Guide to House Hacking in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Learned about house hacking and now you’re thinking that house hacking Pittsburgh could be the best solution to get your foot into the door of a new house or property?

House hacking can be a very effective strategy for not only getting a good property in Pittsburgh, but building wealth early by investing in local real estate. In this post, we’re going to provide all the data-backed information you need to find a great house hacking deal in Pittsburgh and make the most of it!

Let’s dive in!

Pittsburgh: Tenant Friendly, or Landlord Friendly?

Pennsylvania is a tenant-friendly state, especially compared to some of its neighbors. This can be a turn-off for new landlords, and it’s worth noting that Pittsburgh is even a touch more friendly towards tenants than rural areas, though not quite as much as Philadelphia.

For many people this might mean that Pennsylvania is too friendly to tenants for investment, but it you are finding yourself in the Pittsburgh area don’t despair – there are still very good reasons to like what a house hack brings to the table.

Let’s dive in on some of the benefits that house hacking Pittsburgh can provide!

United States map showing tenant versus landlord friendly states
As this map put together by Rent Cafe a few years ago shows, Pennsylvania is definitely much stronger on the tenant-friendly side of things.

Pittsburgh Real Estate Demographic Data Analysis

When we’re evaluating the pure data numbers for a real estate market there are six target data points that we’re looking at. These can give us enormous insights into the overall health of the area in general.

Those data points are:

  • Population growth
  • Income growth
  • Property value growth
  • Crime level
  • Crime change
  • Job growth

When it comes to these six metrics, this is how Pittsburgh compares to our benchmarks:

Data PointBenchmark (since 2000)Pittsburgh
Population Growth20%-10.2%
Income Growth30%88.1%
Property Value Growth40%145.7%
Crime Level< 500340
Crime Change0% or declining-5%
Job Growth> 1%2.75%

Overall, the numbers are pretty favorable when looking at a Pittsburgh house hack, as Pittsburgh meets five of our six demographic points.

The one that Pittsburgh misses is one that is cause for concern. They not only saw a population decline the past 20 years, but a pretty significant one at that. A 10% population loss is seriously concerning and might indicate an urban area in decline.

However, the large property value growth and declining crime changes seem to indicate that this must not be a huge problem right now, and the area was hit especially hard with high Covid mortality rates leading to a higher than average natural decline numbers that might skew the results a bit. Though this is a metric we would want to keep an eye on over the long-term if house hacking in Pittsburgh.

6 Strategies for House Hacking Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a city with many old school buildings while also having areas that were very recently built. This means the city offers quite the array of properties throughout the city, including many opportunities to look at multi-family properties for potential house hacking opportunities.

Scour the MLS for Multi-Unit Options

Multi-Unit properties are very comparable to single family housing in Pittsburgh when it comes to price. Because of that, it would be foolish to not look at duplexes, triplexes, and other multi-unit options that are available in the city.

Finding and considering these multi-unit options, and other ones that you come across, can open up the possibilities to profitable house hacks that both appreciate in value and offer cash flow opportunities.

Rent Out a Spare Room

If there isn’t a good multi-unit property available, there are so many multi-bedroom single family houses that are very reasonably priced compared to many urban markets. Each of those spare rooms can fit a roommate.

The vetting process is crucial since you will need to live with those tenants and you will clearly be the one who owns the house, but when you find a couple friends or work acquaintances who just want a quiet safe place to live with a little bit of privacy, then house hacking can be an excellent way to get your renters to basically pay for your mortgage via house hacking.

Look at Short-Term Rental Possibilities

While Pittsburgh is not known for being a major tourist destination, for local sports fans the city offers plenty with the Pirates of MLB, Steelers of the NFL, and Penguins of the NHL. This means depending on location, some houses might have serious short-term rental potential for at least part of the year.

One of the major benefits of looking at house hacking options in Pittsburgh is the fact that there are no strict short-term rental rules at this point. While some rules have been contemplated by the City Council in 2022, none have been passed yet and even these proposals were very modest.

This means if you can get a property close to the University of Pittsburgh, to Acrisure Stadium (though locals still call this Three Rivers Stadium), PNC Park, or PPG Paints Arena then it’s worth seriously looking at short-term rentals as a viable Pittsburgh house hacking option.

House Hacking Near the University

Universities are always going to have visiting family, which means a relatively close location can be great for short-term rental potential. There are also some students who just don’t enjoy campus life or want their own privacy when it comes to living space.

Having properties near the actual university opens up the possibilities for both short-term and long-term rentals as a potential house hacking option. This can even allow you to dip your toes in seasonally.

Maybe a full year house hack feels like too much, but offering housing to some working students over the summer for rent is a good way to collect a lot of income for 3-4 months and then get your privacy back when the school year starts.

Locations near large universities are always in demand and so should be targeted when looking for a good house hacking deal.

Get Creative House Hacking

Creative listings on Airbnb can do well, and since there aren’t extremely strict restrictions, it’s worth looking at options you may have for house hacking Pittsburgh that wouldn’t be open in other cities. This could include a garage, basement, or attic apartment you create on a regular single family house.

