Markets | Strategy

Understanding Cap Rate in Real Estate Investment

MARCH 12, 2024
Written by John Makarewicz


In real estate, capitalization rates or cap rates-  are useful for gauging risk and potential returns on commercial properties, helping investors make informed decisions.

What Is a Cap Rate?

Cap rate, or capitalization rate, serves as a crucial metric for real estate investors when evaluating potential investments and making objective comparisons. Understanding a property’s cap rate enables you to gauge both the level of risk and the potential return on investment (ROI). As a real estate investor, this metric helps in identifying promising investment opportunities and evaluating the effectiveness of property management within your current portfolio.


Cap Rate Definition

The capitalization rate, often referred to as the ‘cap rate,’ measures the relationship between a real estate asset’s net income and its purchase price or fair market value. Cap rates play a significant role in various aspects of real estate investment, including:

– Evaluating potential cash flow
– Assessing the risk associated with the property and/or market
– Determining the overall return potential of the asset


What’s a Favorable Cap Rate?

Calculating a real estate cap rate is easy, to the point where computing it mentally will become second nature over time.

Firstly, calculate your net operating income (NOI).

Gross income – Operating Expenses = NOI.

Then, proceed to: NOI / Purchase Price = Cap Rate

cap rate

Here’s an example to illustrate how the cap rate formula can be applied:

Suppose last year you invested in a commercial property named Summit Plaza for $2,000,000. The property was fully leased out, generating a gross rental income of $140,000 annually. However, during the year, unexpected maintenance issues arose, leading to higher-than-anticipated expenses totaling $30,000.


Here’s how you would calculate the cap rate:

Gross Rental Income: $140,000

Operating Expenses: $30,000

Net Operating Income (NOI): $140,000 – $30,000 = $110,000


Cap Rate = NOI / Purchase Price

Cap Rate = $110,000 / $2,000,000 = 5.5%

Therefore, the cap rate for your investment in Summit Plaza last year was 5.5%.

Now, is this a good cap rate? Well, it depends on various factors beyond just this single number. While 5.5% may seem reasonable, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the specifics of the investment. If you’re investing through a platform like EquityMultiple, where fractional ownership is common, you’re not solely responsible for the property. However, it’s still essential to scrutinize the assumptions made regarding the property’s cap rate by the sponsor. Changes in cap rates throughout the investment term can significantly impact cash flow and overall return potential.


The Significance of Cap Rate in Real Estate Investing

A commercial property with a lower cap rate means less risk, while a higher cap rate usually means more risk, like if it’s older or in a less desirable location. But if the rate is too low, there might not be enough profit. Investors aim for the sweet spot – enough risk for a good reward. Cap rates also help compare your property prices with similar sales.

The highest cap rate doesn’t always mean the highest potential risk-adjusted return. Several other factors matter. Monitoring cap rate trends in a specific commercial real estate sector or market is crucial. If you can predict with confidence that a property’s cap rate will decrease during the investment term, and its rents remain stable or increase, your selling price will be higher than your purchase price. Essentially, a lower ‘exit cap rate,’ everything else being equal, is favorable for investors.


In conclusion, cap rates are essential tools for real estate investors, providing insights into investment risks and rewards. By mastering cap rate calculation and interpretation, investors can navigate the market effectively, maximizing returns and minimizing risks. With a solid understanding of cap rates, investors can confidently pursue their real estate goals.



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