Everything You Need to Know About Single-Family Rental Properties (SFR Meaning)

Have your preferences made you confused about what kind of house investment would suit you the best? We bet the real estate market is making you even more confused with its vast array of choices. Should you invest in land or commercial property, multi-family dwellings (duplexes, condos, townhomes), or SFR? 

Let us tell you what’s best. 

SFR is a term used by real estate agents and basically stands for Single Family Rentals. It is one of the significant income-generating properties and the most pensionable sector. Real estate investing is popular among young people who want stable incomes as landlords.

This guide will tell you why you should consider investing a bit differently in the real estate and:

  • What is SFR in real estate?
  • The advantages and disadvantages to consider.
  • Why many people should invest in them.
  • The difference between Multi-Family Real and Single-Family Residence Real Estate.

All right, let’s get down to brass tacks. 

What is SFR in Real Estate?

The single-family residence, also known as an SFR or single-family home, is one of the most common types of residential real estate in the United States. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there were 2.1 million houses sold in 2018. Of these, 1.8 million were single-family residences (SFRs). 

Single-family residence (SFR) is a term used in real estate to describe a home that’s not attached to another. SFRs are often detached houses and can be condos, townhouses, or mobile homes.

Single-family residences are often used as permanent residences and may have one or more bedrooms, garages, and yards. They’re usually located in residential areas with access to public schools and other amenities like parks, libraries, and grocery stores.

Moreover, single-family residences are also “detached homes” because they’re not attached to other structures by common walls. These homes cost anywhere from $100,000 to more than $1 million depending on location and amenities provided by the developer or homeowner association (HOA).

Single-Family Rental

Single-family rental (SFR) is a term that describes a home where one owner rents out the property to one tenant. It’s similar to single-family home ownership, but the homeowner doesn’t live in the home. The property owner may be a private individual, financial institution, company, or non-profit organization.

One person or a large family can rent out a single-family home. Single-family homes tend to have higher occupancy rates than multiunit properties because they offer larger units with more bedrooms and bathrooms than smaller apartments.

In addition, Single-family rentals are an essential source of housing for many Americans. In many cases, they are an excellent alternative to homeownership because they provide an income stream, and buyers can often purchase with less money than is required for a house.

Investors have different motivations, including passive income and capital appreciation. Some investors purchase homes to rent them out because they want to supplement their retirement income or build wealth over time.

Other investors want to make money from their investment by selling the home at a higher price than what they paid. Renting or selling your home can be a lucrative investment if you do it right — but it also requires more work than many expect. 

Advantages of Single-Family Residence

Single-family homes are the most common type of home in the United States. Single-family homes come in many styles and sizes, from sprawling mansions to cozy bungalows. 

What’s good about single-family homes? Here are some of the top perks:

Additional Space

A single-family residence provides more space than any other type of housing. With a growing family, this could be an essential factor in choosing which type of home is right for you.

It is especially appealing for large families or those with a lot of stuff, such as homeowners with an extensive collection of antiques or collectors who need room to store their collections.

Own a Piece of Land

Single-family residences allow homeowners to own their piece of land, which can be an essential benefit. Homeowners also get to own the land their home sits on, which means they can do whatever they want

If you want to plant flowers or trees around your house, you can do that without worrying about anyone else’s opinion. You also won’t be restricted by covenants or deed restrictions that might limit what you can do with your land.


Single-family homes offer homeowners the most flexibility when choosing a living space. A single-family residence is designed to support one family’s needs. This means homeowners can choose any size or style without worrying about what their neighbors think.

Calm and Serene Environment

Single-family residences tend to be located in quieter neighborhoods that don’t have high traffic volumes or noise pollution — factors that can make even the most desirable urban areas less attractive places to live. 

These neighborhoods are often zoned for single-family homes, meaning they often have fewer amenities like parks, schools, and shopping centers than multi-family areas.

Privacy is better

Single-family residences are often more private than other types of housing because they offer separate living spaces that are not shared with others. A single-family home may include multiple rooms, such as a kitchen, dining area, and living room, which are not shared with anyone else in the house. 

