3 Rules for Using Real Estate Investing to Create Passive Income

What steps have you taken to create passive income for yourself?

Dr. Peter Kim has taken many steps, and he has since added a few rules to improve his likelihood of success.

I’ll add a fourth rule and that is to start small. I’ve heard stories of people who didn’t follow the rules outlined below and started with a shockingly large sum. In some cases, things did not end well for the novice investor.

You can get started on your passive income journey with companies like Groundfloor and Fundrise with as little as $10. Personally, I invested $500 before I felt comfortable investing $250,000 (see my returns on these investments). It’s best to get your feet wet with manageable sums of money.

This Saturday Selection from Dr. Kim originally appeared on Passive Income MD.

 

 

Investing in real estate is a great way to create another stream of income, especially if you’re one of the many readers who hope to use their real estate investment as a way to achieve financial independence.

People often stay away from investing in real estate over the assumption that the money gained from investing in real estate requires too much time, energy, effort, and hard work.

You may think buying and renting out a piece of property, for example, is passive real estate investing, but it’s not. As a landlord, especially without a property manager, you would actually have to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of owning the property yourself.

Yes, that means hiring contractors to fix plumbing and electrical issues, dealing with tenants, late payments, and move-out procedures, and the oh-so-dreaded application process for finding a new tenant. This, my friend, is not passive real estate investing – this is active real estate investing.

It does create passive income, however, which is income that isn’t proportional to the time you put into acquiring it. Meaning you don’t need to clock in and clock out and get paid in direct proportion to the time spent. In fact, the IRS considers the income from being a landlord as “passive income.”

Passive real estate investing is a strategy through which you, the investor, can create earnings without having to be actively involved. And who doesn’t want to make money while spending their time how they want with who they want?

Therefore, passive real estate investing is a form of real estate investing in which you place your capital into a real estate venture that you will not have any direct responsibility for managing.

Throughout this article, I’m going to discuss three rules for creating passive income using real estate investing.

 

#1 Diversify

 

Diversifying real estate income streams is the key to balancing risk and reward. There is more than just one way to create passive income using real estate investing without being a landlord. This is part of the reason why I diversify like crazy. Sure, there are times when I wonder if I’m just an investment collector, but this diversification allows me to sleep well at night.

Syndications, REITs, Real Estate Funds, and Real Estate Notes are all viable (and pretty profitable) ways to create that passive income. And the best part is you can get started today.

Crowdfunding and syndications, for example, require virtually no oversight once you’ve done your due diligence–and can produce excellent returns. REITs allow you to simply invest some money and then let it increase in value.

Real Estate Funds are much like mutual funds where you invest in a fund and you own a basket of investments. A company goes out and purchases a bunch of apartment buildings under that umbrella with those funds. That’s what’s known as an equity real estate fund or real estate equity fund.

Now remember, when investing in more passive real estate opportunities, whether it’s a syndication or a real estate fund, the sponsor is the one running the deal. It’d be nice to stick to one sponsor for life, but things happen – so be sure to consider diversifying your sponsor in addition to your entire portfolio.

Notes, on the other hand, are simply promises to pay. Anytime you borrow money and create a document that says you will pay someone back, you create a note. A few easy-to-invest-in notes include; Performing Real Estate Notes, Non-Performing Real Estate Notes, Hard Money Lending, Peer-to-Peer Lending, Loans to Small Businesses, and Treasury Notes.

I also believe that you should diversify significantly with the actual asset class itself. That means I invest in different classes of multifamily properties – nicer A-Class properties and ones like C-Class properties that need a little bit more work.

For those of you investing in active real estate, however, it’s important to understand that “concentration risk” is a real thing. People like to talk about the real estate market as a whole, but in reality, real estate is a very local economy. Having all your eggs in one basket (concentrated in one city or one area) can lead to issues if there are political changes, economic changes, or even natural disasters.

 

#2 Watch the Market 

 

Paying close attention to the market has a huge impact on your portfolio as a real estate investor. Learning how various parts of the real estate market react to changing economic conditions can help you find the best opportunities to keep passive real estate income coming in consistently when certain areas of the country are experiencing a downturn.

Remember, the real estate market is unpredictable, it flows and recedes over time – often dramatically. Just last year we saw how the real estate market could change so erratically; the pandemic led to some huge swings in the market and as of the time of writing this post, the real estate market is now red hot.

That’s in spite of the fact that many tenants were unable to pay rent which led to some landlords defaulting on their loans. No one predicted the pandemic and no one predicted all the printing of money that took place to keep the economy afloat. No one would’ve guessed how home prices have skyrocketed and rent growth continues to happen.

