A typical investment property generates cash flows to an investor in four general ways:

  • net operating income (NOI)
  • tax shelter offsets
  • equity build-up
  • capital appreciation

Net operating income, or NOI, is the sum of all positive cash flows from rents and other sources of ordinary income generated by a property, minus the sum of ongoing expenses, such as maintenance, utilities, fees, taxes, and other items of that nature (debt service is not factored into the NOI). The ratio of NOI to the asset purchase price, expressed as a percentage, is called thecapitalization rate, or CAP rate, and is a common measure of the performance of an investment property.

Tax shelter offsets occur in one of three ways: depreciation (which may sometimes be accelerated), tax credits, and carryover losses which reduce tax liability charged against income from other sources. Some tax shelter benefits can be transferable, depending on the laws governing tax liability in the jurisdiction where the property is located. These can be sold to others for a cash return or other benefit.

Equity build-up is the increase in the investor’s equity ratio as the portion of debt service payments devoted to principal accrue over time. Equity build-up counts as a positive cash flow from the asset where the debt service payment is made out of income from the property, rather than from independent income sources.

Capital appreciation is the increase in market value of the asset over time, realized as a cash flow when the property is sold. Capital appreciation can be very unpredictable unless it is part of a development and improvement strategy. Purchase of a property for which the majority of the projected cash flows are expected from capital appreciation (prices going up) rather than other sources is considered speculation rather than investment.

 

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