How to Leverage Debt in Real Estate? [Benefits & Risks]

It’s no lie that everyone out there wants to maximize their wealth. People often invest in real estate as a way to increase their money. Leverage helps you get the most out of your real estate investments.

Leverage in real estate is using a loan to increase the return on investment. Leverage is a strategy that both individuals and organizations use to improve the chance of making money. It also increases the cost of all the risks involved if things don’t work. When you make a 20% deposit on real estate, the other 80% is leverage.

As we can see, investing is always a good idea. Leverage is an important part of investing in real estate, but it comes with many risks, such as the estate not being worth what you paid for it, which makes you pay a monthly bill that is too high. This guide explains if leverage is worth investing your money in or not. 

Let’s cover the basics!

What Is Leverage In Real Estate Investing?

Leverage is a simple way to invest in real estate. Investors lend cash to buy real estate to make more money. Investors use loans to get higher returns, like a man gains muscle when he uses a lever as he lifts weights.

When an investor uses leverage to buy a property, the borrower pays most of the cost upfront, so the investor gets the entire income and builds up capital. As a property’s value goes up, investors’ total wealth grows.

How To Calculate Leverage?

Two methods are used to determine how much leverage you have in real estate.

  • In the loan-to-cost (LTC) method, divide your money by the property’s price. 
  • In the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) ratio, divide your deposit volume by your property’s present value. LTV is effective when an investor has paid the money to mend up a house and sell it again.

Leverage ratios in real estate investments ensure that an investor doesn’t get a loan for more than the investment’s worth. This ratio helps the investment thrive and gives the investor a steady income. 

Benefits Of Leverage

Investors like to boost their earnings by growing their real estate projects faster without putting all their cash into contracts. The greater your leverage, the greater your possibility for return on Investment. Leveraged real estate does well when rental rates and prices go up steadily.

When rents go up and the purchase price of the investment property increases, investors perceive regular mortgage payments, meaning they make more money from their real estate investments. 

The latest trendy real estate market, marked by low stock, has caused rent prices and property values to go up a lot. It has made the situation perfect for a smart real estate investor to make his own money.

Amplified Returns

Leverage money can help you make far more profit from your real estate investments. For instance, if you have $50,000 in funds. You have two options with this money:

  • The first is to spend $500,000 on your cash property with no leverage.
  • The second option is to buy a $1,000,000 investment property with cash and borrow the remaining $500,000 using a 50% leverage.

Thus, your return is 14.7% or almost twice as much as you receive if you purchase the home outright.

For the first case, your property investment is now worth $535,000, and your net benefit is $3,5000. In the second case, the value of your investment property has risen to $107,000, with a net use of $70,000.

You can buy different or greater investment properties using more leveraged investment opportunities.  Since your net benefit distributes among your assets, it increases by a multiple of ten.

Earn Additional Rental Income

Leverage has become one of the smart choices and smart risks you can make to speed up the income from your real estate investments. It’s still one of the most misunderstood ways of paying for an estate. Leveraging helps boost your profits when the amount of interest you pay is less than what you make on the investment.

The value of real estate investments goes up. Suppose you have 20% equity in your home; you can get the money out through a remortgage or a home sale. If you live in the house for at least two years, you don’t have to pay taxes on the benefits.

Protection Against Inflation

Every type of investment shield has its pros and cons, just like every other investment. When you put money during inflation, the worth of your holdings tends to stay the same, which is the biggest incentive. 

There’s no guarantee. Conventional shields against inflation do not often function. Especially when the financial system is in an unexpected position, some investments may perform well, whereas others appear to be investors’ failures.

Scaling Your Real Estate Portfolio

Every real estate investor does not share a common goal. Some investors want to buy properties and may rent them out for a long time and bring in money. This layout can bring in sufficient money, and sometimes it can even bring in additional income. 

Other investors would deal with the people who live there. These investors won’t have a steady income stream, but a big payout will give them money to put forward into future initiatives.

Your plan for real estate investment should help you reach your monetary goals. You may use the appropriate methodology and advertising to generate consistent cash flows for real estate properties. Due to the investment shortfall, real estate prices tend to increase over time.

Types Of Leverage In Real Estate

Real estate leverage is just another name for buying properties with borrowed funds. Leverage allows you to buy the property without instantly covering the whole amount. There are five types which are given below.

  •  Traditional Mortgages.
  • Portfolio Loans.
  •  Home Equity Loans [HELOCs].
  •  Business Credit Lines & Cards.
  • Private Notes.

Traditional Mortgages

Well, you may use a mortgage loan to acquire or maintain a home, property, or other real estates. The borrower commits to paying the lender on a regular basis, typically in the form of a series of regular installments divided into principal and interest. The asset then serves as collateral for the loan.

Conventional mortgages are any home buyer’s loan that is not provided by or secured by the government. Instead, private lenders, including banks, credit unions, and mortgage firms, offer regular mortgages.

Portfolio Loans

What exactly is a portfolio loan? Property owners can combine all their buy-to-let mortgages into a single loan using a portfolio mortgage. An individual account is used to treat a portfolio mortgage. One lender manages the entire portfolio rather than different lenders for each property, leading to a single monthly payment

It has pros and cons as well, like:

  • They keep all their loans in-house
  • Portfolio lenders assume more risk and typically demand higher interest rates. 
  • However, they are also more adaptable and sometimes simpler to qualify for, especially for investors who own many properties.