So it goes to show that you have no idea how things will turn out. It may be better or it may be worse.

But as I’ve heard from many savvy investors, there are ways to make money in whatever market environment. You just have to be cognizant of what works at what time. In fact, more money is typically made during downturns than at any other parts of the cycle.

 

 

#3 Seek Professional Help 

 

Whether you’re investing in real estate for passive income for the first time or you have several years of experience investing in real estate, consider calling in the professionals for help.

That might include hiring an accountant, bookkeeper, lawyer, and even making sure your spouse or significant other is on the same page as you. After all, this individual has a huge impact on your free time, decision-making, money, thoughts, and ambitions.

Yes, some of your profits will go toward paying whoever you decide to hire onto your team, but it will be well worth it when you’re able to generate passive income without doing all of the heavy lifting yourself.

If you’re fairly new to the world of passive real estate investing, there are several blogs that I highly recommend you check out. And if you’re still not a believer that real estate investing can really be passive, then I’ve got the perfect resource for you here.

The point is, the best way to get started is simply by educating yourself through books, courses, and conferences. And learning by experience, of course.

 

 

Passive Real Estate Investments I’ve Made (Physician on FIRE)

 

Ongoing Deals

 

Since these investments have not yet gone full circle, reporting my total return to date can be challenging. Where an up-to-date NAV (net asset value) is provided by the platform / operator / sponsor, I will use it, but keep in mind this is only an estimate of the current value.

Some of these will be completed in the coming months or years. Others are meant to be “evergreen” where I can choose to leave my money invested indefinitely or request a return of funds. The liquidity options vary by investment, and penalties can exist for early exits.

I’ll start with the smaller deals that I started with to get comfortable investing in this asset class. Next, I’ll discuss the four-figure investments I’ve made and finally, the six-figure investments that I’ve made in recent years.

 

Small Deals (Investments Under $10,000)

 

Fundrise

Fundrise also offers eREITs, a collection of various real estate investments, and I’ve been invested with them since January of 2018.

I’ve opted to take my distributions in cash, and they pay quarterly. Fundrise does update the Net Asset Value of their holdings, so you can see the growth of your investment over time and estimate your total returns. They also offer a liquidity option, but you’ll pay a penalty, decreasing over time, of 3% to 1% if you make a withdrawal in the first five years of your investment.

To calculate returns most accurately, I’ve included a prorated distribution based on what I expect to receive with the next quarterly payment. I’ve done the same for other ongoing investments below that have reliably paid distributions where we’re between payments.

 

My Results with Fundrise

IRR: 11.69%

Days Invested: 1459

Total Return on Investment: 49.71%

 

Visit Fundrise

 

Explanation of Terms

IRR: Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is the compound annual growth rate, accounting for inflows (investments made) and outflows (distributions from the investment). It is annualized and probably the best way to measure performance of investments like these.

Total Return on Investment: The total cash returned / total cash invested. Not annualized. Change this from a percentage to a decimal and put a 1 in front of it, and you’ve got the equity multiple.

Days Invested: How many days it took to earn that total return.

 

RealtyMogul

RealtyMogul has a variety of real estate investments on their platform, including two eREITs, numerous individual syndicated deals, and triple net leases.

Since April of 2018, I’ve been invested in their MogulREIT II, the goal of which is to realize capital appreciation while providing regular income.

I’ve received quarterly distributions since July, 2018. The NAV, which is regularly updated, took a hit during COVID, but has bounced back. It was $10 a share when I invested, and now sits at $10.65. I’m hopeful that it’s a conservative estimate, as that is not a lot of capital appreciation over a 3-year period.

The portfolio consists of 9 multi-family equity deals in 4 states, although 6 of the 9 apartment complexes are in Texas.

In terms of liquidity, there’s none in the first year, and after that, you can opt to have RealtyMogul buy back 25% of your shares quarterly. There are decreasing penalties of 2% or 1% that disappear once you’ve been invested for 3 years, which I now have.

 

My Results with RealtyMogul

IRR: 7.11%

Days Invested: 1,387

Total Return on Investment: 27.59%

 

Visit RealtyMogul

 

AcreTrader

Agriculture is something I was surrounded by growing up, and I’m happy to say that I own a little piece of a farm myself now — roughly 2 acres of a row crop farm on fertile Arkansas soil to be precise.

I’ve been invested since July of 2019 and have received annual distributions in the range of 2% to 3% of my initial investment for three consecutive years in December of 2019, 2020, and 2021 based on rental income.

