Ron Denhaan, Realtor (949) 290-3263. Orange County, CA real estate specialist.
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Income and investment properties in Orange County, CA

Income Properties in Orange County, CA

An income property is a multi-family home consisting of two, three, four, or more separate living units built as a single dwelling or as separate units on the same lot. Residential income properties are those with 4 or less living space units, while those with 5 or more spaces are considered commercial properties. The individual units may be built side-by-side, separated by a firewall, or they may be stacked. Duplex, triplex, and fourplex homes are very popular in high-density areas such as older Orange County, California cities or in more expensive beach area communities. Income properties offer the advantage of being able to live in one of the units as an owner/occupant while renting out the others. Some units are zoned both residential and commercial so it's possible to have a home combined with a business, office, or retail space. You will generally get a better loan rate if you intent to occupy one of the units. For many investors, income properties are bought as pure rental properties that may increase in value over time. Search the links below to find a duplex for sale in Orange County, CA, as well as triplex or fourplex multi-housing units for sale. There are also new links for commercial properties (units with 5 or more livable spaces). If you are looking for a realtor for a duplex in Orange County, call me.

Update: March, 2013. Income properties (good ones) are in limited supply and they do sell fast. Recently, I have had many buyers who want to do much of their research on the property before they make an offer. This has often resulted in the property going into escrow with another buyer. Note that there is typically a long contingency or due diligence period of 17 days, to investigate the property and decide if you wish to move forward with the purchase. I'm advising my income property buyers to do their investigations during this contingency period, rather than before they have even made an offer. Your first objective should be to lock down the property to assure that no one else will buy it. Then, investigate all of the books, rents, costs, do your property inspections, etc. If you don't like what you find, you will be able to cancel your offer and get your deposit back. 

Second, most income properties are fully rented and this means that most are listed as "drive by only, subject to inspection". This means that the seller does not wish to disturb the tenants for a home showing, unless he has an acceptable offer in hand. While this would be considered unusual for a single-family home sale, it is the standard case for income properties. I have a blog article with a complete explanation, here .

 Income Property Menu - Click a link below to go to the selected home search


Search by Cap rate

Search by Cap Rate

The Cap Rate (Capitalization Rate) is a ratio commonly used to estimate the value of income producing properties and it is a common profitability index. Cap Rate is calculated by dividing the Net Operating Income (NOI) by the sales price or value of a property. The result is expressed as a percentage and the higher the percentage, the better. The search below is divided into three Orange County areas. The Cap rate may vary over time, as rental rates and the value of the property fluctuates. However, it is a popular, though static benchmark of profitability to most investors.NewVery high CAP rates in LA, Orange, and Riverside Counties


Note: Not all agents publish Cap Rates with their listings, as they may not aware of the required numbers. There may be many other listings available for sale with similar, but unpublished cap rates, so it is always advisable to search for income properties using multiple search methods.  

Beach areas OC 4 to 5% 5 to 6% 6% and higher
North OC 4 to 5% 5 to 6% 6% and higher
NewLA, Orange, and Riverside Counties 6 to 7% 7 to 8% 8% plus CAP rates

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Income properties   - By region

Duplex home

Duplexes may be the most popular of the multi-unit housing properties because of their affordability, versatility, and ease of renting the extra units. While popular with investors, they are also popular with owners who wish to live in one unit while renting out the other units, and with extended families who may enjoy living in adjoining units. You may search for Orange County, CA duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes by city or by price below. Are you looking for properties in a different city? Just e-mail me and I'll send you MLS listings in the city or area of your choice. Just added  - City of Long Beach and Inland Empire areas.


Anaheim Fullerton Newport Beach Seal Beach
Buena Park Huntington Beach Orange Tustin
Costa Mesa La Habra San Clemente Long Beach
Dana Point Laguna Beach Santa Ana Corona, Murrieta, Temecula

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Income property specialty searches

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Commercial income properties

Duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes are classified as "residential" property (4 units or less). "Commercial-level" income and investment properties are those with greater than 4 livable units. These can consist of apartment buildings, condo units, motels, hotels, or other large, multi-family income complexes. It can also include mixed-use buildings (sometimes known as "live-work"). This is a building with space for both commercial, business, or office use, plus space for residential use (my web page for residential live-work units is here.) The links below are for units in north OC, plus beach and coastal areas including Long Beach. If you are interested in one of these properties, please contact me.

