How to Use Leverage in Real Estate Investing

There are few words in the world of investing more overused than “leverage”. Leverage is often touted as a magic wand that can amplify your gains and supercharge your wealth-building journey. And it’s true, utilizing leverage in real estate investing is an important strategy. However, like any powerful tool, leverage comes with its set of risks and should be used judiciously. 

Before we dive into how to use leverage in real estate investing, let’s define what leverage is. In its simplest terms leverage is using resources to their maximum advantage. In this article, we will explore how to use both financial leverage and human leverage in real estate investing to maximize your returns while mitigating the risks.

Financial Leverage: The Classic Approach

Financial leverage involves using borrowed capital to invest in real estate properties, thereby increasing your potential return on investment. Essentially, you're controlling a large asset with a relatively smaller amount of your own money. Here's how you can make the most out of it.

Types of Financial Leverage

  1. Mortgages: This is the most common form of financial leverage in real estate. You take out a loan to buy a property and repay it over time, usually benefiting from appreciating property values and rental income in the meantime.

  2. Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs): If you already own property, you can use a HELOC to borrow against its equity for another investment.

  3. Private Loans: Money borrowed from family, friends, or private lenders for a higher rate than traditional banks, often used for shorter-term investments like property flipping.

Pros of Financial Leverage

  1. Higher Returns: The major benefit is that when property values rise or when rental income exceeds your expenses, leveraging magnifies your returns.

  2. Tax Benefits: A more minor benefit, is that interest payments on borrowed funds can often be deducted from your income, reducing your tax liability.

Cons of Financial Leverage

  1. Increased Risk: If property values decline or rental income decreases, your loss is magnified. This can’t be overstated, using borrowed money to invest will help you build wealth when property values increase, but it puts you in significant risk when property markets decrease. 

  2. Cash Flow Pressure: Monthly loan payments can be burdensome if your rental income is inconsistent.

  3. Interest Expense: The cost of borrowing money can eat into your profits. It’s very important to factor interest costs into your financial analysis when making buy/sell decisions. Our mortgage calculator can help you. 

Best Practices for Using Financial Leverage

  1. Thorough Research: Study the property, the market, and future growth prospects before taking on debt. Always include in your financial analysis a worst-case scenario.

  2. Cash Reserves: Keep adequate cash reserves to handle vacancies, maintenance, and interest rate hikes.

  3. Loan Terms: Make sure you fully understand you real estate loan terms, and choose loan terms that are flexible and suit your investment strategy.

Human Leverage: The Untapped Resource

While financial leverage is key, human leverage—using other people's time, skills, or network—can also greatly enhance your real estate investing journey. This comes in the form of partnerships, joint ventures, or simply by hiring experts.

Common Types of Human Leverage in Real Estate

  1. Real Estate Agents: They can provide deep insights into the market, help negotiate great deals, and handle paperwork.

  2. Property Managers: These professionals handle the day-to-day operations, allowing you to focus on growing your portfolio.

  3. Legal and Financial Advisors: Experts in the fields of tax, law, and finance can guide you through complex regulations and tax implications.

Pros of Human Leverage

  1. Expertise: You get to benefit from specialized knowledge without having to learn everything yourself.

  2. Time Savings: Human leverage frees up your time, allowing you to focus on strategic tasks.

  3. Cost Savings: For example, when buying real estate typically you don’t pay your real estate agent out of pocket. This allows you to leverage their time and expertise without any direct cost. 

Cons of Human Leverage

  1. Cost: While getting create can allow you to leverage talent without significant cost, it’s not the case in every situation. Quality advice and services come at a price.

  2. Dependency: Over-reliance on others could leave you vulnerable if they fail to deliver. Also, over-reliance may slow you learning which can slow your growth as an investor. 

Best Practices for Using Human Leverage

  1. Due Diligence: Research and vet all professionals you consider working with. Think of these as long-term relationships.  

  2. Maintain Control: Always be in the loop, even when delegating tasks.

  3. Network: Build relationships within the industry; your next leverage opportunity could come from a recommendation.


Leverage, both financial and human, can dramatically enhance your real estate investment endeavors. Financial leverage can amplify your gains but comes with increased risks and responsibilities. Human leverage, on the other hand, can fill gaps in your skill set, save you time, and even introduce you to new investment opportunities. Like any tool, the key is to use leverage wisely and understand the dynamics thoroughly to mitigate risks and maximize gains.


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