House Hacking: How to build a financial runway in your 20s and 30s


In response to rising inflation impacting the real estate landscape, house hacking emerges as a top strategy for young adults seeking affordable homeownership options. As housing prices soar, this method provides an unparalleled financial advantage, often surpassing the benefits of even the most significant salary increments. Drawing from personal experience, I can attest to the wealth-building potential of house hacking over several years.

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What is house hacking?

House hacking is a unique strategy that bridges the gap between renting and becoming a landlord. When you engage in house hacking, you invest in a multi-family property, reside in one unit, and lease the others. This approach is distinct from buying a single-family home or condo. Executed correctly, house hacking can ensure your rental earnings cover the bulk of your mortgage, taxes, and insurance expenses. Beyond the initial down payment, the cost of living in one unit can be minimal, and in some cases, even profitable.

Why house hack?

House hacking is one of the most powerful strategies for building financial freedom in your early years. The keyword here is “repeatable”. Unlike the unpredictability of stock market investments or the inconsistency of significant salary raises, house hacking offers a consistent blueprint for success. Its low barrier to entry ensures it’s an accessible and replicable method for establishing a solid financial foundation.

To illustrate the power of house hacking, let’s delve into my personal journey. I purchased a three-family property with two 2-bedroom units and one studio. As a novice in the real estate world, I opted for a more affordable property. My monthly expenses for mortgage, property tax, and insurance totaled $1,024. I inhabited one unit and rented the others, ultimately earning $300 more than my expenses every month. Even accounting for maintenance and unforeseen costs, I was living rent-free and profiting!

Once I grasped the transformative nature of house hacking, I ramped up my strategy. Being single, I found a roommate, boosting my net monthly income to $750 – a sum I had previously spent solely on rent.

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To really emphasize the financial impact, let’s compare this to a salary bump. The $750 I netted monthly, when adjusted for tax considerations and the depreciation deduction, was comparable to a significant raise. In after-tax terms, my income rose by $1,500 monthly. This equates to a pre-tax salary boost of approximately $25.7k annually.

Therefore, house hacking isn’t just another real estate strategy. It’s a reliable tool for financial empowerment. A robust financial runway grants you career flexibility, increased financial stability, and a taste of freedom.

Understanding the Realities of House Hacking and Landlord Responsibilities

When diving into house hacking, it’s crucial to set realistic expectations. Being a landlord isn’t always smooth sailing. Unlike renters, landlords bear the brunt of every responsibility that comes with property ownership. When there’s a glitch, tenants look to you for solutions. As the owner of this real estate venture, you can’t simply pass the buck to another department. Whether positive or negative, every aspect of rental management falls on your shoulders.

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For me, this journey has been transformative. I’ve gained invaluable insights into:

  • Process Development: Streamlining operations and handling various scenarios.
  • Relationship Management: Building healthy interactions and effectively managing tenant relations.
  • Sales and Marketing: Crafting compelling pitches for potential tenants.
  • Financial Management: Maintaining accurate accounting, monitoring income and expenses.
  • Taxation Knowledge: Enhancing my understanding of real estate taxes.

These learnings inspired me to create PortfolioBay – your all-in-one property management solution. With PortfolioBay, managing tenants, leases, payments, and maintenance has never been more efficient, paving the way for optimized rental management scalability.

Other consideration

“House hacking strategies evolve with life’s stages. In my younger days, I optimized for maximum financial gain, being single with fewer possessions. Now, as a married individual planning for a growing family, my criteria for a house-hacking property prioritizes neighborhood quality and property size, not just the potential cash flow. Ultimately, the goal of house hacking is to achieve a comfortable financial cushion. The suitability of house hacking varies for everyone, depending on personal and financial circumstances. Throughout life’s phases, our approach to house hacking adjusts.


Meng Chen

Founder at PortfolioBay