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income property terms and definitions

Income property terms & definitions

There are several terms you will need to become familiar with when searching for income properties. Two of the most popular terms are Cap Rate and Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM). There are several other terms which you may see on MLS listings for income properties and it is important to know them also. 

Cap Rate - Capitalization rate (or "cap rate") is the ratio between the net operating income produced by an asset and its capital cost (the original price paid to buy the asset) or alternatively its current market value. The rate is calculated in a simple fashion as follows: cap rate = annual net operating income / cost. For example, if a building is purchased for $1,000,000 sale price and it produces $100,000 in positive net operating income (the amount left over after fixed costs and variable costs are subtracted from gross lease income) during one year, then: $100,000 / $1,000,000 = 0.10 = 10% (the asset's capitalization rate is ten percent). The lower the selling price the higher the cap rate. The higher the selling price, the lower the cap rate. In summary, from an investor's or buyer's perspective, the higher the Cap rate, the better.

Gross Rent Multiplier - Gross Rent Multiplier or "GRM" is the ratio of the price of a real estate investment to its annual rental income before expenses: Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM) = Sale Price / Potential Gross Income. Only two pieces of financial information are required to calculate the Gross Rent Multiplier for a property, the sales price and the total gross rents possible. The GRM is useful for comparing and selecting investment properties where operating costs can be expected to be uniform across properties. In this case, a property value may be estimated using the following related formula: Sale Price = Gross Rent Multiplier x Potential Gross Income. For GRM, the lower the number, the better.

Gross Scheduled Income - GSI is the maximum amount of annual rent you would collect if the property were 100% occupied all year and all tenants paid their rent. However, realistically owners experience vacancies and uncollected rents as well as generate other income outside of rents. Example: Ten Unit Property, 5 units rented at $1000 a month and 5 units rented at $1200 a month. GSI = Monthly Rents (5) X ($1000) + (5) X ($1200) = $11,000 monthly. $11,000 X 12 Months = $132,000 Annual Gross Scheduled Income.

Net Operating Income - NOI is equal to a property's yearly gross income less operating expenses. This number is a key number in evaluating multifamily investments, because it is used to determine value, profitability, and overall strength of the multifamily unit.

Operating Expenses - are costs associated with the operation and maintenance of an income producing property. These costs can include repairs, utilities, insurance, advertising, property taxes, realtor commissions, and other costs. it does not include 1) capital expenses such as improvements to the home, 2) income or capital gains taxes, or 3) mortgage interest. 

Vacancy Allowance - This is an estimate of the amount of rent lost due to unoccupied units. This figure is rarely stated for income property listings, yet you should make an effort to estimate annual vacancy in order to calculate net profitability of your investment. 

APOD - Annual Property Operating Data - This report lists all costs pertaining to running the property. All the utilities, taxes, mortgage payments, upkeep, etc

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Tips for income property

Buying income properties - Some tips

What are the three most important factors to look for in a property?

1) Location!

As with any property, location is very important. Potential renters will pay more for areas that are safe and secure, have good school districts, a view, close to shopping and services, etc. How do you know? First, drive by the area yourself and use your own "gut feel". How does the neighborhood look? Is it a clean, pleasant looking neighborhood or do you see properties that lack maintenance, graffiti on the walls, cars parked all over the street, close to a freeway, etc. Second, check local crime statistics and school ratings. Good ratings clearly raise the desirability of a property. Is it close to shopping, entertainment, a local college, or the beach?  These are also pluses.

2) CAP rate and the numbers!

