House Hacking 101

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House hacking… what the heck is that? In our article 6 Ways to Invest in Real Estate, one of the ways discussed was house hacking. I did not expect to receive so many private messages on Facebook or even text messages from some friends and family wanting to know more about this real estate investment strategy. So, I decided that’s what the next article would be about. House hacking in general terms is relatively easy. Depending on your market and the type of loan you take out on the property, you will essentially live there for free. You can do it a few different ways. We will discuss four different ways here.

1. Multi-Family House Hacking

This is the most common method and also known as traditional house hacking. Using this method, you would buy a multi-family property (duplex, triplex, or quadplex) and live in one of the units and rent out the others. Since you are living in the property, you can take out a low down payment loan such as an FHA loan and put 3.5% down. If you have served in the military, this is a great opportunity for your VA loan. If you are single, this type of house hack can get even sweeter. Get a roommate too! Let’s say you purchased a triplex; you are now collecting rent from the other two units and from a roommate. I’m pretty sure that will cover your mortgage and then some.

Something to consider… If you are in a high price tiered market, even doing this might not be enough to cover the mortgage. Where you buy matters…

Even if you are just breaking even, you will still build appreciation on your property. The beauty of appreciation is that you start to build your wealth without even knowing it.

2. Single Family & Renting out Rooms

If you are living in a decent sized home, this can be a great option. I had a friend of mine renting a room from someone out here in Hawaii. He was renting the room for about $850 a month. Rent out here in Hawaii is a bit high, so the going rate for a single room is between $700-$1,100.

So, while you may not be able to get that kind income on a room rental, you can see where I am going here. If you purchased a three-bedroom home and rent out two of the rooms, or even all three (with you sleeping in the living room; that has some good potential. Where you purchase matters… For something like this to work, you are looking at purchasing in a college town, near a military base, or in a dense population area.

Remember how we talked about appreciation on the multi-family homes? Guess what? Single family homes actually appreciate better. So, consider this if you are single and just getting ready to start in real estate investing.

3. Rent Out Your Primary Residence

I really like this one. You may be asking, if I rent out my primary residence, where the heck will I live? This is actually an idea my wife and I have thrown around a few times. Not sure if we will do it in the future, but its on the table when I retire from the Navy.

So, the premise of this would be to rent out your primary residence and then live in an RV or a supped-up van. There are actually a few people that do that and with great success.

 Depending on the location, you can park on your property while renting it out. With Hawaii being such a high cost of living, this would save us a significant amount of money and allow us to live essentially anywhere we want on the island.

I wonder…

4. Building an Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU)

Another venture my wife and I discussed was finishing our garage and making it an ADU. By doing this, we would turn our garage into an apartment. Our driveway can already park four vehicles and for folks that live on Oahu, you know that parking is prime real estate!

This path can take a bit of work and be more costly than anticipated. The reason why we haven’t pulled the trigger on something like that is simply the cost for our specific unit. We estimate it would cost us around $50k to make it an ADU worth renting out. It would most likely rent for around $1,800 per month. That means it would take us 28 months to pay it off if there was 0% interest or we used hard cash for it. That’s a long time and we could put that $50k into something that will return better and right away.


So now that you see four different ways to house hack, you can see how you can really reduce your largest living expense significantly. Here are some takeaways:

  • You can essentially live in your house for free.
  • Option to buy an investment property with a low down payment.
  • You can build appreciation on your property as you pay your mortgage down and the home value goes up.
  • Being a homeowner, you will be able to save more in taxes

This is just a bird’s eye view to help you figure out if this may be a path for you.

We hope you found this information helpful. Research is important, do not let us be your only source of information. Learn as much as you can, and no matter what, get started as soon as you can.

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.

6 Ways to Invest in Real Estate

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Finances, Investing, Real Estate

In this post we are going to discuss six different ways to invest in real estate. These are just wave top options as there are so many different ways to get started in real estate investing. Here are my six favorites:

1. Rent out a room

If you already own a home, this is a great option. You can rent out a portion of your home on a site or app like Airbnb. Renting out a room or portion of your home allows you to generate additional income on your terms. Short term rentals are great for just that, short term. An awesome benefit to renting out a room with Airbnb is that your short term tenants have been prescreened and you are protected against damages.

