Should You Invest in Real Estate with a Mortgage?

When we talk about real estate investing, we almost take it for granted that an investor will use a mortgage to buy the property. After all, many people don’t have the available cash needed to buy or renovate a house or commercial property outright.


But some do. Some investors do have that much cash. So why do so many of them still take on heavy debt to buy their real estate investments?


We don’t like to take anything for granted, so let’s interrogate the assumption — should you invest in real estate with a mortgage? What are the pros and cons?

Pros of Investing with a Mortgage


Less Money Down. For investors who don’t have the money for a 20% down payment or renovation costs, the ability to borrow money to buy investment property is a godsend.


Diversify. What if you do have the cash to buy the investment outright? Should you? Most investors don’t. If they have $200,000, they won’t buy a $200,000 property outright; they might buy five properties with $40,000 down payments.


That way, the risk is spread out. Even if one property underperforms, the others will probably do fine and one might even overperform expectations, pulling up the portfolio overall. But what if you just buy the one property outright and it underperforms? That’s the danger of putting all your eggs in one basket.


Leverage. Investors talk about real estate debt as leverage. It can be a tricky concept to grasp, but once you do it’s extremely powerful. Here’s the gist — you put less money down, but the property still appreciates as much as it’s going to appreciate. If you buy a $200,000 property outright and the property appreciates $40,000, you have increased your wealth by 20%. But if you only put $40,000 down and it appreciates $40,000, you have doubled your money. The property got more valuable, but the debt stayed the same size. You can build wealth incredibly quickly by using a mortgage as leverage.


Deductible Expenses. Your mortgage interest is a deductible expense. Additionally, your depreciation expense is the same size whether you mortgage the property or not, so you might as well get the most property cost basis you can.


Principal Paydown. Over time, your loan balance gets smaller as you pay down the principal with your mortgage payments, increasing your ownership interest in the property even as the mortgage payments stay the same.

Cons of Investing with a Mortgage


More Risk. Once you take on a mortgage, you are responsible for the repayment of the debt. If you hit financial hard times and can’t make the mortgage payment, you risk a total loss of the investment in foreclosure. Investing in real estate always entails risk, but there’s no denying that the less you borrow, the less risk you assume.


Less Cash Flow. Even if you don’t hit hard times, a mortgage payment is a big expense that takes a big bite out of your cash flow. It might still be positive cash flow … but if your goal is financial freedom, it might take longer to achieve with the smaller cash flow. However, this reduced cash flow can often be offset by the tax advantages of leveraging real estate.



Overall, we believe the hype — the pros of leveraging investment property with a mortgage far outweigh the cons. MartelTurnkey can help you identify the right mix of property selection, strategy, and financing to generate cash flow from Day One … and then rinse and repeat until you don’t just have one rental property — you have a whole portfolio!

What Happens at the Title Office When You Buy an Investment Property

If you have bought a home before, you probably have some impression of a title office — an attractive storefront where you sit at a big conference table, sign a stack of documents, your realtor pops champagne, hands you a gift basket and maybe balloons, maybe asks you to pose with the keys or a gigantic “sold” sign. It’s like Chuck E. Cheese for adults.


Believe it or not, champagne is not required to close a real estate transaction. It’s as much for the realtor to celebrate her own commission as to celebrate your new home.


The closing process on an investment property is a lot different. At MartelTurnkey, for example, we’re often helping someone in Ft. Lauderdale buy a house in St. Louis. The buyer won’t fly out for the closing. For them, the “closing” is positively anticlimactic — signing a stack of documents in front of the notary public at their local bank branch. If they want to pop champagne, they probably have to bring it themselves and do it in the car.


So is the title office just theatre? Not in the least. Whether or not you ever visit it and get the gift basket, many people work behind the scenes at the title office to make your deal close without a hitch, nipping a dozen or more problems in the bud before you ever have to worry about them. 


To understand better, let’s look at some of the most important roles in a title office and how they contribute to a successful closing, whether or not you ever get to meet them.


1. Escrow Officer

Remember, escrow is a designated “middleman” service that makes sure both parties to a contract fulfill the duties of the contract. The buyer wires all the necessary funds, the seller signs over the title, and no one gets stiffed by someone else skipping out before their end of the contract is done. 


The escrow officer has fiduciary duty over funds held in escrow. Fiduciary duty means acting in someone else’s interest rather than your own. 


Say you wire a $50,000 down payment to escrow. That money is out of your bank account and inside a bank account controlled by the escrow officer. What’s to stop the escrow officer from flipping around and using your $50k to buy a Tesla Model S for himself rather than closing your real estate transaction? His fiduciary duty, which he agrees to in the escrow contract and can be sued for if he violates. 