This offers more privacy than an apartment building because there is no common hallway where everyone can see what you’re doing at any moment or where neighbors can hear your conversations from across the hall.

Possibilities For Renovation And Expansion

When purchasing a home, homeowners need to think about how they might be able to renovate their property over time based on their needs and financial situation.

A single-family residence gives homeowners plenty of opportunities for future renovations because they have more space than if they lived in an apartment building or townhouse where all units share walls and ceilings with other units nearby.

Disadvantages of Single-Family Residence

While the benefits of owning a single-family home are numerous, there are also some drawbacks. Let’s have a look at some of them:

Requires Constant Attention

The most significant disadvantage of owning a single-family residence is that it requires constant attention. This means you must be prepared to spend time maintaining your property regularly, including landscaping, yard work, cleaning, and repairs. 

This is not something that most people can do on their own, which means they will have to hire someone else to help them out.

Higher Cost

The average cost of a single-family home is nearly double that of an apartment, according to Zillow data. That’s partly because you’re paying for land with each home purchase. Many people don’t realize how much of their overall wealth is tied to their home value until they have to sell or refinance it.

You’ll need a larger down payment because mortgage loans for single-casa purchases are typically for 80% to 90% of the purchase price

Access To Comforts

When you live in a single-family home, you have to pay for all your utilities yourself. That includes electricity, gas, water, and sewage. You might also have to pay for trash pickup if your city doesn’t provide it for free. 

On top of that, you’ll have to pay for home insurance and other expenses related to maintaining your property. These costs can add up over time and cut into your budget if you aren’t careful about managing them.

Property Taxes

The most significant disadvantage of buying a single-family home is the property taxes you’ll pay each year. Property taxes vary by state and county, but they’re typically based on the value of your home.

If you buy a home for $500,000, expect to pay around $7,500 in property taxes annually and an additional one or two percent in mortgage interest. In case you sell your home later, you may have to pay capital gains tax if it’s sold for more than your purchase price.

Inconvenient for travelers

A single-family residence may not be the best choice for you if you are a regular traveler. It is difficult to rent out or sell your house when you are away on business trips or vacations.

Also, if you want to move to another location, it won’t be easy to find an apartment or house in the area of your choice.

Multiple Reasons for Investing in SFR

SFR real estate investing is ideal for investors with a long-term horizon and interest in real estate as an investment vehicle. The SFR market has seen its ups and downs, but there are many reasons why you should consider investing in SFR real estate. 

SFR is Profitable

The key to successful real estate investing is to buy the right property in the right location at the right price. And while there are many ways to invest in real estate, single-family residences (SFRs) are among the most profitable.

Buying an SFR is an excellent way to invest because you can make a good return on your investment by renting it out or selling it for more than what you paid.

The average SFR investor has seen returns of about 7% per year for the last two decades. Home prices are expected to continue rising in the next few years, and if you buy at today’s price, you’ll be able to sell at a higher one in a couple of years.

With the condition that you use your rental income to pay off your mortgage, you can turn your home into a paid-for asset within ten years.


According to Statista Research Department, the average price per square foot of an SFR is around $122. Compare this with $180 for condos and $250 for single-family houses nationwide.

SFRs are affordable investments because they don’t require large sums of capital upfront or large loans to purchase them. Many investors buy SFRs using their savings, so they never have to borrow money from anyone else. This allows them to keep their risk level low and build equity quickly.

High Demand

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 80 million single-family homes in the U.S. in 2016. That’s more than three times as many apartments and condos combined!

The demand for SFR real estate is extremely high. This is due to several factors. These factors combine to create a robust demand for SFR homes across the country.

  • The first factor is that there are not enough homes available in many markets to meet buyers’ needs. Many people want to buy homes but cannot find them. 
  • The second factor is that home ownership has become more prevalent in recent years. Many people want to own their own home and can afford one now more than ever.
  • The third factor is that interest rates are still low, even though they have risen recently. These low-interest rates make it much easier for people to afford a mortgage on a home than they would otherwise be able to afford.