The CAP rate is the standard investment gauge of the rate of return on a property. It is calculated as follows: Cap rate = annual net operating income / cost of property (see full description above). The highest CAP rates (up to 8% or more) are in desert areas like Palm Springs, where the cost of the properties is low, and rents are very good. You should expect far more modest CAP rates in areas like Orange County, where a 4 or 5% CAP is more realistic. Many high-end beach properties will have CAPs in the 3% range, but that is due to the value and cost of the location. Generally, you should pass on any inland area income property that has a CAP rate of less than 4.5%. Many agents do not put the actual CAP rate in the MLS, but it can be calculated once we know the actual rents and expenses. Note: Some properties are currently rented for below true market value, so many agents will list actual rents along with "pro-forma" rents, which is a projection of true market rent. It is OK to use pro-forma rents in lieu of actual rents, as long as you are fairly certain that the projected rents are realistic.

3) Condition of the property!

Many income properties are older (built in 1950s, 60s, or 70s). Because of this, one of the often over-looked issues is deferred maintenance. While a property may have a great location and perhaps a history of good income, you don't want to get stuck with a property that needs a new roof and myriad of other repairs. It is very important to have a full property inspection and also check to see if the property has been updated and maintained. Very often the photos of the property can give you the first clue. The agent may also state in the MLS that the property has been "recently updated" or "well maintained". While these statements can be subjective, it is at least a step in the right direction and will indicate a property that may be worth further investigation. 

Other important factors

4) Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

The number of bedrooms and bathrooms of your property will have a large impact on how much rent you can charge. The minimum you should look for is 2 bedrooms and 1 bath in each unit. If the property has mixed units, having one unit with a 1 bedroom/1 bath configuration is OK, but avoid properties where all of the units are 1 bedroom. Single bedroom units usually rent for less than $1,000/mo, and appeal mostly to single persons or couples. Having all (or most) of the units with 2 or more bedrooms will increase the income of the property and have greater appeal to renters.

5) Separate utility metering

If the tenants pay their own electricity and gas, it will definitely help your bottom line. Properties that have individually metered units are a plus, because the tenant is responsible for utilities instead of you! By the way, water is not usually individually metered.

6) Garages

While not the most important thing to look for, having a property that has individual garages is very desirable. Tenants will appreciate the extra security and storage, plus you may be able to charge higher rents than for a similar property without garages. 

Showing multi-unit / multi-family properties

If a property that you are interested in has a unit that is vacant, we will typically be allowed to visit and inspect that unit. You may be surprised to learn however, that many of the income producing properties for sale are not immediately show able and are frequently listed as "drive by only - subject to inspection". The reason for this is that many properties are fully rented and the listing agent (or property owner) does not wish to have all of the tenants disturbed for every showing. Instead, they will usually accommodate a showing of all units only after receiving an accepted offer. While this might seem problematic on the surface, the offer is always "subject to inspection" so your offer would not be binding if you did like what you saw, or if an inspection revealed issues that you were not comfortable with. If a property does have one or more a vacant units, I will be happy to arrange a showing for you. If, however the property is listed as "drive by only", it is a good idea to go by the units yourself to check out the neighborhood and structure and see if you are interested in taking the next step. Here is a little more on this topic: Drive by only, subject to inspection


Investing in multi-unit properties

Before you invest in a Duplex, Triplex, Fourplex, or larger property, you will need to do your due diligence. Here is some of the criteria for purchasing multi-family units:

Step # 1 : I can help with both residential and commercial properties!

Properties with four units or less are considered residential property and you can use the services of a standard residential Realtor to assist you. Properties with greater than four units are considered to be commercial properties. I can help with both. Call me to discuss!

Step #2 : Check out market areas

Where do you want to invest? One of the beach areas? North OC? South OC? Close to business centers? Ask yourself the following:

  • What are the local tax rates?

  • Is the area close to centers of employment or is it more rural or suburban?

  • Do you also want to live there or are you looking at a pure rental unit?

  • Is the area growing?

Step #3 : Analyze your finances

Before you search for income property listings, take note of your financials

  • Get your credit score

  • What is your maximum down payment?

  • What are your cash reserves?

  • What are your debts and monthly obligations?

You will need to know your credit scores, debits, cash on hand and in reserve, because a lender will use these factors to determine your loan qualifications and purchasing power.  

