The House Hack Seattle: A New Investor’s Guide For House Hacking Opportunities in Seattle, WA
Love BiggerPockets? Have you been reading about house hacking and wondering if a house hack in Seattle was even possible? It’s a smart strategy and although it might not be as clean and cashflow-positive as we would like here in this low-cap rate marketplace, you can still do a house hack with a focus on:
b) Increasing the value of your property by remodeling units you’re in, and
c) Controlling a large asset with a small premium above a normal rental payment.
In this article, I will tell you a story of my friend Michael who was a Seattle house hacker back before it was cool. Then we’ll take a look at a couple of potential Seattle house hack examples – a few lower-cost duplexes and a fourplex in Capitol Hill in the heart of downtown Seattle in one of the hottest neighborhoods.
We can help you House Hack Seattle!
Michael’s Story: The Finished Basement House Hack – Seattle in Greenlake Neighborhood
One of the millionaire investors I met at a real estate conference ended up putting money into in our shopping center project in El Paso. Overtime I got to know him and when I found out he lived in Seattle, we started going for walks around Greenlake ocassionally and he told me about his Seattle house hack.
He is a dentist and owned a house in Phinney Ridge near Greenlake. He could walk to the lake, the park, all sorts of things. He was a single guy, so he realized he did not need this big house and built out the basement into a small apartment, like a mother-in-law type of apartment. He even had an ingenious way of building a bookcase into the staircase that went to the upper unit, so that no space was wasted. He also built sail boats as a hobby, so maybe he got these ideas from a ship’s cabin. I don’t know but it was spiffed-out, let me tell you.
Anyway, once he moved into the basement, he was able to rent out the upstairs of the house for enough to cover his mortgage, I believe, or at least most of it. So he was able to live in a great neighborhood, benefit from the appreciation on this large house, and enjoy a custom-made suite for himself. When he eventually got married and had a child, he was able to switch things up and move into the upstairs of the house – where he had a lot of space, and rent out the lower basement unit to a tenant who would continue to offset part of the mortgage.
This was the first house hack Seattle project I had come across.
What is a House Hack?
A “house hack” is a term I first heard on the real estate investing website, Bigger Pockets. It became such a popular concept, they even wrote a book on house hacking. The general idea of “house hacks” is for a home-buyer to purchase a multi-family property, usually a fourplex or smaller because these can be acquired with better loans. If you are getting a VA loan or FHA loan, you may also be able to have a small down payment, or down payment assistance to make it easier to get into the property.
Once you own the duplex, triplex or fourplex, you live in one unit and rent out the others. If the building needs interior renovations, many people choose to upgrade the unit they are in while they live there and when it’s nice, they rent it out for more money and move into another unit which they then proceed to upgrade as well. This can be inconvenient and it is a strategy usually favored by younger people who don’t have a big family they need to renovate around, don’t mind moving a lot, are used to living in “rental” type acomodations, and are eager to get their foot in the door and start riding the real estate market up, without having to shell out for a large mortgage. Down payment assistance programs can make this especially accessible.
To take it to the next level, some house-hackers will have roommates, so if they are renting a duplex with two bedrooms in their unit, they might have a roommate to live in the other bedroom, so if their rent was $1,000 per month, and they can rent out the bedroom for $500/month to a friend, they can scrape by with only paying $500/month on rent, which frees up cash and income for repairs and maintenance and potential vacancy or negative cashflow on other units. This is a strategy for someone who is agile, something of a minimalist and is willing to manage the other tenants in the building as the property manager.
So how could a House Hack in Seattle work?
Example 1: House Hack Seattle Neighborhood: Renton, WA
Let’s look at this $400K duplex in Renton, WA.
With a 4.5% loan your PITI on this would be about $2000/month and each 1/1 unit rents for $1000/month. So, if you could get into this property, your payment would be the same as if you would be renting it, but you would have the advantage of ownership. Tax advantages, appreciation… if it appreciated at 3% per year for 5 years, it would be worth $463,000. If you were able to increase rents in that time, or fix-up and improve the units, it might be worth even more.
Example 2: House Hack Seattle Neighborhood: Des Moines, WA
Here’s another example:
This is a duplex in Des-Moines, near the SEATAC airport. It has a 3-bedroom unit renting for $1400 and a 2-bedroom for $1300. Altogether the PITI is 2900 and the income is 2700.
So, to live in one of these units, you will have to cover about $200/month above “market rent” plus maintenance and vacancy reserves, but you’d have the control of the property, be in the market and in a few years have the potential to move out and keep renting, or sell and roll into a better property via 1031 exchange.
Example 3: House Hack Seattle Neighborhood: Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA
If you want something more centrally located and/or high end, take a look at this $1.250 million dollar capital hill location:
It’s a four plex and the PITI is $6000/month. The income is a little less than $5,000/month, so if you were to live in one of these units, you’d need to cover an extra $1000/month of negative cashflow (above rent) and vacancy and repairs.
As you can see, the more expensive the property, the more the negative cashflow that we expect at these low Seattle cap rates can come and bite you. However, the “pro” side of the coin is that for for a relatively low “premium” you are controlling a million dollar plus asset that has a great location and strong appreciation potential. As housing rises and rents rise, you will be on the ship, riding the tide that raises all boats. You will be able to enter the market and participate as a house hacker.
House Hack A Multi-Family Apartment?
Some people want to buy really big property. Here is a sample 7-plex that was on the market a while ago that I evaluated. You can get into some great neighborhoods this way. And you can save some money if you are willing to live onsite as the property manager (or just be a secret owner). The primary downside of buying a bigger property like this (over 4-units) is that you will not be able to qualify for “home owner” financing. 5+ units in an apartment building puts you into “commercial loan” territory and the underwriting by the lenders is different. You won’t have access to “low down payment” programs like the FHA program and the VA loan program.
We Can Help You House Hack Seattle
If this is appealing and you’re interested in learning more about buying a multi family investment as a house hack or as an investment, please call or email us and we will discuss your needs as well as current rents and values in the market place.