Have you ever wondered how much profit should you make on a rental property? If you have some extra cash to invest and are considering putting it into a rental property, you should first consider how much you can expect to spend versus how much you can expect to make before investing your money.
In this post, I’ll do a complete analysis and breakdown of the expenses, cash flow profit, and amount of equity for each of my three rental properties, which I’ve owned for three to four years.
What to Know When Investing in Real Estate
When you’re learning how much profit you should make on a rental property, you should keep several different things in mind to help you make informed decisions about your investment.
You can take out a cash-out refinance when your home’s value or the equity you have in it increases. This allows you to take out a new mortgage loan for a larger amount than your original loan. Then, you can take out the difference between these loans in cash. Essentially, you are turning some of your equity into cash. You can then use this cash for anything you want, such as renovating the home or additional investments in other properties.
Traditional financing is what most people think of when buying a property. For this type of financing, you take out a mortgage from a financial institution to help fund your purchase and pay it back over time. This type of financing tends to be more affordable and has better lending terms for the buyer.
Hard Money Loan
Hard money loans are funded by private businesses or individuals. They tend to have higher interest rates, more fees, and shorter terms. It works best for properties that need extensive rehabbing. But if you know the property’s value will drastically increase once the renovations are complete, it can be worth it.
Hire a Property Manager
I pay a property management company to manage all three of my properties. You can hire a management company without worrying about tenants, collecting rent, evictions, scheduling contractors, and other related issues.
Hiring a manager to take care of this allows you to be hands-off and oversee all your properties without spending much time. Of course, if you’re wondering how much profit you should make on a rental property, hiring a property manager will cut into some of your earnings.
Background On My Rental Properties
I picked up all three of my rental properties between 2016 and 2017. All three are below the average price point for my city, but they’re all great quality properties in good locations. The average price point in San Antonio is around $225,000, and each property is currently valued between $130,000 and $190,000. To demonstrate how much profit you should make on a rental property, I’ve broken down the expenses and costs of each one below.
- Size: 1,086 square feet
- Purchase Date: 03/17/2017
- Purchased Price: $66,887
- Amount Financed: $80,000
- Down Payment: -$13,113
- Closing Costs/Commission: $2,007
- Rehab: $31,769
- Total Cash Investment: $20,663
- Today’s Value: $130,000
This property was a distressed sale that needed extensive renovation work. I purchased it for $66,887 and spent $31,769 on repairs, which adds to around $100,000 total after subtracting the $2,007 I made in closing costs. If you’re wondering how much profit you should make on a rental property, the repairs needed will affect how much you earn.
This home came from one of my family members preparing to move out of state. The property was in no condition to sell to a retail buyer, so I decided to purchase it myself and work out a deal with the seller.
The structure of this deal was that the seller would continue to be on the title of the home and make the mortgage payment. However, I would pay the mortgage for them until I had completed the rehab on the home. I only made this deal because I was working with a family member, so I knew I could trust the outcome.
Once I completed the rehab, I would purchase the home as a traditional investment property at a 20% down on the after-rehab value (ARV). This structure would help me avoid going with a hard money loan and refinancing the property once it was completed. The seller would then have to pay me the difference between what I originally purchased the home for, $66,887, and the after-rehab value after the deal was closed, which was $100,000.
I paid a down payment of $20,000 (20% of the $100,000 ARV) out of pocket. With the $30,000 in repairs, this total out-of-pocket cost is $50,000. However, because I received a check for nearly $30,000 from the seller after closing, my real out-of-pocket cash was reduced to $20,000. The loan on the property was $80,000
However, the property’s actual market value has increased over time and is now $130,000. As of today, minus the loan cost, I have around $55,000 in equity.
- Size: 1,360 square feet
- Purchase Date: 08/12/2016
- Purchased Price: $119,200
- Amount Financed: $95,360
- Down Payment: $23,840
- Closing Costs/Commission: $3,576
- Rehab: $6,393
- Total Cash Investment: $33,809
- Today’s Value: $187,360
I purchased Thatch Drive from one of my clients for $119,200 because they did not want to deal with showings and preferred a quick close.
I negotiated $6,000 in seller-paid closing costs and earned $7,000 in real estate commission. I put 20% of the $119,200 down out of pocket, which was $23,840. This amount, combined with $3,576 in remaining closing costs and $6,393 in rehab costs, meant I was out of pocket $33,809.