Step #4 : Consult with a lender and check out mortgage options

Call your lender or ask me for a referral. Income properties are classified as Multi-Family but still considered residential real estate, so financing is similar to a single-family home. The major financing difference depends if you are going to be an owner/occupant or a pure landlord. The other variable to ask about is if a lender will take into the consideration the potential rental income on the property.

  • If you are a �unseasoned� investor, they may give your potential rental income zero consideration and will simply finance you based on your ability pay the whole mortgage with your current financial means.

  • If you are a �seasoned� investor then they may take into consideration a certain percentage of potential rental income. Almost no lender will speculate on 100% occupancy. Most likely it will be somewhere near 75% from a lender�s perspective. What percentage they use also relates to your owner occupancy status on the property.

The down payment on the property is affected by your owner occupancy. For example, a lender may allow 10% down if you are buying as an owner occupant and want 20% down if you are a buying as pure investment property. One thing you will want to ask any lender is what the occupancy period is before you can leave the property as an owner occupant and turn that unit into a rental.  It may be a year, or it may be more. Verify this outside of your lender per your state rules.

Step #5 : Create a plan for renting the unit(s)

Once you know your financing options, think about your income property marketing plan. With any investment property, numbers tell the story. Find vacancy and credit lose rates in the area you want to buy. If you experience a high rate of vacancy, will your cash reserve allow you to pay your mortgage? Estimating the vacancy rates are important but so are the local rental rates. This rental income rate should be based on recent history and should be the average rate. I can help you research this by running "comps" (comparables) for you!

Step #6 : Shop for homes and narrow your possibilities

I will help you look at home options that meet your criteria. My income property home searches (above) will help you search for units by, city, price, Cap Rate. or other criteria. Once you have a rough idea of "where" and "how much", we will look at comparable prices and potential rental amounts. I will also be happy to take you out for showings of your final selections. 

Tip sticky note Would you like to know the latest income and multi-unit property mortgage rates?

If you interested in knowing the current mortgage loan rates for a duplex, triplex, or fourplex multi-family investor property, call me, or write to me at I will be glad to provide you with several lender referrals. My contacts are residential and commercial multi-unit property mortgage specialists and they will be happy to help you find the right loan with the most competitive interest rate!

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Questions and answers

For investment, is it better to buy four separate condominiums or a single fourplex?

This is a question I am asked quite frequently. Buying a single condo as a rental property is a great way to start if you are new to investing, but should you continue to accumulate single condos or purchase a multi-unit property? The key is really cash flow. A fourplex takes advantage of economies of scale. Having a single large building means you can purchase a single homeowners (landlord) insurance policy, maintain the entire building at once, and most likely pay less for a property manager. Four individual condos are generally more expensive to purchase than a single fourplex, plus the monthly cash flow can be severely impacted by multiple HOA dues, Mello Roos (for newer condos), and individual insurance policies. The advantage of separate condos is that they can be easily sold and have common area amenities like a pool and spa. Over all though, when you consider the added cost of multiple HOA dues, insurance policies, and property management, the fourplex is by far the winner for cash flow!

Four individual condos Single fourplex
  • Easier to sell - Large market for condo
  • Fire insurance and exterior maintenance is paid by HOA
  • Common areas and amenities like pool, spa, tennis courts, etc
  • Less expensive to buy than same number of condos
  • Owner can insure entire building with one policy
  • No Mello Roos or HOA dues
  • Property manager may be less expensive
  • More expensive to buy multiple condos
  • HOA dues for each condo can impact cash flow and dues can go up
  • Possible Mello Roos fees on newer condos
  • Home owner's insurance must be purchased for each condo
  • Special assessments are sometimes charged for major maintenance issues
  • Less easy to sell. Buyers are mostly investors
  • No common areas or amenities


Related Links

I will be happy to help you with an income or investment property in Orange County, CA. If you have specific requirements, just contact me. I will be glad to set up a custom search for you. I can also set up an automated e-mail for you that will alert you to any new listings or price reductions on the MLS. I can also help you with the sale of your multi-family property. Just call or e-mail me at ronforhomes@gmail,com

   Ron Denhaan

Contact me

DRE LIc# 01728866

Ron Denhaan, Realtor

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