One of the most hotly debated topics I discuss with my clients is the concept of using a loan to assist in a purchase.  The concept of using other people’s money in order to finance a purchase is called leverage….and there’s quite a few reasons why this topic is debated so frequently.  Some of my clients are either in their later years near retirement and don’t want the responsibility of a mortgage payment.  Some of them want to see a higher return and maybe don’t want to tie up all their cash to buy the type of property their interested in.  Some don’t want a mortgage so they can have full control in case they do decide to sell later.  Some just want to spread their investment around so it’s not tied up in one single project.  I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what I personally feel is a responsible way to look at leverage…

First let me show you how using leverage can assist in both your return and your risk…  To make numbers easy, let’s say you have $1M to buy a property.  While searching you notice you could buy a $1m that makes about $100k/year.  If you so choose to buy this property all cash and sell it in 5 years for the same $1M price paid for it, you will make a fairly straightforward 10% return.

But let’s take a look at how much of a return you could make by putting 30% down with a 5% interest rate.  Now, your mortgage payment is a bit under half of the $100k per year, so you take home only about $55,000.  And of course if you sell it, you’re going to have to repay the loan in full.  Looking at this, your return went from 10% in an all cash deal, to a cash on cash return of over 18% with a nearly 21% internal rate of return.  So how did it double?  Well you have to keep in mind, you were making 10%…and you’re BORROWING someone else’s money at 5%…

Imagine you borrow $5 from a friend who simply wants $6 in return.  You then go out and buy a DVD from a store and then immediately sell it to someone else for $10.  You now have made a $4 profit after you pay your friend back.  This is an example of using positive leverage.  Using other people’s money to make a profit which you couldn’t have made before.

In our $1M example, this also opens up a few doors.  Remember, you only spent $300k to buy this $1M property — meaning you still have $700k left over.  Now you could go and buy two more additional properties.  This also helps spread your risk around.  What if one of the buildings is an apartment complex, and the crime rate spikes in the area making it harder to rent…if all of your $1m is in that single property, you are now at the full mercy of what happens to just that one property.  It’s as if you just threw all your money into a single stock — if that one single stock does poorly and you haven’t diversified, you don’t have anything else to fall back on.

Of course leverage can also free up capital.  As I discussed in my “Lease vs. Own” video, if you own your property outright and are looking to expand but don’t have the funds, you can use leverage properly and lease the space rather than owning it, or borrow against it and expand.  Again as an example, if you have a $1m property that you own outright but want to expand your business to other areas and grow, it may be sensible to sell your property to an investor and pay them rent…or it may also be sensible to refinance the property and pay a mortgage and use the proceeds to expand.

Again, leverage must be responsibly.  In the examples I gave, it would make no sense to have a $95k mortgage with only $100k in income.  It just doesn’t make sense to barely be able to cover the mortgage payment — that’s too much risk!  Also in the lease vs. own example, if you CANT expand as a company, why would you want to put your property at risk by selling and leasing back or even taking out a large mortgage that may be squandered trying if here is no set expansion plan?  Leverage must be used properly, and there is no exact formula as to how much can be considered risky.  It is going to depend on you as an investor and it’s going to depend on the local market and property conditions.  However, if used properly, it’s a great investment tool that can both spread your risk and increase your return…now that’s good to know. 🙂

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