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How to Determine Cap Rates

Two words can make or break an investor’s decision to buy their next rental property; cap rate. Cap rate, also known as the Capitalization Rate, is the perfect ratio to determine the potential income for a rental property. Instead of looking at only the monthly and annual income, cap rate takes a broader look at the costs and expenses that occurs with owning a rental property and gives a better sense of the overall quality of the investment. In a recent article from, Bruce Ailon a realtor and attorney from Alpharetta, GA is quoted as saying, “Cap rate is both a measure that tells you how much you are earning on the investment and a proxy for determining the risk of an investment.”

Finding the cap rate can be broken down into three simple steps.

  1. Calculate the property’s annual rent
  2. Subtract the annual expenses
  3. Divide the net income of the property by the purchase price or the current market value of the property

To give an example, if a property is providing monthly rental income of $1,000 then the annual income will be $12,000. Pretty simple right? The next step is to determine expenses and subtract that from the annual income. Continuing with the previous example above let’s say that the example property has yearly expenses of $3,000 leaving a net income of $9,000. Now that net income has been determined the investor can divide net income by the purchase price, which for this example is $125,000, giving the investor a final cap rate of 7.2% which is the expected annual return on investment for that property.

According to the same article most investors look for cap rates in the 4-12% range, with 4% being the absolute minimum for a potential rental property. Any property with a cap rate lower than 4% has greater potential for a loss if there are unforeseen maintenance issues with the property or long periods without tenants living in the property. By staying in the 4-12% cap rate range investors can better estimate their returns and can choose properties that fit within those guidelines providing a higher quality and less risky investment.

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