Easy to Manage & Finance

One of the enormous benefits is that it’s easy to manage and finance. You can buy a single-family home or multi-family property, such as an apartment building, and manage it yourself. You don’t need much money to start this type of investment, either.

You can use your money for the down payment and take out a mortgage for the rest of the purchase price. The monthly mortgage payments are lower than rent payments on similar properties in your area, so you’ll have more cash each month once you own the property.

You can Utilize leverage.

One of the most attractive factors about investing in real estate is using leverage to help grow your portfolio. With SFRs, you can borrow money from a bank or other lender and use that money to buy more properties without having to put up all of your money upfront.

This gives you access to more cash flow than you would have had otherwise since you only have to use a portion of your funds.

Leverage is the most significant difference between investing in SFR real estate and other asset classes. If you buy $100,000 of stocks that rise 10%, you have made $10,000. If you buy $100,000 of real estate and it rises 10%, you have made $100,000.

When you buy a house for $100,000 and sell it after five years for $150,000, you’ve made 50% of your money — without having to do any work or provide any additional capital. That’s why many investors seek out passive income streams like rental properties.

It Fits Most Investment Strategies

In addition to using leverage to make money with real estate, it also fits well within most investment strategies because there are many different ways to approach them.

For example, if you’re looking for income from your investments, SFRs can provide consistent monthly payments through rent checks or lease payments from tenants who live in the property year-round or seasonally.

In addition, if you’re interested in making short-term gains (or losses), then buying an SFR and flipping it within a year or two might be right up your alley but be careful! 

This approach requires both knowledge of current market conditions and an understanding of how long it takes to make a return on investment.

Buy & Hold Works

The buy & hold strategy is one of the most popular ways to invest in real estate. This strategy involves purchasing an income-generating property to hold onto for a long time, usually at least five years, while collecting rent each month and making necessary repairs and maintenance.

This strategy works because it allows you to build equity in your property without having any out-of-pocket expenses or significant repairs until you sell it again (hopefully) at a higher price than when you bought it.

Tax Benefits

The tax benefits of SFR investment are one of the most appealing reasons to invest in SFR Real Estate. This type of real estate investment can give investors a good tax advantage, especially for those looking for ways to save on their taxes.

SFR property owners can deduct their mortgage interest and property taxes from their taxable income. This allows them to save money on their taxes each year. In addition, homeowners can also deduct the cost of maintaining their homes as well as making repairs from their taxes too.

Even if you don’t own a home, you can still benefit from these tax deductions by investing in SFR properties. You can use your rental income to offset your expenses when calculating how much you’ll owe at the end of each year.

Acts as Hedge Against Inflation

The real estate market is one of the most stable investment vehicles, and it can be a great place to start your portfolio.

A stock market is a volatile place. It goes up and down, left and right. While some people have made money in the stock market, it’s not for everyone.

Real estate has always been considered a safer investment than stocks and bonds, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune from market fluctuations. However, real estate provides an asset that can act as a hedge against inflation.

In general, when inflation increases, real estate prices also go up. So while stocks may be down during times of high inflation, rising home values will help balance out your portfolio so that you’re not losing money as fast as other investments might be losing value during periods of high inflation.

Tax Breaks

The government of Canada offers real estate investors a variety of deductions to help offset the cost of owning and managing investment properties. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) allows you to deduct property taxes when submitting your yearly returns  as well as depreciation on your investment property value over time.

Many investors use these breaks to offset their losses from other investments and make real estate in SFRs more affordable.

Let’s look at some of these tax breaks and see if they might be a good fit for you.

Capital Gains Tax

The capital gains tax is the tax due on the profit you make when you sell something for more than its original price. You must pay capital gains tax if you’re selling your home, but not if you rent it out, downsize, or move to a smaller property.

Your profit on the sale of an SFR property will be taxed at long-term capital gains rates if you’ve owned it for at least one year or at short-term capital gains rates in case you’ve owned it for less than a year (or if you sold your primary residence). 

The maximum rate for long-term capital gains is 20 percent; for short-term capital gains, it’s 10 percent. However, depending on your income level, you may pay zero capital gains tax if your income falls below certain thresholds. 


