The 1% rule in Real Estate

Blog March 2024

Between theory and implementation

Being in the midst of real estate investing feels a lot like being in the midst of a game. Those whose minds enjoy number-based contemplation surely win more often.

Like in any other game, you have to follow some rules in real estate, as well. These rules are not written in stone but they can be of great assistance to those who are a novice to investments. One of them is the 1% rule in.

1% rule in Real Estate

There are many rules when it comes to real estate investments. Some of them are presented as percentage values, such as 1%, 2%, 50%, and 70% rule. We might analyze all of them in the future, but at this point, we are going to start with the first one in line – the 1% rule.

The 1% rule in real estate relates to the property value and monthly rent ratio. In theory, it is a very simple formula. In order to determine if the property you are aiming for is aligned with the 1% rule, you should:

Calculate the ratio between the monthly rent and value of the property, divided by 100.

The number you get is the ratio between the monthly rent and property value expressed as a percentage. According to theory, average monthly rent should be higher than 1% of property value.

The math

If we take the above-stated theory and put it into practice, things start to make sense. Still, this is not as simple as it may seem, because property value fluctuates and monthly rent can fluctuate too. That’s exactly what makes real estate complicated and exciting, as well.

Let’s take a look at the following examples:

Example #1

Property value: $ 70,000
Monthly rent: $ 650
1% rule: 70,000 / 650
This property is not aligned with the 1% rule, with the monthly rent 0.07% lower than our ideal rental ratio.

Example #2

Property value: $ 65,000
Monthly rent: $ 650
1% rule: 65,000 / 650
This property is an exact match for the 1% rule with the value of the property 100 times bigger than the monthly rent, making it a viable investment.

Example #3

Property value: $ 60,000
Monthly rent: $ 850
1% rule: 60,000 / 850
With a ration of 1.42% between property price and monthly rent, this is abouve our 1% rule making it an attractive invstment opportunity.

The macroeconomic POV

Although the 1 % rule is useful and most of the time a necessary guide to determine whether an investment idea will end up being good or not, it is not smart to base decisions on this rule solely.

Picking a property is a delicate decision-making process, and one must take into account various factors and the way these factors interplay side by side.

Macroeconomic aspects to an inexperienced investor might seem elusive at first, but it is not wise to make decisions without factoring them in after diligent research and analysis.

What might seem like a perfect investment opportunity, could easily turn out to be a disastrous investment decision.

To use a blunt example, if a country’s economy is on a downward spiral, and the country is at the brink of war, you probably should consider investing elsewhere, no matter how cheap property is at the moment.

Macroeconomic aspects that could suggest that the market you are planning to invest in is stable and reliable, include but are not limited to the stable political situation, steady economic growth, low unemployment rate, decent fiscal policies, investments in infrastructure.

Since most real estate investments are long-term, and macroeconomic crises happen across the world periodically, short-term challenges should be considered and analyzed.

Experienced investors know how to discern a risky opportunity from a bad investment, and some are willing to take risks more often than others. It is not a secret that some made their fortunes by investing in real estate amidst the crisis.

Understanding Microeconomic impacts

Microeconomic factors, however, seem to be more “tangible”. When it comes to real estate, micro factors should be understood as aspects that could in any way affect the community surrounding the desired property. Every state has its own rules and regulations, Property acquisition costs and taxations can vary drastically. For example, properties are cheaper in areas with higher crime rates, but only because nobody wants to live, work or contribute to the local community there. That’s why the 1 percent rule solely might trick you to make a bad investment decision.

Real Estate investments require a 360° view

Let’s use Example #1 again. Mathematically, this seems like a bad investment. The property is valued at $70.000, and the monthly rent is roughly $650. Now, let’s look at other factors.

Since this imaginary property is in the U.S., we can say that macroeconomic factors are stable and desirable, let’s not forget that the U.S. housing market is one of the most stable and certainly the biggest asset class in the world.

Furthermore, this property is located near a building site. Private investors are building a 1000-acre botanical park with artificial ponds. At the moment, this is not the most desirable location to live in.

There is a lot of noise and dust, but in 12 months, initial building activities will be set, and in five years’ time, this location will be one of the most peaceful neighborhoods. Both, the value of the property and monthly rent price will go up in a few years’ time.

In the second example, monthly rent is exactly 1% of property value. However, due to the decreased number of inhabitants, the city government decided to shut down the nearby school and half of the shops in the local mall are already vacant. It is only a question of time when the mall will become a temporary home for local homeless people. In a few months’ time, there probably won’t be any renters, and the property’s value will continue to decrease.

The third example of the one percent ratio brings a promising picture to the table. Stable economy, low crime rate, beneficial tax regulations, nearby schools, 10 minutes away from downtown.

Most importantly, even during the times when this particular city was experiencing the worst economic downturn, the infamous 2008 crisis, monthly rent was stable and coming.

1% rule risks

Investors considered real estate ventures to be less risky than other investments. The first example in our imaginary world of investments is certainly the riskiest.

High risk usually means higher dividends, but if something goes wrong, the loss becomes real. That’s why it is important to understand where do you stand as an investor, what type of risk you can absorb.

Predicting the future of the economy is charlatanism, but knowing how to read between the lines of macro and microeconomy is a knack worth pursuing.

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Any questions

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing refers to housing units designed to be accessible to low- and moderate-income families, typically costing no more than 30% of their gross income.

The definition of “affordable” typically varies depending on location and income levels but generally encompasses rent or purchase prices that don’t exceed a certain percentage of a household’s income.

What is Section 8 housing in the US?

Section 8 is a federal rental assistance program in the US run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that helps low-income families and individuals afford decent and safe housing in the private market. 

The program provides eligible households housing choice vouchers that cover a portion of the rent directly to the landlord, with the tenant paying the remaining amount. Property owners who participate in Section 8 agree to rent units to qualified individuals and families at a rate approved by the program.

How can I invest in Section 8 housing?

There are several ways to invest in Section 8 housing:

  1. Direct ownership: You can purchase a property approved for Section 8 and rent it to a qualified tenant using a voucher and receive rent subsidized by the government.
  2. Real estate investment trusts (REITs): REITs pool investor funds to purchase and manage income-producing real estate, including affordable housing.
  3. Limited partnerships: Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) offer another option for investors to pool resources and invest in affordable housing projects.
What is the difference between multi-family and single-family properties?

Single-family property: This refers to a standalone house or unit designed for and rented to one household.

Multi-family property: This refers to a property containing multiple dwelling units, such as a duplex, apartment building, or condominium complex. Multi-family properties offer the potential for higher rental income but typically require different management strategies and considerations compared to single-family homes.

What is the difference between buying and flipping houses?

Buying and holding: This involves purchasing a property to keep it as a long-term investment, generating rental income and potentially appreciating in value over time.

Flipping: This involves buying a property, renovating it to increase its value, and then selling it quickly for a profit. This is a more hands-on strategy with higher risks and rewards compared to buying and holding.

How much do I need to start investing in affordable housing real estate?

The minimum investment required varies depending on the chosen method. Direct ownership typically requires a higher initial investment for the property purchase, and renovation up to Section 8 standards, while other options like REITs might have lower minimum investment amounts.

Do I need to be a US citizen to invest and own the property?

No, US citizenship is not a mandatory requirement for investing in affordable housing in the US. However, specific restrictions or regulations might apply depending on the investment method and your residency status.

It’s crucial to consult with a professional to understand the legal and tax implications for non-citizens.

Do I need to pay US tax as an overseas investor?

This depends on the type of investment, your residency status, and any applicable tax treaties between your home country and the US.

Consulting with a tax professional specializing in international investments is highly recommended.