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How to Find Your Return on Investment

Posted by Shelta on February 27, 2021

Return on investment (ROI) is a measurement of how much money or profit is made on an investment as a percentage of its cost. Since this metric shows how well your investment dollars are being used, it pays to know both what ROI is and how to calculate ROI in real estate.

Return on investment (ROI) is an accounting term that indicates the percentage of invested money that's recouped after deducting associated costs. For the non-accountant, this may sound confusing, but the formula may be simply stated as follows

ROI= (Gain−Cost)/Cost

Gain=Investment gain
Cost=Investment cost

This equation seems easy enough to calculate. However, a number of variables come into play, including repair and maintenance costs, as well as leverage—the amount of money borrowed (with interest) to make the initial investment. These variables can affect ROI numbers.

How to Calculate ROI For Real Estate Investments

Complications in Calculating ROI

When you buy property, the financing terms can greatly impact the overall cost of the investment. Complications in calculating ROI can occur when a property is refinanced or a second mortgage is taken out. Interest on a second loan, or a refinanced loan, may increase, and loan fees may be charged—both of which can reduce the ROI.

There may also be an increase in maintenance costs, property taxes, and utility rates. If the owner of a residential rental or commercial property pays these expenses, all these new numbers need to be plugged in to update the ROI.

Complex calculations may also be required for property bought with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)—a loan with a rate that changes periodically through the duration of the loan.

Let’s look at the two primary methods to calculate ROI: the cost method and the out-of-pocket method.

The Cost Method

The cost method calculates ROI by dividing the equity in a property by that property’s costs.

As an example, assume a property was bought for 100,000. After repairs and rehab, which costs investors an additional 50,000, the property is then valued at 200,000. This makes the investors’ equity position in the property 50,000 (200,000 – [100,000 + 50,000] = 50,000).

To use the cost method, divide the equity position by all the costs related to the purchase, repairs, and rehabilitation of the property.

ROI, in this instance, is 50,000 ÷ 150,000 = 0.33, or 33%.

The Out-of-Pocket Method

The out-of-pocket method is preferred by real estate investors because of higher ROI results. Using the numbers from the example above, assume the same property was bought for the same price, but this time, the purchase was financed with a loan and a down payment of 20,000.

The out-of-pocket expense is thus only 20,000—plus 50,000 for repairs and rehab—for a total out-of-pocket expense of 70,000. With the value of the property at 200,000, the equity position is 130,000.

The ROI in this case is 130,000 ÷ 200,000 = 0.65, or 65%. This is almost double the first example’s ROI. The difference, of course, is attributable to the loan: leverage as a means of increasing ROI.

What Is a Good Return on Investment (ROI) for Real Estate Investors?

What one investor considers a “good” ROI may be unacceptable to another. A good ROI on real estate varies by risk tolerance—the more risk you’re willing to take, the higher ROI you’ll expect. Conversely, risk-averse investors may happily settle for lower ROIs in exchange for more certainty.

Of course, you don’t have to buy physical property to invest in real estate. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) trade like stocks on an exchange, and they can provide diversification without the need to own and manage any property. In general, REIT returns are more volatile than physical property (they trade on an exchange, after all).

Return on Investment (ROI) Doesn’t Equal Profit

Of course, before ROI can be realized in actual cash profits, the property must be sold. Often, a property will not sell at its market value. A real estate deal may close below the initial asking price, which reduces the final ROI calculation for that property.

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