AcreTrader works with the farmers that rent the land to help increase crop yields, soil health, etc… Their plan is to hold the property for 5 to 10 years, selling at an advantageous time, and they have data that shows farmland to be an asset class with both outsized returns and low volatility.

Since they do not update the asset value between the time of purchase and when the farmland is sold, I cannot estimate my total return. Time will tell, but based on the regular updates on the productivity of the acreage, all seems to be going according to plan.

 

Visit AcreTrader

 

 

DiversyFund

DiversyFund has one investment offering, the Diversyfund Growth REIT, with a minimum investment of only $500. I invested in it in July of 2019 and chose to have my monthly distributions reinvested.

I am currently one of about 28,000 investors in the fund with $73 Million deployed across 13 multifamily and student housing projects in 5 states, and the fund remains open to new investors.

The goal is for the fund to match their historic performance of an IRR in the 16% to 18% range with a hold period of five years, and there is no liquidity (withdrawal) option during the five-year hold period.

My reinvested dividends represent a distribution of about 5% annually, but without an updated NAV, I cannot guesstimate my total return. Ask me again in a couple years!

 

Visit DiversyFund

 

Republic Real Estate

I’ve made two small investments and one big one via Republic Real Estate, the first of which was made when it was known as Compound.

They offer a wide variety of real estate investments from short-term loans to unlevered luxury condominiums to private REITS to real estate funds with six-figure minimums.

The first investment I made was in an equity deal for a luxury Miami condominium that was purchased at a relative discount while the market was down somewhat pre-COVID. There is a small income component to the investment, with an annual dividend of about 2% from rental income, but the main source of return is anticipated to be realized when exiting after a 3-to-5 year hold period.

The model here is actually quite similar to the AcreTrader deal in that no leverage is used — the property was purchased with cash from investors — and most of the return is dependent upon the property increasing in value

The 1-bedroom, 1.5 bath condo was purchased early in 2020 for $445,000 and current listings for 1-bedrooms in the same complex are currently listed at $510,000 to $749,900.

My return on this investment is to be determined, but look promising at the moment. Republic Real Estate will act as the selling agent, so the transaction costs should be less than is typical.

 

Visit Republic Real Estate

 

 

Medium Deals ($25,000 to $50,000 investments)

 

 

Crowdstreet

I’ve invested twice with Crowdstreet in projects with projected IRRs greater than 20%. They are one of the most active platforms in terms of deal flow, as you will see after a free registration.

They offer real estate funds, individual syndicated equity deals, and I’ve even seen marijuana investment opportunities. I passed (and did not puff) on those.

As of early 2022, CrowdStreet investors have funded  580 deals, 95 of which have gone full circle for an average IRR of 19% with a wide range of returns.

I’ve chosen to invest in two ground-up builds in Texas, both of which have projected IRRs north of 20%. One will be student housing, the other residential townhomes.

With new builds, there is no income to disperse, so my returns will be realized when the projects are complete and sold.

I made these investments in December 2019 and January 2021. Both are anticipated to be fully realized in 2023. Until then, I won’t have much to say about returns, but I can say that the communication has been excellent with quarterly updates, pictures of the progress, and more.

 

Visit Crowdstreet

 

 

DLP Capital Partners via CityVest

DLP Capital Partners now offers five funds in 2022. When I first learned about them, the minimum investment in the three funds they had was $500,000.

In 2021, that figure was lowered to $200,000 for audiences of Physician on FIRE and the White Coat Investor, a concession that we really appreciate, as that’s a more achievable figure for our readership.

In 2019, however, the only way to invest with DLP with less than a half-million dollars or more was via an “access fund,” also sometimes referred to as a “feeder fund” in which assets from multiple investors are pooled together (for a fee) to meet the minimum to make otherwise inaccessible investments.

I’ve been invested in the DLP Lending Fund via a CityVest access fund since April 2019, and have received quarterly dividends since.

When my investment is liquidated by CityVest as planned in the fall of 2022, I will likely invest this money directly with DLP to save on fees now that the minimum investment is more approachable.

 

My Returns with DLP via CityVest

IRR: 10.06%

Days Invested: 1023

Total Return on Investment: 27.37%

 

Visit DLP

 

Big Deals (Six Figure Investments)

 

Origin Investments

Origin Investments was founded in 2007, and the co-founders invest a good amount of their own money alongside their investors. People I know and trust have invested with them, and after learning more about the current and past funds, I felt comfortable investing a six-figure sum with them.

They have had three funds go full circle, with an average IRR of 27.3% over 25 realized deals. They currently offer four funds.