Home Equity Loans [HELOCs]

Homeowners can borrow money using home equity loans as collateral. The loan amount distinguishes the home’s current market value and the homeowner’s outstanding mortgage. 

Home equity loans are typically fixed-rate loans; let’s imagine you’ve finished paying off your first house and are now looking to purchase a second one. You can use a loan or a HELOC to access that equity, withdraw the amount needed for the new down payment, and pay it back monthly.

Business Credit Lines & Cards

Many real estate investors use Corporate credit to fund their properties. Investigate your options for lines of credit and loans if you own a successful company. You might even launch your real estate investing business and use it to buy investment properties.

If a business is profitable and has a solid business plan, it typically has more possibilities for loans and lines of credit than an individual. However, unless you’ve established a strong business credit history and score, this option won’t be available if your company isn’t profitable. You might be able to aim for it in the future!

Private Notes

It’s an arrangement for a home loan financing through a private source of funds, such as friends, family, or a business, because of trust issues rather than a traditional mortgage lender. It can come in handy for people who struggle to get a mortgage.

Create a qualified loan contract if you use this strategy to go for leveraged real estate investing. Also, think about all the possible effects. For example, combining money and family (or friends) might be difficult if you experience financial difficulty.

We must recommend following guidelines for lending money to relatives and friends before entering a private loan agreement with a close connection. However, you would be the borrower in this instance. 

Risks Of Overleveraging In Real Estate

Investors should constantly weigh the potential dangers as carefully as the potential rewards. So, let’s take some time to consider what might go wrong. You may be in a position of negative leverage and equity if you owe more money on a certain property than its worth and earnings. Negative leverage is present when the investment property’s return is lower than the loan’s interest rate.

Property values can decrease: If you buy in a too-hot market, the property’s value can drop, putting you “underwater” on your loan, which indicates that you owe more money than the home or another property is worth.

Research and Development: You have a lengthy list of duties when dealing with real estate. Having to:

  • Make extensive housing market research.
  • Locate the ideal properties.
  • Put money aside for down payments.
  • Obtain the right loans.

It is horrible to overleverage your investment in a property with no easy exit or rapid profits. Overleveraging is equivalent to walking the plank if the property is not yet rented out or if no imminent buyer is lined up, especially if you have no reserves to fall back on. 

Lower Or Negative Cash Flow

It happens when the cost of borrowing exceeds the profit made by the cash flow of a property, this is known as negative leverage. The leveraged return is smaller than the un-levered return due to the presence of debt.

What if your rental property is vacant for weeks, months, or even years? Or you may need to reduce the price until you lose money or break even. If something happens, your tenants might be unable to make their payments. Or something might malfunction, causing pricey property repairs.

Loss of Both Real Estate & Personal Assets

Check out the following situations:

In real estate

  1. Time is the primary risk of loss in the real estate industry.
  2. Perfect timing and location are key factors in real estate. Real estate losses are impossible if this supports the person or any company. Before making a significant investment, one should thoroughly research the market and consider all possible returns.
  3. In real estate, you only lose money if you sell under adverse circumstances or lose the asset to foreclosure. Making sure you have a healthy cash flow each month will give you control over how and when you quit the agreement.

In personal asset

  1. Unless there is some possibility of recovering the loss, a loss is not seen as an asset.
  2. There are many chances of loss in personal assets due to economic uncertainty, such as inflation and other policies.

Upside-Down Properties

Any “upside-down” or “underwater” mortgage has a remaining principal sum greater than the property’s fair market value. That could occur for several reasons, but it often coincides with economic downturns.

Tips For Using Leverage To Your Advantage

Leverage is about understanding what the other person desires, determining what you need to do to get it, and then using your position to get what you want. But it’s important to remember that leverage can be for good and bad things. 

  • Working with bad people usually means that one candidate makes money and the others lose. 
  • In good leverage situations, however, all partners can profit from the contract results.
  • Most smart people stay away from people who misuse their authority. 
  • Instead, be a nice person and use your power in a way that helps both sides.


What Is The Difference Between Leverage And Debt?

Debt is the lending party’s permission to get money with the agreement that it will be paid back in full, normally with coupon payments. Debt can be for any investment or other purpose.

Leverage is using loaned money to pay for an asset or property. Because of this, the expected benefits of a task increase. Also, over time, using leverage can increase the risk of default if the money invested doesn’t work out.

What is a Good Leverage Ratio?

The debt-to-equity ratio of a piece of real estate can go up or down over time because the property’s value can change, and the loan balance goes down with each loan payment.

Best practices in the business world say that a financial leverage ratio of less than one is good. If a company’s leverage ratio is more than one, lenders and possible investors may think it is risky. On the other hand, a leverage ratio of more than two is a red flag.


Keep in mind that leverage generates both risks and benefits. Using a down payment and leveraging property to raise expected gains can help investors earn high capital.

Leverage in real estate, if used skillfully, can lead to better results, but it can also be risky. Instead of trying to be smart by buying rental properties or selling houses without a down payment, save some money and learn the basics first. 

We hope you now understand the concept of leverage in real estate. But still, if you have any queries regarding this guide, reach us, and we’ll try to sort it out ASAP. We wish you very good luck with your next step!

Sabine Ghali
Sabine Ghali
Helping real estate investors build wealth over time

Sabine Ghali, Managing Director at Buttonwood Property Management, Award Winning Real Estate Broker and an Entrepreneur at heart. Sabine is on a mission to help investors create real estate wealth over time in the Greater Toronto Area. Sabine is published in a number of media outlets, including Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Gulf News, among many others.