Profit is the main reason we invest in real estate so it’s important to understand how and where your profits come from. We’ll call this the mathematics of real estate profits. The four basic ways you will profit from real estate are:
2. Principal Reduction
3. Tax Deductions
4. Cash Flow
Appreciation – Calculating your return on investment (ROI):
We can calculate the appreciation in the value of the property over time in dollars or as a percentage of the cost. Let’s say you bought a house for $100,000 a couple years ago with a down payment of $10,000 and now it’s worth $120,000. The appreciation is $20,000, or $10,000 per year.
Since $20,000 is our appreciation amount over two years we divide it by two to get an average annual appreciation of 10% based on the original property cost. The ROI is the percentage of profit you have earned based on the down payment you made. We divide the appreciation amount of $20,000 by the down payment amount of $10,000, showing that you return on your investment from appreciation is 200%.
Principal reduction is the amount of your mortgage that has been paid off. A small part of your mortgage payment goes toward paying the principle and the rest goes toward interest, insurance and taxes. The mortgage company keeps the interest but you get a tax deduction and the principle reduction increases your equity in the property. Our loan was $90,000 after a $10,000 down payment and $2,000 has gone towards the principle in the first two years leaving you with a $98,000 debt.
To figure out your equity return simply divide the equity by down payment. Your total equity is $22,000, your down payment is $10,000 so the return on your equity is 220% after 2 years. Pretty good ROI in this example.
Real estate investing has some of the best tax shelters compared to anything else. If your gross income is under $100,000 and you’re in the 33% tax bracket the government gives you back 33 cent for every dollar of tax deductions you can create. So, for every $1,000 in tax deductions you’ll get back $330 in cash or in reduced taxes. Your appreciation and equity will be long term but your tax deductions create cash flow in the current year.
Dealing with rental property investments means dealing with cash flow; neutral, negative, or positive. We all hope to have the positive kind but that’s not always possible. Even so, it can still make sense to invest in a property that has neutral or slightly negative cash flow because of the tax deductions and long term equity you can eventually cash in on. A common mistake from investors with good intentions is to get in hot water with unexpected maintenance costs, vacant properties, and non-collected rents. Not having a contingency plan in place for covering negative cash flow can leave one scrambling for co-investors or worse; foreclosure. Some negative cash flow can be offset by tax deductions. Keeping expenses down together with rent increases can eliminate negative cash flow and this should be an obvious long term goal.