victorian apartment building against blue skyWhen I say “rental housing”, what image springs to mind?

Is it a large apartment complex with hundreds of units sprawling over acres of earth?

Or is the image one of single family homes, duplexes or fourplexes?

Most of us dream of parlaying a collection of duplexes into a massive apartment complex or two capable of cash flowing our retirements. And yet, according to a 2008  Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University,  less than 10 percent of all rental units are in buildings with 50 units or more.

Ironically, more than one third of rental units in the country are single-family homes. However, more than half of all rental units are in buildings with less than five units.

In all, the study counted 6.3 million two to four unit rental properties; 1.3 million of which are owner occupied. Eighty-five percent of these smaller properties are owned by either individual owners or couples.

The study also reports the number of households that reported at least some rental income from one to four-unit properties increased by almost a million between 2001 and 2007.

Guess it’s time to replace that mental image of a rental unit.