Today, we’re diving into a topic that’s not just close to my heart — it’s a TOTAL game-changer for anyone looking to buy property.
Investing in a duplex, triplex, or four-plex, whether on your own, with family, a coworker, or alongside a pal is more than just a sound financial move, it’s about reshaping our societal norms around property ownership.
We’re at a crossroads where we have an affordability crisis, less people are choosing to get married, AND we’re becoming increasingly isolated from each other. All of that makes traditional homeownership seem like a distant reality.
But here’s the silver lining: there are new rules in town for purchasing plexes up to four units that make buying with friends and family more accessible than ever before.
Teaming up with my mortgage aficionado pal, Julee Felsman, we recently delved into these changes during an IG Live session (watch it here!), what they mean, and how they affect the housing landscape for the better.
Curious? Let’s break it all down! 🏡✨
If you’re new here, I’m Lauren Goché — a Portland realtor with a decade of experience backing me up. Which means I’ve weathered more than a few market shifts over the course of my career, and specialize in making sure you can make the most of the market for your goals. Read more about me here.
Meet Julee Felsman:
Julee is a true mortgage legend. She’s been in the lending game for a whopping 30 years, is licensed in all 50 states, and proudly calls Portland her home. Having spent a lifetime in multi-family housing, she’s your go-to for insights on collaborative property purchases with family and friends.
Most of all, she loves getting creative with mortgage lending. It’s not just about numbers and paperwork for her (although she’s a pro at that), it’s about finding innovative solutions tailored to YOUR needs.
You can tap into Julee’s expert advice on real estate investing through her YouTube channel. If you’re looking for an in-depth guide on any topic covered here, she highly recommends watching The House Hacker’s Guide!
You can find Julee over at Guaranteed Rate (NMLS #120831), where she’s happy to give you expert advice on any of your mortgage lending needs.
Why Your First House Should Be a Duplex, Triplex, or Four-plex
Community Living: Redefining What’s Normal
Let me be real with you – I LOVE having an ADU in my basement! There’s something comforting about having someone downstairs, ready to share a glass of wine at the end of the day, while still maintaining separate spaces.
Julee captured the benefits of buying property with others perfectly:
“I think it’s the ethos behind cohousing communities without the formality. It’s the idea that there’s someone around to water your plants when you’re on vacation, someone to let the dog out if you’re running late. There’s just something nice about a collaborative living experience. I think it’s kind of what we’re honestly wired for — we lived in little bands of humanity for a long time before we created this thing that we have now, which is these siloed lives.”
Opting for a duplex or purchasing a property with a friend isn’t just an incredibly smart financial move, it’s a way we can combat that general lack of community many of us feel. You get all the financial, spiritual, and psychological benefits of collaborative living while still maintaining your personal space. I honestly think its a more soul-nourishing living arrangement than the traditional homeownership route and just like Julee points out, it’s literally hardwired in us.
Housing Affordability SUCKS! It’s Time to Get Creative
We’ve had to kiss a sweet goodbye to affordability these past few years, and buying a home in the traditional sense is just not possible for many folks anymore.
In order to make your homeownership dreams a reality, we’ll have to adapt and find creative solutions. This could involve purchasing a property with friends, constructing an ADU, or househacking to supplement income with rent. Let’s take a look at these options:
Buying with a pal:
The numbers are simple here: If you’re making 50k, traditional financing allows you to target a $235k home… good luck finding that in the Portland metro area. Alternatively, when two people earning 50k each come together, that opens up a more realistic budget of 470k — Now we’re talking!
Househacking with duplexes:
The classic househack involves purchasing a duplex, triplex, or four-plex and living in one unit and renting the others out. The great part about this approach is that lenders will include the income you make from renting out the other units when calculating your mortgage. This in turn will open up a bunch of properties that would otherwise be out of your budget. Here is everything you need to know about duplexes.
Just ADU It!
Finding a property with an ADU means added income from rent. Although I will say that duplexes tend to go for more than properties that have an ADU — just to keep that in mind!
For example, you and a friend can buy a four-plex, live in two units and rent out the other two. Or, you can turn your basement into an ADU (like I did) to supplement income. There are many ways you can get creative with these solutions to fit your needs and make homeownership realistic for you.
*New* Lending Rules for Buying Plexes
Up until now, loan guidelines made it really hard to buy multifamily properties as a residence. You basically had two loan options:
- The Freddie Mac Home Possible Program allowed a 5% down payment, but had income restrictions for those earning over 80% of the median income. And if you met this criteria, your income likely wouldn’t be adequate to qualify for a down payment on a two, three, or four-unit property.
- FHA Loans allow as little as 3.5% down on 2-4 unit properties. Sounds great, but there are a couple of catches. If you need a cosigner, the minimum down payment jumps to 25%. And 3 and 4-unit properties have to pass a “self-sufficiency test” that a property in Portland can only pass with a much larger down payment.