I’ve been invested in the IncomePlus Fund since September 2020. The fund aims to provide a tax-neutral distribution of about 6% annually in 0.5% monthly increments, along with additional capital appreciation of 3% to 5%, investing in a mix of preferred equity, equity, and ground-up builds.

It’s an evergreen fund, and I can choose to remain invested indefinitely or sell my shares at a later date.

Origin updates the NAV per share monthly, so I have a good idea of my total return to date. The IRR will likely improve with time, as there is a bit of initial drag from the initial investment fee.

 

My Results with Origin Investments

IRR: 16.46%

Days Invested: 512

Total Return on Investment: 22.99%

 

Visit Origin Investments

 

SFR3 via Republic Real Estate

SFR3 is a fund that purchases and renovates distressed homes to provide rental workforce housing throughout the southeastern U.S.

I was impressed by the resumes of the leadership team and their algorithmic approach to identifying neighborhoods and properties for potential acquisition. They’ve also got an impressive, albeit short performance record, and residential real estate has continued to perform quite well since I invested in the fund.

I saw this fund as a way to profit from single family home purchases and subsequent rental in a very passive way without getting my hands dirty. Most of the other investments I’ve made have been either equity in large multifamily complexes or lending to various projects.

I committed my funds in December, 2020, and the money was deployed in March, 2021. Returns for the full year of 2021 were reported to be in the upper teens, and the reported return does not include an increase in market value of thousands of homes in the portfolio; these are only updated when a cash-out refinance takes place.

I made this investment via an access fund put together by Republic Real Estate.

 

Completed Deals

 

Alpha Investing

In July of 2019, I made my first investment on the Alpha Investing platform, a low five-figure investment. It was an apartment complex in Arizona to be purchased, improved, and resold.

I received small quarterly distributions from September 2019 to September 2020. In December 2020, the property was sold for a handsome profit, and I was paid out with payments in December 2020 and January 2021.

 

My Results with Alpha Investing

IRR: 50.45%

Days Invested: 512

Total Return on Investment: 76.5%

 

Visit Alpha Investing

 

Republic Real Estate

My second investment with Republic was the first to go full-circle after just 7 months. It was a loan as part of a fix and flip project in Los Angeles.

They raised $1.5 Million for the project ($108,000 via Republic Real Estate) and, after renovations, sold it for $2.18 Million, giving me a return of 27.5% in 7 months for an IRR of 52.2% annualized.

This remodel of a 4 bed / 4 bath place on Boeing Avenue in Los Angeles marked the launch of Republic’s American Dreamhouse series, and a series of mini-episodes were released on Instagram to show the progress of the home as it was remodeled. A bit like something from HGTV where you can invest in the project before the show begins.

Below is an artist’s rendering of the proposed finished product and an actual picture from its Zillow listing. The garage door is less fancy, but otherwise, they pretty much nailed it.

 

My Results with Republic Real Estate

IRR: 52.2%

Days Invested: 210

Total Return on Investment: 27.5%

 

Visit Republic Real Estate

 

republic_RE_boeing

 

EquityMultiple

This was one of my first investments in passive real estate, made in January of 2018, and it was a low five-figure investment via EquityMultiple. It was also a value-add apartment complex project in Connecticut in an area suitable for commuting to New York City.

The investment was all set to be completed in the spring of 2020, but COVID threw a wrench in those plans. I received distributions from rental income from May, 2018 to November, 2019, and then the distribution stopped while lawyers sorted out the details of the stalled closing.

Eventually, a new buyer was identified, and after the sale closed, I was paid out in April of 2021. I made money, but not much.

 

My Results with EquityMultiple

IRR: 2.49%

Days Invested: 1,204

Total Return on Investment: 8.21%

 

VisitEquityMultiple

 

PeerStreet

I also invested with PeerStreet in January of 2018, a mid-four figure debt deal for a project in Palm City, Florida. Their business model is making short-term loans to individuals who like to fix-and-flip homes.

These short-term loans, typically in the 4-month to 24-month range, with 12 months being quite common, tend to pay interest in the high single digits.

From March, 2018 to December, 2019, I received monthly interest payments, and my money was returned with one final interest payment in January of 2020.

 

My Results with PeerStreet

IRR: 8.54%

Days Invested: 705

Total Return on Investment: 15.90%

 

Visit PeerStreet

 

RealtyShares

This was another investment that I made in January of 2018, a low four-figure short-term debt deal for a quadplex in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The RealtyShares platform no longer exists, having shut down gradually beginning late in 2018. Fortunately, your investment with a crowdfunding platform like them is not held by the company; RealtyShares was the technology platform that connected investors with operators seeking investors, performing some due diligence and record-keeping and reporting duties.

