Fernando Pages Ruiz

As a California home builder during the early 1990s, I experienced first-hand the boom-or-bust cycles of residential construction. So when I moved to Lincoln, Neb., later in the decade, I began building one or two small rental properties per year, which I hoped would help insulate my business from those inevitable cycles. My strategy proved at least partly successful: Even though the recession of 2008 wiped out my home-building company, my apartments have provided a significant financial cushion that helps keep me afloat.

If you’ve been thinking about building or buying a rental property, this may be a good time to jump in, because multi­family construction is actually booming. Census Bureau numbers show that while single-family housing starts for February 2012 climbed nearly 24 percent nationally, multifamily shot up 60 percent. And numbers for small...

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