Renting out a room might not feel real estate investing, but it is. If you’ve got a spare room, you can rent it and pocket some extra cash.

Just like any other investing decision, you should make sure this benefits you. If you have a family with small children would something like this even be an option? If not, there are many other ways and we are discussing more of those below.

2. House hack

One of our favorite YouTube channels to follow is Graham Stephan’s channel. He started off in real estate by house hacking and essentially living for free.

When you house hack, you live in your investment property while renting out another room, or portion of the house long term.

This type of investment is a really smart move for college students or younger single people. This, like doing a short-term rental on a room can be difficult if you have a family. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

For example, my uncle lives in Rome, NY. He bought a very large triplex that is essentially three different units in a large home. He lives with his family in one unit while renting out the other two. The beauty of this is he is essentially living for free and still making a little extra cash.

If you can swing it, this is one of the best ways to get started. Buy a property you plan to live in and let your renters pay it off for you!

3. Invest in rental properties

This happens to be the choice of investing for myself and many other real estate investors. Right now, I invest in multi-family units (duplex, triplex, and quadplex). These can be hard to find depending on the state you are looking at. I invest out of state so the important part of this is building a good team before you start. I already had a good property manager lined up as well as a general contractor and fantastic realtor.

Some things to consider when buying an investment property is that:

  • Most lenders will require a whopping 25% down since you are not occupying the property.
  • You will likely have some type of repairs to do
  • You may not always have tenants in the property when you buy

Some other things that are extremely important when buying a rental property is to use the 1-2% method. I learned about this listening to the Bigger Pockets podcast. Basically a quick way to see if the deal will work for you is if the monthly rent equals about 1-2% of the property value. You need to be able to pay your expenses and still make at a minimum $100 per month for it to be worth it. Here is a sample of some expenses:

  • Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Property Taxes
  • Property Insurance
  • Repairs
  • Lack of occupancy (5% but can vary based on location)

Once you have considered all of this and you think you are ready, then go for it. You can always download our rental property calculator here.

4. Consider flipping properties

If you already have enough money saved up, consider taking some of that cash and buying a property that needs a little TLC and put some work into it. Even if you don’t have the money saved up, you can consider doing a short-term interest only loan.

Consider partnering up with someone experienced in flipping. Learn what made them successful. Flipping can be high risk so having experience on your side will be helpful.

Good research is extremely important when flipping a property. If you don’t make enough on the resale, you can really lose big time. The important thing is to learn the market you plan to buy in. Research what comparable homes in the area are selling for. Make sure you leave a profit margin large enough to make up for it if you need to sell for a lower price. Have more than one exit strategy as well. If you need to refinance it with a new long-term mortgage and make it a rental, then be prepared to do so.

5. Try a real estate investing platform

Another pretty cool option to invest in real estate would be through a real estate investing platform. These platforms connect the investor (you) to multiple real estate developers who are looking to finance their projects. You can expect to receive your returns quarterly. These platforms like any investment come with risk. Just like any other real estate project, things can fall through, or unexpected expenses can “pop up.”

Now the big thing about these kinds of platforms is that you need to already have money… You need to have a net worth of at least $1 million or earned an income of $200k (single) $300k (married) over the last 2 years.

Companies such as Fundrise and RealtyMogul are great real estate platform options to check out. Fundrise also has different options if you do not meet some of the requirements listed above.

6. Buy REITs (real estate investment trusts)

REITs are a great option to invest in real estate without owning physical real estate.

REITs are often companies that own office buildings, apartments, public storage, and other commercial real estate. Most REIT investors use this as a platform to create a passive or supplemental income. It is a great option for retirees who wish to put their money into something that will generate a stable income.

New investors should consider staying with publicly traded REITs

There are publicly traded REITs that can be traded like a stock with a brokerage and there are privately traded REITs that are done directly through the trust owners. REITs are often compared to mutual funds. They are relatively safe and stable investments that usually pay high dividends.

REITs allow you to invest in real estate without the physical real estate. Often compared to mutual funds, they’re companies that own commercial real estate such as office buildings, retail spaces, apartments and hotels. REITs tend to pay high dividends, which makes them a common investment in retirement. Investors who don’t need or want the regular income can automatically reinvest those dividends to grow their investment further.

