Rental Property Return Investment Tips

Realtor giving house key to buyer in empty room
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More and more people are getting started in real estate investing and are looking to rental properties as a way of diversifying their investments and securing cash flow for the future.

The Benefits of Rental Properties

Rental properties can round out an investment portfolio and create an ongoing income stream. Several major factors have made this a popular investment option:

  • Many people are dissatisfied with the meager returns provided by their savings accounts and investments such as certificates of deposit, causing many people to take a closer look at rental property investing.
  • Several years of record-low interest rates have made people wary of future inflation, which drives them away from the bond market. As an alternative, people invest in commodities like real estate, which contains perceived inflation-protection.
  • Many want to diversify their investments, which means moving away from solely investing in the equities/stock market.

If you want to get into rental property investing, you need to learn how to evaluate whether or not a potential rental property is a good investment. The following two formulas will help.

The Cap Rate

First, calculate the capitalization rate, or "cap" rate, on your intended investment. This is the profit you can make from net income generated by the property, or the rate of return you'd make on a house if you bought it with cash.

The cap rate is the net income divided by the asset cost. For example:

  • You buy a home for $200,000.
  • It rents for $1,500 per month.
  • Your expenses (taxes, insurance, management, repairs, maintenance) average out to $500 per month. (Remember, this does not include the principal and interest payments on your mortgage, but it does include the escrowed sum for taxes and insurance.)
  • Your property's net operating income is $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year.
  • Your cap rate is $12,000 / $200,000 = 0.06, or 6%.

Whether 6% makes a good return on your investment is up to you to decide. If you can find higher-quality tenants in a nicer neighborhood, then 6% could be a great return. If you're getting 6% for a shaky neighborhood with lots of risks, then this return might not be worthwhile.

The One Percent Rule

This is a general rule of thumb that people use when evaluating a rental property. If the gross monthly rent (before expenses) equals at least 1% of the purchase price, they'll look further into the investment. If it doesn't, they'll skip over it.

For example, a $200,000 house—using this rule of thumb—would need to rent for $2,000 per month. If it doesn't, then it doesn't meet the One Percent Rule.

Under this rule, the house brings in gross revenue of 12% of the purchase price each year. After expenses, the property may bring a net revenue of 6% to 8% of the purchase price.

This is generally considered a good return, but, again, it depends on what area of town you're considering. Nicer neighborhoods tend to have lower rental returns, while shakier neighborhoods tend to have higher returns.

Final Note

Keep in mind that 6% or 8% doesn't mean as much if that interest is non-compounding. To give your returns the same benefit and the same chance of growth as money in the stock market, you'll need to reinvest 100% of the proceeds so your returns can compound upon themselves.

Article Sources

  1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Effective Federal Funds Rate." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Has Real Estate Been a Good Hedge Against Inflation?" Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  3. Rental Property Owners Association. "Annual Property Operating Data (APOD) Sheet." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  4. American Apartment Owners Association. "Valuing Income Property: What's It Worth…to You?" Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  5. American Journal of Sociology. "Do the Poor Pay More for Housing? Exploitation, Profit, and Risk in Rental Markets." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.