Net Worth $600,000 in 3.5 Years.

Year seven to one million dollars with rental properties

In year seven, the seventh house is purchased. Cash in the bank equals $26,000 from previous savings, $18,000 in cash flow, and $7,500 in new savings, which totals $53,000. You are now able to buy two properties this year! Buy another owner occupied property using $10,000, and an investor owned property.

To purchase an investment property we need to put at least 20% down and we still need to make repairs. We are buying below market value still, so we are going to assume we are adding $25,000 more a year in equity and $3,600 more a year in cash flow. Estimated costs for down payment and repairs is $32,000 to buy an investment property. You have $11,000 of cash left after buying two properties this year. Net worth increased by $60,500 after adding the usual amounts to total $247,000.

Year eight to one million dollars with rental properties

Year eight is very exciting because we get to add two properties into the mix instead of just one. With the extra houses added, increased cash flow and continued equity pay down, our net worth increased $98,200 in just one year! Total net worth is now $345,200, and you are making real progress! You have $42,200 saved up after buying another house in year eight as an owner occupant, so you can buy another investment property, but wont, because our margins will be too thin with only a couple thousand in savings.

Even though you are still making only $75,000 a year, you increased your net worth by almost $100,000 a year. There are not many people who can increase their net worth by more than they make in a year!

Year nine to one million dollars with rental properties

In year nine you are adding $26,500 in equity pay down, $28,800 in cash flow, $25,000 in built-in equity with purchases, for a total net worth increase of $80,300. Your total net worth increase over nine years is now $425,500. You also have $60,000 saved up, after paying for one house as an owner occupant, which is enough to buy another investment property, which leaves $26,500 cash left over!

Year ten to one million dollars with rental properties

In year ten, you have enough cash to buy two more properties, and have $28,000 in cash left over. Net worth increases by $114,500, bringing us up to a total increase of $540,000.

Year eleven to one million dollars with rental properties

You can buy two more properties and increase your net worth by $129,200 for a total of $669,200. Cash flow is at $43,200 a year and there is $36,700 of cash left over after buying two more properties. You could buy a third house this year, but decide not to stretch your limits. You need to make sure you have plenty of reserves for the rentals.

Year twelve to one million dollars with rental properties

This year you buy three houses because there is $94,600 in cash available. After buying the three houses, there is $22,100 cash left in savings, equity was paid down $44,500 and $50,400 in cash flow was generated. Total net worth is now $814,100! You are getting closer to making one million dollars investing in real estate!

Year thirteen to one million dollars with rental properties

You have increased your net worth by $190,200 this year because you bought three houses last year. Total net worth increase is now $1,004,300! Your actual net worth will be higher than this because I did not calculate savings from your income into the net worth, just the gain from buying rental properties. Cash flow is now $61,200 a year and you have paid off $54,000 of equity in one year!

You own 16 rental properties which are producing over $60,000 a year! The incredible part is we did not increase the rents at all, even though they are likely to go up over thirteen years. We assumed there was no appreciation, even though there likely will be over that time. Due to the tax advantages of rentals, you are probably taking home as much in passive income from your rentals as you are from your job.

What are the tax advantages of rentals?

Variables we did not consider in our goal to one million dollars

This was a very basic calculation for how to make one million dollars investing in rental properties. It would take a book to go through all the variables and possible roadblocks that might come into play. Here are a few items we did not consider, which would have an impact on the time it takes to reach one million dollars in increased net worth.

  • Inflation will increase prices of homes and wages as well as rents. While the investor has to pay more for houses each year, he will also be making more and saving more. The biggest factor is rent increases. His rent on the first houses he buys will increase as time goes on, but his payments will stay the same. His cash flow will increase greatly as time goes on, which we did not account for.
  • Taxes were not accounted for either, because that gets very complicated. The cash flow the investor is making would be income, but the investor could offset that with depreciation from the rental properties. I assumed those two factors even themselves out.
  • Investment property purchases had 20 percent down, where the owner occupant purchases had 5 percent down. There should be an increase cash flow on the investment property purchases, because of the lower down payment, but I left them the same to make the math easier.
  • Refinancing was not considered either, but the investor could easily have refinanced a couple of properties to get more cash out to buy more rental properties. This would have increased cash flow and net worth, due to the increased number of properties purchased.
  • Obtaining more than 4 or more than ten mortgages can be difficult. I am assuming the investor is able to get as many loans as possible with a lender. I can have as many loans as I want with my portfolio lender, but many people cannot. This would be a road block once he reached ten financed properties.
  • Buying owner occupied properties each year is possible, but may not be realistic. Moving thirteen times in thirteen years may put a bit of stress on the family!
  • I also assume the investor manages his homes himself, which is doable in the beginning, but may be tough when he gets ten homes or more.

For more information on how to buy the best rentals, which will make the most money, check out my book: Build a Rental Property Empire: The no-nonsense book on finding deals, financing the right way, and managing wisely. The book is 374 pages long, comes in paperback or as an eBook and is an Amazon best seller.


Why is real estate such a great investment? If that $7,500 was put into stocks or bonds and made 7 percent interest a year, it would total a little over $151,000 at the end of 13 years. The one million dollars in net worth that the investor made is not completely liquid because he would have to pay commissions and other expenses to sell his homes, but we did not account for any appreciation either. The investor will most likely have much more than that one million dollars of net worth if you factor in rent increases and appreciation over the years. The investor is also making $61,200 a year in cash flow, while $151,000 will earn you $31,200 at 20 percent interest! Try finding another investment that will pay 20 percent interest, backed by a stable asset! To see how much money you can make by investing a lot more money into rental properties check out this article.


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