If you do not have a brokerage account, you can always open one for free on Robinhood or Webull. These brokerages may also offer free stocks when you sign up and open an account with them.

Check out Robinhood

Check out Webull

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.

Section 8 Tenants and HUD Vouchers

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Finances, Investing, Real Estate

During these trying times for both homeowners and renters, we are seeing many tenants being unable to pay their rent.  With unemployment skyrocketing, this will probably be a trend next month too.

In my duplex, one of my renters uses HUD vouchers (Section 8).  This part of the rent alone is enough to cover my mortgage and pay my property manager.  I am still stuck paying my loan for my down payment, but I am good on that for now thanks to cash reserves.  If you have vacancies, consider contacting your local HUD office to see if you can add one of your units to the list.  People on HUD need a place to live too.

Don’t be scared of the image that comes with renting to Section 8 tenants.  They have to qualify and they do not want to lose their ability to keep the voucher.  There are four things that are looked at to determine if someone qualifies for Section 8 (some locations may have even more restrictions) family status, income level, must be a U.S. Citizen, and no eviction history. 

Here is the benefit.  You will get a significant portion of the rent covered by HUD.  For my tenant, they cover 95% of the rent.  So even if they cannot pay, it doesn’t put me in such a bind.  Keep your tenants happy so they stay and you do not lose the voucher.  I immediately did repairs when I purchased the property and became their landlord.  I think this sent a message to them that we do in fact care about their living condition and make them happy.

While this might not be the right route for everyone, its still something to consider during such trying times.  I am keeping this post short and sweet, but it is something to think about.  Hope you all are staying healthy and keep pressing forward.  Don’t let the pandemic sink you!

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.

Pandemic Virus Investing

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Finances, Investing, Real Estate

Keeping this post short and simple…

So with the crazy pandemic currently unfolding in front of our eyes we have seen some crazy things happening in the markets. Stocks plummeting and it seems like there will be no end. Well, guess what? It will end. Once the U.S. gets a hold on the situation and gets it under control, we will see the market begin to slowly recover. What does this mean for investing?

Well, it means that if you, like me lost a lot in the stock market, don’t fret! Just like in 2008, it will recover. Now is the time if you have some spare cash (not your emergency fund) to start investing more into the stock market. It may continue to tank a little longer or it won’t. Pay attention to the market and trust yourself. Don’t over analyze and not invest.

I am at a point where I just purchased an investment property and do not have spare cash to invest. I am leaving my emergency fund in tact but I may take from some of my other savings to get in while it’s low.

If you have cash to spare, now is the time to invest it! If you’ve never invest before and don’t know where to start, download Robinhood or Webull and use my referral code. You will get a free stock just for joining.

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.

Our First Real Estate Investment Deal!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Finances, Investing, Real Estate

This blog post was also my introduction post to the Bigger Pockets forum.  I have been a part of a few different groups and have tried many different methods to generate passive income.  I have owned different websites, I have also done the drop shipping thing (with some actual success, but couldn’t keep up with it).  I was always interested in real estate (and I will probably get back into blogging once this takes off to talk about my real estate adventures).  My only other experience with renting property was when I rented my first house before I sold it in 2012.

My uncle has multiple rental properties in upstate NY and he planted the seed in my brain a long time ago.  The big sticking point was convincing my wife that this is indeed the right move to make.  Before doing that, I had to change my mentality first.  Wanting to invest in real estate is one thing, but if I am not mentally ready to commit 100%, how can I convince her?  So, we linked up with some good friends who are also stationed out here in Hawaii to talk about their portfolio.  They have been doing this the past 6 years and at the time where closing on their first commercial property.  When they showed my wife the numbers, she looked at me and I knew she was ready to do this.  As to changing my mentality, I have a list of books I need to read staring with “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” (just finished this book recently).  I plan to burn through a bunch of those books soon after I finish something else I am working on (will discuss later in this post).