This could be adding an expansion to a house that doubles as rooms to rent, a renovated workshop building. There’s also just a demand for cheap rooms in nice houses that undercut local hotels.

Look at hosting an international student via a program that offers a housing stipend, offering holiday/summer housing to local college students, or offering your garage for storage.

There are many different ways to effectively create a stream, or multiple different streams, or income from house hacking in Pittsburgh.

Get Creative Financing a Pittsburgh House Hack

There are far more funding options than most people realize. Looking to see if you qualify for an FHA loan is always a good first step. Veterans have the option of getting a VA loan for house hacking, which also provides excellent benefits compared to a conventional loan.

For multi-unit properties it’s worth approaching the owner to negotiate seller financing. This can work with listed properties and even ones that aren’t listed yet. Sometimes the cold approach works, and gives you negotiating power since there’s no active competition.

This is where the seller gives you ownership, you take over taxes, repairs, getting tenants, etc. and you pay them monthly payments and interest as opposed to the bank. They get the benefit of profiting from interest payments while able to focus on other properties and you get to negotiate good terms like 6-months before starting payments, no December payments, or whatever.

Investment Joy is a real estate YouTube channel where the owner is adamant about the power of seller financing and has used this almost exclusively to acquire houses and businesses alike.

Should You House Hack Airbnb in Pittsburgh?

Because Pittsburgh isn’t considered a major tourist destination, it can be easy to blow off the idea of short-term rentals in the Steel City, but you shouldn’t. One major benefit for landlords that Pittsburgh has is that there are no restrictive rules or regulations around short-term housing.

That means unlike many other cities you don’t need a specialized business license, upfront fees, and upfront taxes, not to mention multiple city inspections. You can simply list your property on Airbnb and house hack away.

Also, let’s take a look at the average property prices (mean) in Pittsburgh:

  • All housing: $202,512
  • Detached houses: $189,651
  • Townhouses: $231,832
  • 2-unit structures: $257,929
  • 3 & 4 unit structures $237,539
  • 5+ units: $268,101
  • Gross Average Monthly Rent in Pittsburgh: $1,014

The multi-unit properties do tend to be more expensive, but not by a prohibitive amount. In fact, the amount added to a mortgage payment based on the average price difference between a detached house to a 2-unit or 3-unit structure is less than half of the average monthly payment.

That makes these tempting for both long-term and short-term house hacking and some properties like a Triplex might be perfectly set up to do both.

While the lack of regulations make Airbnb very tempting, especially considering how tenant-friendly Pittsburgh is to long-term rentals, keep in mind you’ll need a property with a good location or neighborhood to make sure you’re in position to get your share of the limited demand.

Make sure to check out our free house hacking calculator to help you make the numbers work.

Pittsburgh Neighborhoods to Know

As with all cities there are neighborhoods that tend to be better, safer, more valuable and those that are rougher or sketchy, and up and coming neighborhoods somewhere in the middle. Pittsburgh is no exception.

While Pittsburgh isn’t overly dangerous based on crime rates, there are still some neighborhoods that can get pretty rough, especially if you’re not used to walking/living in places like that.

Here’s a rundown on some of the best and worst neighborhoods in Pittsburgh to help start your house hacking search in Pittsburgh. These are the generally agreed upon best/worst based on crime numbers, safety, and overall economic well-being of the neighborhood.

Pittsburgh Neighborhoods to Start Your House Hacking Search

  • Squirrel Hill North
  • Brookline
  • Shadyside
  • Ingram
  • Reserve Township

Pittsburgh Neighborhoods to Generally Avoid

  • McKees Rocks
  • Homestead
  • East Pitsburgh
  • Northview Heights
  • East Hills
  • Spring Hill-City View

Keep in mind some of these neighborhoods will still have good potential deals for house hacking, but it requires work and these neighborhoods could be a bit rough and tumble or working class for some people so make sure you’re comfortable with the area before committing to anything in these areas.

Should You House Hack Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is very tenant-friendly and that paired with the large population loss the past two decades is concerning. That might make it too risky for some people, but for others they’re going to see relatively inexpensive properties in a market still gaining strong value and holding steady economically.

Depending on what your risk tolerance is, Pittsburgh can offer some fantastic house hacking opportunities for breaking into the real estate market in the area.

If you find yourself with a good job or opportunities here, or were born and raised and love the city, the good news is that there are plenty of properties that you can make a good house hack work with. When it comes to house hacking Pittsburgh, the opportunities are there for smart investors willing to do the work to make a property work.

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Analyzed by: Shane Dayton
Whether it was helping a friend build a cabin from scratch in central Alaska, scouting & analyzing Austin Texas neighborhoods, or exploring rural Iowa Airbnb potential, the variety of opportunities real estate offers have caught Shane's attention. After years of this, he brings his experience and passion for real estate to Everything House Hacking.

Learn more here.