Still, their closing undoubtedly created some headaches for investors. My investment had gone full circle by July of 2018 and I received my 1099 for the interest income in early 2019 as expected.

 

My Results with RealtyShares

IRR: 6.98%

Total Days Invested: 152

Total Return on Investment: 2.94%

 

VGSLX

We’ll wrap this up where we started, with a look at my first passive real estate investment, the Vanguard REIT index fund, which I owned from 7/26/2013 until 8/20/2021.

Having been an investor for over 8 years, calculating my own IRR with a spreadsheet as I have done for the others would be quite cumbersome with so many inflows and outflows as I made my annual backdoor Roth contributions.

Morningstar reports a 107.62% total return over the entire timeframe. The Rule of 72 would suggest that a 9% return would result in an 8-year doubling time, and an 8% return would double in 9 years. I can confidently say that my returns were in the high single digits, at least with the money I invested in my Roth IRA early on.

It was a wild ride, but not nearly as scary as the fund’s performance in 2009, when the fund was down 78% from it’s all-time high.

Why am I no longer invested? I decided to open a self-directed Roth IRA in 2021 via RocketDollar (save $50 with code PHYSICIAN) to invest in a handful of pre-IPO startups. Since I already have about 10% of my portfolio invested in the passive real estate investments mentioned on this page, I felt no need to keep the REIT, so I liquidated it.

I feel that the investments I’ve made are likely to perform as well or better and with lower volatility.

 

My Take on Passive Real Estate Investments

 

I got comfortable with the asset class by making small investments in diversified eREITs. I think that’s a great place to start.

Read everything you can on the website of any platform you consider investing with. Many of them have investor education blog posts and modules. Become educated and familiar with the terms used.

As you gain knowledge and confidence, and eventually attain accredited investor status by virtue of at least two years of multiple six-figure income ($200,000 as an individual or $300,000 as a couple) or by having a million dollar net worth (not counting your primary home), you may be ready to choose individual syndications. These are deals found either on the popular crowdfunded platforms or by connections made with other investors in your network. Passive Income MD and his Facebook groups are great resources for learning more.

If you are not an accredited investor, your options are limited to smaller investments like the REITS offered by Diversyfund, Fundrise, and RealtyMogul, and various offerings at Republic Real Estate. There are additional publicly traded and private REITS, and REIT index funds like Vanguard’s.

At this point, I’m most likely to direct future passive real estate investments to evergreen funds like those offered by DLP, Origin, and others. As my smaller investments come full circle or reach the point where there’s no penalty to liquidate, I’ll plan to consolidate for the sake of simplicity. Look for a couple of these ongoing investments to move to the Completed Deals section when this post is updated for 2023.

I would be very happy with a tax-neutral distribution in the 6% range with total returns in the low teens, which is the somewhat conservative target of the funds I’m considering or have invested in.

Passive real estate investments are certainly not without risk — nothing offering double-digit returns ever will be — and a total loss of capital on a single deal is not unheard of. It’s an optional asset class, as there are no called strikes in investing, but it’s an asset class that has generated a great deal of wealth for many individuals and families.

I plan to continue to grow my investments in the space to roughly 20% of our investment portfolio.

 



 

As mentioned earlier, I currently or previously have had advertising or referral relationships with a number of the platforms I’ve invested with. If you choose to register with any of them to see more details of their offerings, you may be supporting this blog and its charitable mission.

 

 

2 thoughts on “3 Rules for Using Real Estate Investing to Create Passive Income”

  1. One thing I like about some real estate syndications (especially larger ones where they do funds instead of just one project in one area) is that it comes with diversification.

    On top of satisfying #1, it also satisfies #3 because they’re professionals and they can manage real estate much better than I can with a full-time job.

    The last part I love about syndications is that I don’t even have the choice to pull out. Whereas in stocks and other things, I might panic sell and lose money that way — there’s no such thing in a real estate syndication. I’m basically forced to ride out bad times and collect either meager profits if the project is performing very poorly, or take a large profit when the project exits. No daily market-checking anxiety.

    Though with a syndication most of your portfolio performance will ride on your due diligence of the operator, which could be a high-leverage return-on-time (good) thing, or a bad thing if the operator was actually really bad.

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  3. As a securities attorney who has represented many people who lost money investing in non -publicly traded real estate deals, a word of warning: caveat emptor (buyer beware). Most are legitimate, but some are organized by unscrupulous or overly leveraged promoters charging many levels of fees. When they crash, there are insufficient assets available to satisfy the creditors, including the investors. I suggest, instead, only investing in listed REITs or buying farmland, timberland, or other income-producing property that requires very little oversight.

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