I linked up with a good realtor, property manager, and general contractor back on the east coast because that is where I wanted to invest (thanks to my friend for linking me up with great contacts).  I was stationed in the Norfolk/VA Beach area for 15 years, so I am very comfortable with the area and the market.  Thanks to the Navy having the largest Naval Base there, it is an extremely good renters’ market.  Now the hunt begins…

My real estate agent set me up with an MLS list and updates it daily.  It has all the criteria I asked for and would only show me properties that met that criteria.  So now we are searching for our first deal.  So, what would happen when we find this deal?  How will we pay for it?  I talked with my friend about this because I knew we could afford it, but wasn’t smart on the requirements on buying investment properties.  We didn’t have a lot of liquid assets to use so we had to be creative.  I took out a very large personal loan and let it settle for 2 months while looking for “the deal.”  The first 3 places we were really interested in where “no go’s” for us after our contractor went and looked at them… Then BAM, we found it!  A duplex in Chesapeake, VA listed for $160,000.  It was on the market for 2 months and was getting no bites.  I was able to immediately tell from the pictures it was due to the outside of the property.  It looked a little dated and could really use a total paint job.

My contractor went and inspected the property and the current tenants where very happy and they wanted to stay.  The hot water heaters for each unit where probably on their last leg and the roof needs to be replaced soon.  Everything else looked pretty good.  So, I put in an offer.

There is some back and forth discussion and I submit the offer for $149,000 and they pay closing costs.  Deal is accepted and we start moving forward.  While all of this is going on, I link up with other real estate investors in Hawaii.  There were two different meetups that I went to and met some great people (this is also when someone showed me bigger pockets).  Can you say mind blown?  Wow, so I start listening to podcasts, reading the forums and seeing what everyone else is doing.  I am so pumped at this point.  I get my wife to start watching some of the bigger pockets YouTube videos and she is getting pumped.  She’s not quite as gung-ho as me, but I blame my military mindset for that.

Ok, the blood is flowing, I am hungry and I am wanting so much more.  I linked up with a good real estate mentor out here from one of the meetups and I am currently working on getting my real estate license (which is why I am not reading any other books until I finish this).  I am learning so much from the course I am in and I am super excited to keep pushing forward on this journey

Now, let’s move past all the fun motivating stuff and get down to the nitty gritty.  While all of this is going on and I am so excited, motivated, and hungry… I hit some major roadblocks with the property I have an offer on.  I push through many of the minor obstacles, no problem… Well, the day before I am supposed to close, my loan officer hits me up and says, hey, your loan is cleared and you are good to go… but there is a problem… Problem?  What is it?  I asked.  Well, we submitted your loan request with you putting 15% down and you were going to have a slight PMI, but we messed that up… since this is a multi-unit property, you need to put 25% down.  That’s not a problem is it?  Well, yes… yes it is… because I was already tapping myself out to get the 15%.

Now I want this to happen and I want this property… I talked with my wife and she had a minor freak out but I brought her back in and went over the numbers and how we needed to look at the bigger picture.  Not I need to come up with another $18,000.  So, I am scrambling.  I was able to take out an $11,000 loan on my Thrift Savings Plan (it’s a military 401k).  As I pay it back, the interest I pay is also going back to me, so this was not a bad route to go.  Ok, still $7,000 short, I put a $7,000 cash advance on one of my credit cards to make it happen.  While this purchase was a lengthy and somewhat painful process, it was also a great learning experience.  I know I said lengthy, but things are moving very fast since we got serious about this adventure in life.

Now here we are… We closed on the property and we are collecting rent.  We also just locked in a 2.75% interest rate interest rate reduction loan with a $10k credit from the lender on our primary house in Hawaii.  This rate reduction will save us about $330 a month on our mortgage payment.  Now we are recuperating from all of this craziness, getting our finances back in order, and getting ready to start searching for our next deal.

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.

Real Estate Investing, Scary? Yes! Fun? Yes!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Finances, Investing, Real Estate

So, as I mentioned in the previous post about inbound content, I want to share with you where we are at right now.  The thing I am most excited about is the Real Estate Investment company we started.  Yes, we opened an LLC named Compass REI Properties, LLC.  We bought our first rental property and it is actively making us a passive income.  My next blog post will outline the story of how we rented it.  It is also one of my introductory posts to the Bigger Pockets forums.  I am not being paid any type of commission to mention them, I am just super excited about that community and talking with like-minded individuals.