Those options left people in a tough spot where if you made too much, you were excluded from buying, but if you were under that income threshold then you probably couldn’t afford a downpayment on a multi-unit. Good news — on November 18th that all changed:
Fannie Mae now allows 5% down on two, three, or four-unit properties AND parents and friends are allowed to cosign even if they don’t live in the property.
This is huge. Here’s what Julee has to say:
“It opens up a way where friends can band together and buy property, but family can help too. So if you can’t qualify to buy on your own, maybe you and friends can pool resources and see if you can buy something together. If that doesn’t work, or you don’t have friends that you trust on that level, maybe have family help out. Parents and grandparents can help their kids by going in on these things together.”
These new guidelines mean you could potentially ask a high earner sibling in another city to chip in on your investment property. Alternatively, some of us have baby boomer parents with mountains of equity who still want to stay in their homes that can now cosign on a property. Now is the time to just ask! You might have family members that are thrilled to invest in a property.
This also opens the door to a lesser-known loophole for those of us taking care of a person with a disability. Whether it’s a parent buying for their disabled adult child or a child buying for their parent, the person who will live in the property doesn’t necessarily need to be on the mortgage. This means you can make a purchase under owner-occupied terms.
Here’s a recent scenario Julee has of this in action:
“I spoke with someone whose mom is considering buying a home for her son with schizophrenia. She can purchase a duplex, allowing her son to occupy one unit while renting out the other to help supplement the help he needs and get him stable housing. It’s an option that many might not be aware of and it’s a way a family can make an investment to help carry the cost of the family member who’s in need.”
Julee also notes that in the lending process, you are not required to give out detailed information about the disability. Lenders are not medical professionals and there is no need to “prove” a disability exists — they will believe you!
Why You Should Buy with Friends
The times have changed and the traditional steps of homeownership are becoming more and more obsolete. It’s time we rethink what’s normal when it comes to buying property!
Here’s some straight wisdom from Julee:
“The old American dream used to be waiting until you’re part of a couple, and then dive into homeownership together. But let’s face it, people’s lives aren’t cookie-cutter anymore. Statistically, it takes longer for folks to get married or coupled up, and for some, that might not even be the path they choose. Life isn’t the textbook picket-fence scenario that culture pounded into our heads.”
So here’s the thing: If you’re not in a committed relationship or planning on getting married anytime soon, that doesn’t mean you can’t own real estate! With ANYTHING that’s an investment, it’s the time in the market that works the magic. Y’all already know I’m obsessed with buying with friends, and the new loan guidelines make that a much more accessible option.
Our advice to those who think buying is not possible — team up with a friend and buy a place! Heck, you probably have roommates anyway and are paying just as much in rent as you would a mortgage.
Why You Should NOT be Freaked Out About Buying With Friends
Breakups and divorces happen all the time, so why are we so freaked out about buying with friends? If you sit down and outline what you want to get out of the situation, what could go wrong, and what the planned course of action will be — you’ve done more than many married couples do!
Julee has the exact same sentiment:
“The key here is communication. Sit down, have those important conversations, and tackle the tough questions. When you do that, you’ve already laid a solid foundation, something many married couples skip over. You can sit down and draft a partnership agreement together. It sets clear expectations, defines responsibilities, and helps manage potential issues before they arise.”
Now what exactly are those important questions you should be asking when buying with friends? Lucky for you, I had an INCREDIBLE IG Live with anti-capitalist money coach, Hadassah Damien (@ridefreefearlessmoney) about how exactly you should tackle and get the most out of those conversations — you can watch it here!
Bottom line is: the assumptions are where the problems come from. By having those conversations and putting it all in writing, you’re proactively addressing potential pitfalls. It’s about acknowledging that life is unpredictable, and it’s okay to plan for different scenarios.
We’re Here to Help You Make It a Reality
Julee and I genuinely LOVE what we do because we get to bring those daydreams to life — the ones that you might otherwise just sit on. Our goal is to guide you seamlessly from the fantasy stage to the “is this possible” stage, and you know what? We succeed about 90% of the time!
So, go ahead, reach out to that friend or family member, and start a chat about the possibility of investing together. You might be in for a surprise!
Here’s the Full Breakdown
- Fannie Mae now allows 5% down on two, three, or four-unit properties AND parents and friends are allowed to cosign even if they don’t live in the property.
- Buying property with friends and family is more accessible than ever.
- Community living is better for you financially, psychologically, and spiritually!
- The Old American Dream is becoming obsolete: If you’re not planning on getting married anytime soon, that doesn’t mean you can’t own real estate with a friend.
- You should NOT be freaked out about buying with friends: Yes, buying a home together is a HUGE commitment but the truth is that if you sit down and have the important conversations with your friend, you’re doing more than most married couples do when buying property.
If you’ve ever entertained the fantasy of buying property with a friend, we specialize in turning that dream into a reality — don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my experienced team to start that journey!