SFR real estate has many tax benefits. The most significant is that you can depreciate your property. Depreciation is a tax deduction on your annual income that lowers your taxable income.

It’s based on a percentage of the cost basis of your property and allows you to deduct the cost of improvements from your taxable income each year for 27.5 years (for SFRs) or 39 years (for multi-family units). In essence, this means you don’t pay taxes on 100% of your income but only on what remains after all expenses are taken out.

The IRS requires two main pieces of documentation for a proper depreciation claim: A copy of the purchase contract (or closing statement) and a copy of the final inspection report from when you purchased the house or condo (or whatever type of property you own).

One-Stop Shop

Real estate is a one-stop shop for many financial goals. You can use your home as an investment tool, or you can also use it as a place to live while you rent out other properties. You can diversify your portfolio and protect yourself from risk by having multiple options at your disposal.

Multi-Family Real Estate vs. SFR

Real estate is one of the most important investments people make. There are many different types of real estate, but when it comes to residential properties, there are two main categories: single-family and multi-family.

  • The main difference between SFRs and multi-family real estate is how many units they contain and, thus, how much rent you’re collecting.
  • SFRs are single-family homes, which means you only have one unit to maintain and collect rent from. Multi-family properties, on the other hand, usually contain three or more units—which means more rent checks coming in each month!
  • Another difference is the amount of time it takes to sell a property. SFRs can be sold quickly because they’re small and don’t need many features to maintain.

However, multi-family buildings can take longer to sell because they’re more complicated and expensive to fix than single-family homes.

  • Single-family residential properties are typically less expensive than multi-family properties and can be a good choice for investors looking for low maintenance or rental income.
  • A multi-family real estate is an excellent option for investors who want to diversify their portfolios and reduce risk. Multi-family properties provide more significant returns than single-family homes and long-term cash flow. However, SFR is easy to finance and manage, as described above.

The best way to make sure your investment is going to work out. Do your research! Read up on what other investors have done with their properties, and see what neighborhoods are trending up or down in value.

Moreover, talk with a lawyer or accountant who can help you figure out what’s best for your situation. Then get out there and find yourself an excellent investment!


Is SFR Good Investment?

The answer depends on the property market in your area. Whether you are looking to buy a single-family home and live in it yourself, then yes, SFR is a good investment. However, in case you are looking to buy an SFR to rent out, it depends on what the rental market looks like in your area.

Moreover, when the rental market is solid and many people are looking for housing, single-family homes can be an excellent investment. But if there is not much demand for rental housing, then buying an SFR may not be a good investment.

SFRs are often cheaper than multi-family properties (MFRs) or commercial properties (CPRs). Therefore, with the condition that you want to invest in real estate but only have one income stream or limited funds, then investing in an SFR may be a better option than investing in MFRs or CPRs. 

It is also easier to manage one mortgage payment per month than multiple mortgage payments per month if you own several properties.

How Can I Invest in SFR?

Investing in SFR can be a great way to build your portfolio and diversify your holdings. The first step is deciding how much money you are willing to invest and what type of investment you want.

There are a few ways to invest in SFR. You can invest directly in single-family rentals by purchasing a home, renting it out, and managing the property yourself. 

You can also invest indirectly through an SFR fund or franchise, letting you invest in other people’s properties without having to manage them yourself.

Investing directly in single-family rentals is not easy. It takes time and money to buy and rent a house at a profit. You also have to deal with tenants and repairs, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

If you want to invest in SFR but don’t want all the responsibility of owning your property, consider an indirect investment through an SFR fund or franchise. These businesses work with investors to buy, fix up and rent out properties on their behalf — for a fee, of course.


SFR real estate is a growing industry that offers many benefits to those who invest in it, including the potential for capital gains, tax advantages, and the ability to diversify your portfolio with a relatively low-risk investment.

It’s essential to be aware of these benefits and risks before deciding how you want to invest your money. However, with the correct information and patience, you can get the most out of your investment and have a great time doing it!

We hope this guide has helped you understand the process and make an informed decision. If you have any questions about our content or want to share your insights with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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.