My grandfather owned a dozen apartment buildings, and when I asked him when I was little how he got so many, he said he just bought one, and then used it for collateral to get the second, and so on.

He has since passed away, but he wasn't the sort to give in-depth explanations anyway, so either way I would've ended up turning to another source.

What I'm trying to figure out is basically how that works. Do you have to own a building completely before you can use it for collateral to secure a loan? Or is there a threshold of ownership you must cross or something like that, like a percentage? Or is it that you only use as much as you own, as in a loan equivalent in value to the percentage of the building you own?

Example for clarification:

I buy a $100,000 house by putting down a $20,000 down payment. Now I want to use it as collateral to buy another, identical house. Can I get a $100,000 loan, or only $20,000, or do I not own enough of the house to do that yet in the first place?

  • I think that example is pretty much what caused the 1929 Crash in a nutshell... Jun 4, 2013 at 8:05
  • 4
    @Shadur The 1929 crash was a stock market event, not a real-estate event. However, buying assets (stocks) with borrowed money certainly did play a role. Jun 4, 2013 at 15:02
  • Yeah. Slightly different subject, but exact same principle. Jun 5, 2013 at 11:04
  • A: When you are willing to take on an amazing amount of risk!
    – JAGAnalyst
    Jun 5, 2013 at 19:01

4 Answers 4


You put 20% down and already owe the 80% or $80k, so you don't have the ability to borrow $100k or even $20k for that matter. As LittleAdv stated, the banks have really tightened their lending criteria. Borrowing out more than 80% carries a high premium if you can get it at all. In your example, you want the property to increase in value by at least 10% to borrow $10K.

  • 3
    +1. You really need equity and not just control of the property to get a new loan. Rental properties are no longer looked at as guaranteed money makers, and you can't count on property values to rise and rise.
    – JAGAnalyst
    Jun 5, 2013 at 19:02

Generally, when you own something - you can give it as a collateral for a secured loan. That's how car loans work and that's how mortgages work.

Your "equity" in the asset is the current fair value of the asset minus all your obligations secured by it. So if you own a property free and clear, you have 100% of its fair market value as your equity.

When you mortgage your property, banks will usually use some percentage loan-to-value to ensure they're not giving you more than your equity now or in a foreseeable future. Depending on the type and length of the loan, the LTV percentage varies between 65% and 95%. Before the market crash in 2008 you could even get more than 100% LTV, but not anymore. For investment the LTV will typically be lower than for primary residence, and the rates higher.

I don't want to confuse you with down-payments and deposits as it doesn't matter (unless you're in Australia, apparently). So, as an example, assume you have an apartment you rent out, which you own free and clear. Lets assume its current FMV is $100K. You go to a bank and mortgage the apartment for a loan (get a loan secured by that apartment) at 65% LTV (typical for condos for investment). You got yourself $65K to buy another unit free and clear. You now have 2 apartments with FMV $165K, your equity $100K and your liability $65K.

Mortgaging the new unit at the same 65% LTV will yield you another $42K loan - you may buy a third unit with this money.

Your equity remains constant when you take the loan and invest it in the new purchase, but the FMV of your assets grows, as does the liability secured by them. But while the mortgage has fixed interest rate (usually, not always), the assets appreciate at different rates. Now, lets be optimistic and assume, for the sake of simplicity of the example, that in 2 years, your $100K condo is worth $200K. Voila, you can take another $65K loan on it. The cycle goes on.

That's how your grandfather did it.


It would be good to know which country you are in?

You are basically on the right track with your last point.

Usually when you buy your first property you need to come up with a deposit and then borrow the remainder to have enough to purchase the property. In most cases (and most places) the standard percentage of loan to deposit is 80% to 20%. This is expressed as the Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) which in this case would be 80%. (This being the amount of the loan to the value of the property). Some banks and lenders will lend you more than the 80% but this can usually come with extra costs (in Australia the banks charge an extra percentage when you borrow called Loan Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if you borrow over 80% and the LMI gets more expensive the higher LVR you borrow). Also this practice of lending more than 80% LVR has been tightened up since the GFC.

So if you are borrowing 80% of the value of the property you will need to come up with the remainder 20% deposit plus the additional closing costs (taxes - in Australia we have to pay Stamp Duty, solicitor or conveyancing fees, loan application fees, building and pest inspection costs, etc.).

If you then want to buy a second property you will need to come up with the same deposit and other closing costs again. Most people cannot afford to do this any time soon, especially since the a good majority of the money they used to save before is now going to pay the mortgage and upkeep of your first property (especially if you used to say live with your parents and now live in the property and not rent it out). So what a lot of people do who want to buy more properties is wait until the LVR of the property has dropped to say below 60%. This is achieved by the value of the property going up in value and the mortgage principle being reduced by your mortgage payments.

Once you have enough, as you say, collateral or equity in the first property, then you can refinance your mortgage and use this equity in your existing property and the value of the new property you want to buy to basically borrow 100% of the value of the new property plus closing costs. As long as the LVR of the total borrowings versus the value of both properties remains at or below 80% this should be achievable. You can do this in two ways. Firstly you could refinance your first mortgage and borrow up to 80% LVR again and use this additional funds as your deposit and closing costs for the second property, for which you would then get a second mortgage. The second way is to refinance one mortgage over the two properties. The first method is preferred as your mortgages and properties are separated so if something does go wrong you don't have to sell everything up all at once.

This process can be quite slow at the start, as you might have to wait a few years to build up equity in one property (especially if you live in it). But as you accumulate more and more properties it becomes easier and quicker to do as your equity will increase quicker with tenants paying a good portion of your costs if not all (if you are positively geared). Of course you do want to be careful if property prices fall (as this may drastically reduce your equity and increase your total LVR or the LVR on individual properties) and have a safety net. For example, I try to keep my LVR to 60% or below, currently they are below 50%.


@victor has the most descriptive and basic idea on how this is done. The only thing I would add is that one benefit to real estate is that you can control how much the property is worth. By increasing rents and making the property one of the best in the neighborhood, you increase the value.

As for the comment that this is the type of investing that caused the 1929 stock market crash, there are many other aspects that are overlooked. Taking equity out of real estate has been happening long before and after the depression. People do it all the time by taking out home equity loans, just not everyone uses it to purchase another investment.

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