Buying an investment property with a low down payment

Buying a house with a low down payment is not difficult if you have good credit and a decent job. There are many different loans that have low down payments including FHA, conventional, USDA, VA, and more. most of these loans will have a down payment of less than 5 percent of the purchase price and some even lower. if you are an investor, most loans require at least 20 percent down. I have an article that goes into detail on how investors can purchase a home with less money down here. In this article, I talk about low down payment loans for owner occupants and how investors can use these loans as well. I am not talking about cheating the system, but the strategy of buying an investment property as an owner occupant, living in the home for a certain amount of time, and then converting the home to an investment property. What are the best loans for owner occupants?

How to buy an investment property with a low down payment as an investor

I am not advising you should pretend to be an owner occupant when you are an investor. There are serious penalties for pretending to be an owner occupant, especially on HUD homes (up to 2 years in prison and $250,000 fine). But you can buy the home as an owner occupant, live in the home a year (or whatever the owner occupant requirement is) and then rent the home. This process can be repeated over and over as long as you can take moving into new houses every year.

What type of loans allow for a smaller down payment?

There are many owner occupant loans that allow for a small down payment. Most investor loans will require at least 20 percent down or even 25 percent down. An owner occupant has many more options to buy a home with little money down.

FHA loan

FHA loans are government insured loans that can be obtained with as little as 3.5 percent down. You can only have one FHA loan at a time unless you have extenuating circumstances like a job relocation. You do have to pay mortgage insurance on FHA loans, which I will discuss later in this article. There are limits to the amount a FHA mortgage can be, which varies by state and even city. Here is an article on FHA versus conventional mortgages.

USDA loan

USDA is a loan that can be used in rural areas and small towns. The loan can’t be used in medium-sized towns or large towns/metro areas. The loan is a fantastic loan for those that qualify and want to buy a home in the designated areas. USDA loans can be had with no money down, but do have mortgage insurance as well.

VA loans

VA loans are run through the United States Veterans Administration. You have to be a veteran to qualify for the loan, but they also can be had with no money down and no mortgage insurance! VA is a great option for those that qualify because the costs are so much less without mortgage insurance.

Down payment assistance programs

Many states have down payment assistance programs. In Colorado, we have a program called CHFA. The program helps buyers get into owner occupied homes with very little money down. CHFA actually uses a FHA loan, but allows for less than a 3.5 percent down payment. Check with lenders on your state to see if you have any programs that help with down payment assistance. Here is an article with more information on down payment assistance.

Conventional mortgages

Even conventional mortgages have low down payment loans available for owner occupants. For owner occupants, conventional loans have down payments as low as 3 percent. You will most certainly have to pay mortgage insurance with any conventional loan that has less than 20 percent down. Unlike some of the other loan options available, you can have as many conventional mortgages in your name as you want as an owner occupant.

FHA 203K Rehab loan

A FHA 203K rehab loan allows the borrower to finance the house they are buying and repairs they would like to complete after closing. This is a great loan for homes that need work, but the buyer has limited funds to repair a home. There are more costs associated with this loan upfront, because two appraisals are needed and lenders have higher fees for 203K loans. The same down payments and mortgage insurance will be needed as with a regular FHA loan.

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What loan costs does a buyer needs to consider besides the down payment?

On almost any loan you will have more costs than just the down payment. The lender will charge an origination fee, appraisal fee, prepaid interest, prepaid insurance and possibly prepaid mortgage insurance. Plus you may have more costs the title company charges like a closing fee, recording fees and possibly title insurance. In most cases, the seller pays for title insurance, but with HUD and VA foreclosures the buyer has to pay for title insurance. These costs can add up to another 3.5 percent of the mortgage amount or sometimes more. When you talk to a lender they can give you an estimate of exactly how much these costs will be before you get your loan.

Can you ask the seller to pay closing coses to decrease the amount of money you need?