2. Title Agent

The title agent is a specialized kind of insurance agent who procures title insurance for the transaction. The premium for this insurance is one of the closing costs on the transaction.


What does this policy insure against? The possibility that you might hand over the entire purchase price to the seller … only to discover that you get no property in return. The seller might have no right to sell that property. Maybe there’s a competing title. Maybe the seller is just a charlatan trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, take the money, and run.


This kind of thing is rare, but it does happen, and a lot of money is at stake. Attorneys and researchers at the title office are supposed to catch these problems before money leaves escrow, but in the event that the title company makes a mistake, the buyer and the lender can claim any losses against the title insurance policy. 

3. Closing Agent

As I mentioned above, attorneys and researchers at the title office are tasked with making sure the property has a clean title and the seller has the right to sell the property, before any money leaves escrow. The buyer must also wire enough funds to escrow to cover the purchase price and all closing costs needed to complete the transaction. 


The closing agent (or settlement agent) is the person responsible for reviewing all this title work and the settlement statement to make sure everything is in order before the transaction closes. She is the “last mile,” the final stamp of approval on the documents before they are presented to the buyer. 


If you go to your closing in person, the closing agent will be the one presenting you the documents at that big conference table. If not, the agent will courier the documents to you with indications of where to sign and notarize them.




Ideally, the title office takes most of the legal hassle of buying real estate off your plate. If you want even more of the hassle off your plate, reach out to MartelTurnkey. We cover not only the legal due diligence but also the physical and financial due diligence for you. It’s the easiest way to build a portfolio of profitable real estate investments. We’ll even pop some champagne with you if you’re in town!

4 Tips to Identify the “Path of Progress” … and Then Use It to Buy Properties that Appreciate

If I had to write “Real Estate Investing for Dummies,” I would begin and end with this advice — “Buy property in the path of progress.” If you buy in the path of progress, you can make almost every mistake in the book — buy high, negative cash flow, etc. — and still come out ahead.


You see, every city has a “path of progress” — a zone where the city is intentionally targeting its economic development according to a “Master Plan.” Whether or not they succeed depends on the competence of the managers in charge … but if they do succeed, property in the path of progress will almost always appreciate rapidly. This goes for the commercial property as well as the condos and single-family homes nearby.


On the flip side, most cities have zones of decline — parts of the city neglected by economic development plans and left to stagnate. Real estate tends to flatline or even decline in value in these areas. You might reap some cash flow, but building wealth in these zones is an uphill battle.


If you want to build real estate wealth quickly, buy in the path of progress. So how do you identify this magical zone? Here are four tips to find the path of progress. If you live far away from the target city, all of these tips can be exercised through phone calls, online search, or on-the-ground foot soldiers.

1. Follow the Construction

The path of progress is paved with bulldozers and construction cranes. Economic development often involves the tearing down of old commercial structures and the building of new ones. This represents a significant economic investment, so the city and its developers won’t make that investment unless they expect a big payoff.


The city often offers cash incentives to build in the path of progress, so if you see a lot of construction in a particular neighborhood, you can deduce that the city is probably holding out a pretty big carrot to the developers. You can look up online or call for a list of construction permits and look for the same Zip Code to keep coming up. You may even be able to discover where in town the city is offering development grants. New malls, offices, apartment buildings, and condo developments are a great sign. 

2. Follow the Curbs

The city is responsible for restriping and rejuvenating the curbs in commercial and residential neighborhoods. They set the schedule, and neighborhoods outside of the path of progress tend to be neglected in this regard. Want to find the path of progress? Find out which neighborhoods are at the top of the city’s list for curb restriping. 

3. Follow the Chains

Starbucks, McDonalds, Target … national retail chains do extensive research into the path of progress before they open a new store. Following announced future openings for major chains is like cheating off their paper in a high school test — only it’s totally allowed and not at all unethical. 


By contrast, if national retailers are leaving a neighborhood, it’s a bad sign. They have the name recognition; the only reason for the franchise to fail is economic decline. 

4. Follow the Artists

The cycle of “gentrification” is pretty well-documented — artists move in for cheap rent, start hosting shows and popups, the neighborhood becomes “cool,” other people start wanting to live there, and the next thing you know — Whole Foods comes knocking. If there’s a “rough” part of town near the city center that has become a favorite haunt for “artsy” types, it might be time to buy before the neighborhood catches fire.



One of the best things about investing with Martel Turnkey is that we do the research for you. We have extensively researched the paths of progress in our target markets and buy assets primed to rise with the tide. These four tips give you the tools you need to check our work!