When you start out with a 2-4 unit property even though the price tag is typically higher (which results in a higher mortgage payment), you will receive rent from the other 1-3 units which will offset a large portion, or possibly all of the mortgage payment.
In addition...the 20% down payment so often mentioned in the media is not accurate. There is and has always been 3.5% down payment option on FHA even for a 2-4 unit property. Now when you put less than 20% down on a property, you have to pay mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is an insurance policy you pay that benefits the bank in case you default. If you buy a 2-4 unit property with 3.5% down, even though you will pay for mortgage insurance those beautiful rents from the other units will help cover that.
A 2-4 unit property can take many forms. All of the units can be in one building, they can be separate houses, they can be part multi-unit building with one single family home, there are many configurations.
Owning a 2-4 unit property is the best way to secure your retirement. Even if you never save one more dime, in 30 years when the mortgage is paid off you will have a free place to live and income from the other units. But if you do decide to be smart and save some more money you can buy another 2-4 unit property which will make your retirement even better!
So don't take the articles you read about how tough it is out there to qualify for a home seriously. A 2-4 unit property is a home and one you can more easily qualify for. Get professionally pre approved so you know what you can afford to buy - a pre approval is free from any bank or mortgage broker. Depending on where you live you might not need to earn that much at all - remember 75% of the rents will get added to your income to help you qualify.
Don't delay...get started. Like any investment, the sooner you start and the more time that passes, your investment grows. Time will pass anyway...you might as well be getting wealthy in the meantime!