Even though the lenders and title company will charge you more fees than just the down payment, that does not mean you have to pay those upfront. You can ask the seller to pay closing costs for you. If you can get the seller to pay your closing costs for you, loans like VA and USDA may be obtained with no out-of-pocket cash. You may still have to put down an earnest money deposit, but that can be refunded at closing in some cases. When you ask the seller to pay closing costs, it reduces the amount of money they are getting from the sale so you might actually be paying more for the home than if you didn’t ask for closing costs. But in my mind paying a little more for the house and financing those costs to save cash is better than paying more money out-of-pocket for a little cheaper home.

What are closing costs?

Do you have to pay mortgage insurance with low down payment loans?

I talked about mortgage insurance briefly in the loan descriptions above. Mortgage insurance is an upfront fee paid at closing, a monthly premium paid on top of mortgage payments or both. Mortgage insurance is insurance for your lender, because the down payment is less than 20 percent. Loans with a lower down payment are typically more risky for a lender and that is why mortgage insurance is used. Each loan type has different mortgage insurance amounts and time frames. Below are links to more information on mortgage insurance for each type of loan.

FHA mortgage insurance

USDA mortgage insurance

Conventional loan mortgage insurance

With some mortgage insurance, it can be removed after your home has enough equity. If your home raised in value with a conventional mortgage, it may possible to get the mortgage insurance removed.

A lower down payment increases the monthly payment

Whenever you get a loan with less than 20 percent down, you are going to raise your monthly payment. Not only does your payment increase because ofthe loan amount increases, but the mortgage insurance will add even more to your mortgage payment. Many times the difference between a 20 percent down loan and a 5 percent down loan can be hundreds of dollars per month. A main part of my strategy is cash flow and low money down loans do make it harder to cash flow on homes once you rent them out. It is very important you run the numbers on any house you buy that you plan to eventually rent out to make sure the home cash flows after all expenses including vacancies and maintenance. It is vitally important you buy these homes below market value to leave yourself enough room to cash flow and sell the home if needed. When you have little money available for down payments and repairs, it usually means you have little money for vacancies and maintenance when a house is rented. In the worst case scenario, if you can’t rent a home or lose your job, you will be able to sell the home and hopefully make a profit if you bought it below market value to begin with.

Educate yourself about investing in real estate before buying with little money down

The first step for any investor is to learn everything you can about investing. Just because a home can be bought with little out of pocket cash, does not mean it is a great deal. The easiest way to get in trouble with real estate is to buy houses with little equity and no cash flow. I have many resources for investors in my article as well as great resources for beginning investors. I have many more articles that describe advanced techniques in my complete guide to investing in long-term rentals. Once you have figured out what type of property you want to buy, here is how you can buy it without putting down a huge down payment.

How to invest in rentals quickly.

How I would buy an investment property with little money down if I had to start over?

If I had to start over before I started buying rentals, I would change how I did things drastically. When I started I bought a home in 2002, lived there for 7 years, did a little work to it and then sold it in 2009. I didn’t make much money and although it was a great house to live in, it didn’t do me any good financially. With what I know now I could do so much better! I would buy houses as an owner occupant, live in the house for one year and then rent them out after I had satisfied my owner occupant requirements. I would make sure I bought below market value and buy homes that would have plenty of cash flow when I was ready to rent them.

With little money to put down on a property, your options are limited, unless you can buy a house as an owner occupant. If you can buy a home as an owner occupant you can put 3 percent down or less on a home! It takes some sacrifice and flexibility to use this method, but it is not always easy to get ahead in life.

Check your credit score here to see if you can qualify for a loan.

How to buy with a low down payment using private money

One legitimate way to buy real estate with no money down is to use private money. Private money is from a private investor, friend or family member. The private investor will give you money at a certain interest rate to buy a flip or rental property. Private money rates can very from very cheap to very expensive depending on the relationship, investment and terms of the loan. I use private money from my sister for my fix and flips. She charges me 8 percent interest and it is a great way to reduce the amount of cash I have into the properties.

Here is a great site with more information on private money lending and how to structure deals.


I believe the sooner you start investing the better, but make sure you have a backup plan if things don’t go as planned when you buy an owner occupied property that you plan to turn into a rental. Could you sell the home if needed after a year? Are you willing to live in the home longer than a year if things don’t go as planned? Cover your bases and get started investing! If you are looking for extra help investing in rentals, check out my complete blueprint to successful real estate investing.