After such a big break on the blog, how the heck did we get here?  Well, let me give you some of the background and a sneak peak into the next post.  I have always wanted to invest in real estate.  At least for over 10 years.  I bought my first house when I was 21 (ok closed after my 22nd birthday) when I was a Petty Officer Second Class (E5) in the Navy.  This was in 2007.  Well what happened in 2008?  Yeah, you guessed it.  The housing bubble burst… When I transferred from my command in 2009, I was unable to sell the house.  It was on the market for 9 months before I rented it to a very close friend of mine.  I was eating a loss every month because the rent prices for the area were so low.  When my friend transferred in 2012, I was unable to keep up with everything and had to short sell the home.  It was a very tough experience.  I bought that house with a VA loan and thought I would lose my VA loan eligibility forever.

Well, luck was on my side.  The lender filed the paperwork after the cutoff date for the short sale and was unable to tough my VA guarantee.  Phew.  Well, needless to say, a short sale will TANK your credit score.  We weren’t buying a house for a while.  I rented for a few years and moved into base housing after I commissioned because the house was right by my job.

When I got orders to Hawaii, my wife and I knew we were ready to buy again.  We also knew this market was really good and if you weren’t paying full asking price plus closing, there is no way you were getting a home.  We lost the first 3 homes we tried to buy in bidding wars.  Finally, after living in Hawaii for two months, looking at about 97 homes, putting offers on 4 of them, we purchased our second home.  At the time the rate was 4.65% on an $800k home.  Yes, that mortgage payment was rough.  $4,442 a month (taxes and insurance included).  Yowza!  Thank goodness we saved a lot of money up and became debt free before moving here.  About a year later, we refinanced with an Interest Rate Reduction Loan (IRRL) and got our rate down to 3.5%.  This was significant savings.  We lowered our mortgage payment to $3,944 a month.  Rates are so low right now that we are actually doing it again (will discuss in the next post).  Remember the debt free thing I mentioned before moving to Hawaii?  Yeah, it didn’t last…

So yeah… about the debt… Shortly after purchasing our home in Hawaii, we were plagued with issues.  We wanted to do some updates to the kitchen.  It was a big job that became even bigger.  We wanted to replace the cabinets, countertops, and appliances.  We did… However, while doing the renovations and ripping out the old cabinets, countertops, and sink… we found black mold… A LOT of it!  Now we had to rip out all the drywall and treat the beams.  Not only did that happen, but the contractor that was ripping out the countertops dropped the old countertops on my tile floor and cracked in in several spots.  We couldn’t find that exact tile so we had to now replace the entire floor.  It was a fight and they wouldn’t pay for the new tile.  We did however get the company to pay for installation… Sheesh!  Then the contractors we hired to work on our downstairs bathroom started getting really slow with their work… I was paying them by the hour… They finished the bathroom and then started working the backsplash in my kitchen.  Not only was the job starting off sloppy, but with how slow he was going, he had to go.  We fired him and hired a new “tile guy.”  The new guy came in with a much cheaper rate and had to rip out what these other guys started.  He did a great job so we hired him to tile our upstairs guest bathroom.  He tiled the floor and the walls, it was awesome!  But overall, the cost was not so awesome.  We went from having $15k in the bank after we bought our house to a $25k loan and about $10k in credit card debt.

Why did I give you this wall of text about what we went through with our homes)?  To show you where some of our fear stemmed from…

Like I said earlier, I have wanted to invest in real estate for a long time… My wife was not onboard with the experience we had with our first home as well as all of the additional costs we took on with our new home… A very good friend of mine saw what I was doing with the 3 different websites I built and products I was selling.  He said he saw how much of an entrepreneur I was and suggested I look into real estate investing.  I told him that he is speaking my language, but I am not the one to convince, I need my other half onboard.  So, my friend invited us over for lunch to show us their real estate portfolio and how they were doing it.  Of course, pregaming this, I was already trying to get my wife onboard.  She was actually really excited and started searching for properties herself.  She found two awesome deals and we brought those with us to ask my friends opinion.  When she saw what they were doing as well as the encouragement we received from the deals we found, our wavelengths synced up.  This was the beginning of something new and exciting for us.  Something we would do together and something that will create a passive income.

My next blog post will go into the details of our first deal.

Mike Cavaggioni
Mike Cavaggioni

Mike Cavaggioni is an Active Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy, REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, Real Estate Investor, and Finance Coach located in Honolulu, HI. He is the founder of Average Joe Finances and host of the Average Joe Finances Podcast. Mike is building a community for people to come together to learn and build their wealth.