Thatch Drive has increased in value over the years and is now worth around $187,360. My initial loan for it was $95,360. When you subtract my loan amount from the property’s current value, I have approximately $100,000 in equity in the home.
- Size: 1,360 square feet
- Purchase Date: 03/27/17
- Purchased Price: $63,000
- Amount Financed: $100,000
- Down Payment: $-37,000
- Closing Costs/Commission: $1,890
- Rehab: $38,931
- Total Cash Investment: $3,821
- Today’s Value: $139,000
This property needed many repairs. I purchased it for $63,000 and spent $38,931 on repairs.
On this property, I secured a private loan for $100,000 at a 5.5% interest rate. This loan wasn’t hard money or traditional financing, but rather a personal loan from someone I know who needed to put some of their cash to work for them in a relatively safe investment.
Because the loan was larger than the property’s purchase price, it covered most of the rehab and closing costs, which were minimal because it was a cash purchase. This scenario meant that my out-of-pocket expense for the property was only $3,821.
Today the property is worth around $139,000. My original $100,000 loan is now down to $95,482, meaning I have approximately $43,517 in equity.
Total Rehab + Appreciation Return For All Three Properties
- Total Equity: $197,953.19
- Total Out of Pocket: $57,536.64
Overall, these properties are an excellent investment because I paid around $57,536.64 in cash out-of-pocket and now have just shy of $200,000 in equity in roughly four years since my initial investment.
Two of these properties needed significant rehab. I would estimate 50% of my total return is based on the properties’ rehab and appreciation accounts for the other 50%.
Aside from rehab and appreciation, there’s an additional income stream that you should account for when learning how much profit you should make on a rental property: the cash flow.
How Much Profit Should You Make On a Rental Property
While I could have flipped these properties, I decided to keep them and rent them out. As a result, I’ve been making consistent cash flow on all of them. I also get more equity as the value of the properties appreciates over time.
I use Quickbooks to track all my expenses and income related to all three properties. The table below shows how much profit you should make on a rental property in terms of cash flow. Specifically, I analyze the cash flow between the years 2018 to 2020.
Analyzing 2018 – 2020 Cash Flow From My Properties
I began renting the homes in 2017, so full-year data started in 2018. Since the end of 2020, I’ve gone through three tenant changeovers: one in Windward Way and two in Sunrise Creek. Thatch had no tenant changeovers.
Remember that all three properties are under property management, so I’m entirely hands-off. I’m aware of things such as necessary maintenance or when a tenant will not renew their lease through email notifications. Other than that, I receive a direct deposit each month with the rental income minus property management fees and any maintenance costs incurred that month.
Additional charges that I pay include insurance, annual taxes, and any capital expenditures that the property needs. Capital expenditures are significant expenses that fall outside typical maintenance. For example, in 2018, I had to replace the roof on Thatch Drive and part of the electrical system inside Windward Way.
In the three full years I’ve owned these three investment properties, they’ve cash flowed a total of $21,708.33. Annually, this amounts to $7,236 for the three properties combined or $2,412 separately. This means that each property brings around $200 monthly in cash flow.
If you look at the properties individually, you’ll notice that some have performed better than others. This is because of the capital expenditures I paid on Windward Way and Thatch Drive.
Four Expenses to Consider
While investing in real estate is typically an excellent investment, you must remember there will be many expenses. If you can’t afford to consider these, it may not be the right time to invest in real estate.
Realistically, you likely won’t be making rent for the entire year. Even if the property gets rented out immediately, the renter still has to get approved, so there might not be immediate rent payments.
And if it’s not rented out right away, it has to be marketed and staged while you wait for a renter. For this reason, it’s wise to factor out 10% of your earnings for vacancy. For example, say you had a $1,800 mortgage payment and charge $2,000 on the rental property. If you factor 10% of that amount for vacancy, which is $200, you would be breaking even with your $1,800 mortgage.
Vacancy is not an expense on my profit and loss statement above. However, based on the price my properties rent for, if there were 100% occupancy, my gross rent received over the three years would have been closer to $127,000. I’ve lost around $5,000 to vacancies, just under 5%. But I also haven’t had to deal with eviction because the rental market in my city has been growing. For this reason, I still recommend you factor 10% for vacancy.
I set aside 5% to 10% of my earnings for maintenance. If it’s a newer property that’s been well-cared for or recently remodeled, it’s safe to go down to 5%. Otherwise, for older homes that need regular maintenance, 10% is better.
