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DAVE SAYS: Good news and bad news with tenants

DAVE SAYS: Good news and bad news with tenants

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Dear Dave: My wife and I are in our late 20s. We have no debt, and our household income is about $180,000 year. We’re thinking about building a home, but we’re not sure whether to build just for us, or maybe building a multi-family place so we could live upstairs, rent the rest and make some money. Your advice would be appreciated. — Joel

A: If you’re looking strictly at quality of life considerations, like privacy and having a little room to yourselves, a single-family home is the way to go. But if making extra money is important to you at this point, a multi-family structure might work. The good news is your tenants would be right there. The bad news is your tenants would be right there.

From a landlord’s perspective, living next to or above your tenants means you can keep an eye on things a little better. Your tenants might also take better care of the place with you around. But those kinds of situations aren’t always beautiful things. When you’re living a floor or wall away from someone, you’re all up in their business, and they’re all up in your business. It’s not for everyone.

If you’re planning to have kids soon, I’d recommend going the single-family route, specifically because of the quality of life. Looking at the other side, you’ll make money with a multi-family construction, but it’ll probably be a pain in the butt. You’ll be giving up some things if you go that route.

Let me put it this way, Joel. I’ve owned a ton of investment real estate in my life, and my wife didn’t want to live in any of those properties. Still, there’s nothing inherently wrong with either decision. Just make sure your mortgage is a 15-year, fixed rate loan, and the monthly payments are no more than 25% of your combined take-home pay. Save up for a down payment of at least 20% to avoid PMI, too.

Take a hard look at the numbers, and make sure you and your wife have a long, long talk about everything. You two should be in complete agreement about every aspect of this situation before moving forward.


Dave Ramsey is a seven-time No. 1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert and host of The Ramsey Show. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

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