The owner-occupied unit would be considered their principal residence. The other three units are treated as rental property and eligible for cost recovery, a non-cash deduction plus all the normal business expenses. The rental income of the three remaining units is calculated as income and assists the buyer in qualifying.
A homeowner could buy a four-unit, live in one for two years, buy another four-unit with a minimum down payment, move into one unit, rent the other three as well as the previous unit in the first property. Then, after another two years, repeat the same process over again.
The fifth year, the homeowner/investor would have a total of 11 rental units plus the one that they are occupying. An acquisition strategy like this might be difficult for a family with children and a single person or couple might find it easier to move more frequently.
As the equity increases in these properties, due to appreciation and amortization, the money could be pulled out through refinancing to purchase additional income properties. Another objective might be to pay the mortgage off as soon as possible and any cash flow after tax could be applied directly to the principal.
FHA has a nationwide mortgage limit for a four-unit of $521,250 but some high-cost areas have been designated with increased limits. There are also loan programs for two and three-unit properties with limits of $347,000 and $419,425 with similar exceptions for high-cost areas.
The low mortgage rate and minimal down payments for owner-occupied FHA mortgages makes this strategy attractive because it gives investors an opportunity to highly leverage their investment. Most non-owner-occupied (investor) mortgages would require 20-25% down payment and have a slightly higher interest rate than for an owner-occupant.
To learn more about this opportunity, call and we can give you information on specifics in a variety of areas.