Some Financial Aspects of Property and Real Estate Investments

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Property or real estates are not considered to be really liquid investment instruments since individual properties or real estates are not interchangeable. Therefore identifying land or real estate in which to invest can take a pretty high amount of time and efforts and much depends on how familiar the investors might become with the particular segment of the market corresponding to their interests. Real estate or land investors often use a variety of appraisal methods to make their lives a bit easier, by means of price comparison. The sources of information relative to prices may include: public auctions, private sales, public agencies, market listings or real estate agents.

Real estate or land assets are much more expensive than bonds or stocks. Therefore investors most often avail themselves of a mortgage loan that can be collateralized by the land or real estate itself. Accordingly we usually use the terms *equity* or *leverage* with reference to the money paid by the investor as opposed to the amount lent by the bank. Their ratio is called Loan-to-Value (LTV) which is considered to represent the risk taken by the investor. Most banks regard 20% of the appraised value as a minimum equity requirement. Quite a number of pension funds and REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts, regularly purchase land or real estate with *zero* leverage thereby minimizing their risks, but capping their Return-On-Investment (ROI) as well.

If the purchase of the land or real estate is leveraged, the necessary monthly instalments or “carry costs” might create a negative cash flow for the investor right away after purchase. In addition to possible positive cash flow elements such as those generated by depreciation, equity buildup and capital appreciation, investors might also partially or entirely offset the “carry costs” by means of the so-called Net Operating Income, or NOI. This technical term typically means *rents less expenses* and in countries other than the US it is often referred to as Net Cash Flow. The ratio *NOI/purchase price* is called the Capitalization Rate. It indirectly indicates in how many years the property or real estate will pay for itself in an interest-free financial environment.

E.g. if an investor has purchased a piece of land or real estate for $ 800,000 which generates a positive Net Operating Income of $ 40,000 annually, then the Capitalization Rate of the property is 5%. It shows the investor that the land property or real estate will pay for itself in 20 years in terms of net cash flows.

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Original article by B Lakatos