When you invest your money in things like RRSP’s or stocks and bonds your leverage is zero because you have used your own money and none of other people’s money. When you buy a home with a mortgage you have used leverage, which is common in most all real estate investments. You own the down payment of coarse but the lending institution owns the rest.
You bought a house for $100,000 with a $5,000 down payment. The OPM you used, or leverage is 95% and your down payment was 5%. Here lies one of the most important principles for someone just beginning real estate investing or even if you’re well into it:
The More Leverage You Use, The Greater Your Profit Potential.
Now the house you bought for $100,000 has increased in value up to $105,000 in just under a year, not bad. It only appreciated 5% but the good news is the return on YOUR investment is 100% because you invested $5,000, it went up $5,000 so you doubled your money earning a full 100% on your investment. Let’s say that over the next 10 years your property goes up to $25,000 in value, this will give you a 500% return on your money. Leverage is computed by dividing the increase in value by the cash down payment (25 divided by 5 is 5).
If you had $100,000 you could buy one property outright with your cash or you could make a lot of money with leverage and buy 20 properties by putting $5,000 down on each one. So, now instead of having a $100,000 property you’ve got $2,000,000 worth of property. Now let’s say the properties all appreciated by 5% during the first year your profits would be $100,000. If you had bought just the one property instead you would have only made $5,000 in profits.
As you can see, the less of your own money you use, the greater your profit potential and if you were able to buy a property with none of your own money, then the return on your investment is infinite. You can’t divide by a zero down payment. To figure out the return on investment from appreciation, taxes, or principle reduction, always divide by your cash down payment.
We have seen here how leverage can increase you chance for profits, but if you are financially unprepared it can greatly increase your potential risk. Higher earning strategies always have a higher risk potential that go along with them. The super save route of investing the entire $100,000 into one property is totally safe but will give you a much lower ROI. Those 20 properties you bought all have a mortgage on them which you are responsible for so if a few aren’t rented or the rents don’t get paid the money comes out of your pocket. Does this additional risk warrant the use of leveraging? Yes it does but you have to plan ahead and be prepared to handle any possible negative cash flow problems should they arise.
“How to handle negative cash flow” will be discussed in an upcoming article.