Over the three years, I’ve paid $6,655 in maintenance across my properties. This amount is approximately 5% of the $122,282 in gross rent I’ve received over the same time frame.
Keeping 5% to 10% of your earnings for capital expenditures is a good idea. This expense is usually a significant repair the property will need throughout its life, such as a new roof or replacement AC.
For this reason, it’s wise to plan and save some money to afford them when the time comes. I’ve spent $10,287 in capital expenditures, just under 10% of my total gross rent.
Property Management Fees
I also set aside 10% of my earnings for property management fees. If you plan to manage the property independently, you won’t need to worry about this. But if you want to be more hands-off with your investment, then this might be a worthwhile expense.
I have a fantastic deal with my property management company. I’ve paid $10,617 in property management fees over the three years, which is just under 10% of my gross rent.
Properly Forecasting Cash Flow
If you factor 10% for vacancy, 10% for property management, 10% for capital expenditures, and 10% for maintenance, that’s 40% that you have to take out of the rent you earn from that property. For example, if you would have made $1,000, you’re earning $600.
So if your mortgage is more than $600, you likely won’t be cash-flow positive. But if it’s less, then you’ll have a cash-flowing asset.
Analyzing Total Return on Investment
To calculate your total return on investment, you need to consider forced appreciation through rehab, passive appreciation through real estate value increasing over time, and cash flow earned (or lost) over the years.
I use a free tool called Dealcheck to run numbers on all my deals before purchasing them. This tool is also great for investor clients who want to see their potential returns for a given property. In addition, you can use this tool to tell you whether holding onto an investment is more beneficial than selling it and using the equity in a different asset.
All you have to do is put some raw numbers into the system, including the purchase price, rehab costs, loan details, and forecasted expenses.
Buy and Hold Projections
DealCheck can create a report called the “Buy and Hold Projections,” which shows your expected returns after different lengths of ownership. Below are examples of what the report looks like for my three rental properties.
This report breaks down your returns based on whether you hold your property for one year through 30 years. It includes equity accumulation and cash flow and compares that against your initial investment to show the return rates if you sell the property at a specific time.
There are two metrics I recommend looking at to determine how much profit you should make on a rental property:
Return on Equity
This is the return I earn in cash flow based on how much equity I have on the property. Ideally, this number should be above 4%. If it’s less, you should consider refinancing the property, pulling cash out, or selling it and reinvesting the funds.
I aim for 4% because real estate appreciates at about 3% over time. Adding the 4% in cash flow with the 3% in appreciation equates to a 7% total return on your equity. Anything less than this, and you’d be better off using that equity in a higher-yielding investment.
Internal Rate of Return
This figure tells me the annualized percentage return I will gain on my investment over the entire holding duration. For example, if you look at Windward Way, you’ll see that after year five, I will have earned an annualized return of 108.6% on my initial investment of $3,821.
The Internal Rate of Return takes into account compounding. As you can see, the total return over those five years would have amounted to 2,095.3%. Talk about an excellent investment!
Is Investing in Real Estate Right For You?
To determine how much profit you should make on a rental property, factor in the four expenses we covered above, in addition to your mortgage, to determine your cash flow. It’s essential to do these calculations before you invest your money. This way, you can decide if the property is a worthwhile investment.
A good rule of thumb is if you rent a property for 1% of the purchase cost, it may be a worthwhile investment. And if you can do more than that, even just 2%, that is an excellent opportunity to add a cash flow positive investment to your portfolio.
When considering how much profit you should make on a rental property, remember that a property can still be a worthwhile investment, even if the cash flow is neutral or negative. This would be the case if you speculate that the appreciation in that area will increase above average.
Typically, I’ve seen that rental properties in lower-income areas tend to cash flow better but appreciate less. In contrast, rental properties in higher-income areas appreciate more but cash flow less.
Aside from cash flow, another reason to invest in real estate is that you get tax benefits. You can write off some expenses, such as maintenance, property management, and depreciation. Depreciation is a significant benefit because you can earn income on the property and write off much of it due to depreciation.
Final Thoughts on Becoming a Real Estate Investor
If you can afford it, investing in real estate can be a valuable way to grow your money. Hopefully, this case study of my three properties demonstrated how much profit you should make on a rental property. Follow the tips in this post to help you invest in real estate correctly and make intelligent decisions with your money. For more advice, check out my post on 10 financial independence tips for real estate agents.
Have you invested in real estate before? If so, what was your experience? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
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