Real Estate 008: BRRRR method of investing

In my previous posts, I have discussed different strategies to meet your real estate investing goals. I have recently come across a method that has been popularized by Brandon Turner at but has existed and been used by savvy real estate investors who want to start investing using little to no money down. So what is it? The BRRRR method - stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat. Lets take a closer look at each step below:

1. Buy

They say you make money in real estate in three ways: 1) buy 2) sell 3) cash flow. Knowing your numbers used in your BRRRR strategy is just as important as wholesaling, flipping, or buy and hold rentals. The main focus of the BRRRR strategy is to pull out all your money (in some cases, you may be able to pull out more than what you've put in) and end up with a cash flowing property with some equity. A general rule of thumb is to look for a purchase price that is 75% of the after repair value of the property.

For example: A home that has an after repair value of $150,000 * 75% (cash out refinance) - $25,000 est. rehab costs = $87,500 maximum purchase price.

If you are able to purchase below $87,500 or perform a quality rehab for under $25,000, then you will end up with more equity/less cash out of pocket. Note that the above calculation is a simple illustration and there are usually refinancing costs involved with the lender.

2. Rehab

The rehab budget is always an area of discussion among investors for many reasons. Here are my thoughts on the dollar amount on spent rehab and value add upgrades:

  • There is a key distinction between primary residence (Owner Occupied) and rental properties (Leased). Simply put, renters may not need, nor would they pay the extra $25-50/month in rent to have all the bells and whistles that you would want for yourself. Granted, if there are two homes in a neighborhood with all things being equal and 1 has granite countertops/backsplash and the other has none, it may be more appealing and rent out faster. However, you have to decide for yourself, at what cost? For me, I am mostly focused on replacing key CapEx items with little useful life to reduce deferred maintenance as well as making the house livable and suitable for the market/neighborhood (an A class neighborhood will definitely have different upgrades than a C class neighborhood).

  • You also have to decide what value add upgrades - new kitchen/new bath/new flooring will being the most return on investment. This is a great conversation with your property manager and rehab crew as they will have the most insight into the neighborhood and experience dealing with tenants.

3. Rent

The next key step is renting out the property after it has been properly rehabbed. Whether you decide to buy and hold or sell the property as "turn-key" alternative, renting the property will help you obtain refinancing with the lender. You can advertise and rent out the property by yourself, or I would personally recommend using a property manager who typically charge 8-12% of the rental income. Their marketing efforts, tenant screening, and maintenance handling should be well worth their fees. Make sure to received referrals from active investors in the market and interview multiple property managers. Remember, a good PM can make a good deal into a solid deal, whereas a bad PM can turn a solid deal into a horrible deal.

4. Refinance

You have crunched the numbers, bought/rehabbed/rented the property, so now you are ready to refinance and pull out your cash (downpayment + rehab costs). Depending on the lender, there will be different seasoning requirements. A traditional refinance may require a 12 month period for which you will have to maintain the property then request a refinance. However, there are many portfolio lenders who have 6 month seasoning requirements or some who can start the refinance process the day after closing (zero seasoning). The lender will order their own appraiser to go to the property and draft an appraisal. 

In the example mentioned earlier, lets look at two scenarios with the same expected ARV of $150,000.

Example 1: Purchase price of $50,000 (bought distressed/foreclosed/divorce/REO) and put in $25,000 amount of repairs for an all in cost of $75,000. The bank appraises it for $140,000. You request a cash out refinance and the bank gives you $105,000 (75% of the appraised value). Now you can fully pay off the $50,000 loan and $25,000 rehab costs (if you used private financing or hard money lender) and have $30,000 in excess cash + 25% in equity.

Example 2: Purchase price of $75,000 (normal sale) and put in $20,000 worth of repairs for an all in cost of $95,000. The bank appraises it for $135,000. The bank does not allow for refinances greater than your all in cost. In this case, you will get back $95,000 to pay off the $75,000 purchase and $20,000 in rehab, and the remaining amount will be left in equity ($135-95K = $40K/135K = 30%).

5. Repeat

The above examples are cases of success stories in which you were able to cash out your initial investment and maintain equity of 25% or greater in the home. Now you will rinse and repeat the process and scale your rental portfolio!

Few thoughts on BRRRR vs. TurnKey/buying off MLS

Although I have bought my first rental property from a turnkey company, I eventually want to try the BRRRR method for a couple reasons: 

  • Ability to cash out refinance and retain equity in the home

  • Control over the type/quality/amount of rehab

  • Ability to retain your "seed" capital for other investments (typical buy will lock up 20-25% cash each time you by, thereby significantly lowering your buying power)

  • Allows for faster scaling of your rental portfolio

  • Higher return on investment (more of other people's money = higher ROI)

However, there are also a couple reasons why I do not want to jump on the BRRRR bandwagon just yet:

  • More risk is placed on the project owner overall (you are buying/rehabbing/renting/refinancing)

  • Risk of appraisal coming in lower than expected (not being able to break even)

  • Risk of rehab delays (A turnkey is already rehabbed and tenanted)

  • Longer process than buying turnkey/MLS

  • Risk of being unable to cash out refinance

    • Seasoning requirements

The BRRRR method has been a very popular method for investors to increase their return on investment as well as overall net worth due to the fact that they are leveraging other people's money and if done correctly, able to repeat the process over and over. However, if it was so easy, why doesn't everyone do it? As mentioned in the reasons above, the BRRRR takes careful planning, finding the right deals, using the right team, and comes with its own set of headaches as things can go wrong during the process. What is your strategy? I would love to hear your thoughts on BRRRR vs buying turnkey/MLS.

As always, please make sure you do your due diligence and talk to your CPA/Attorney/Financial Advisor before making any investment decision. 

Good Luck!