Real Estate Calculations for Investors

There is more to understanding investment real estate than the home itself. There are decisions that will need to be made before you purchase the property. You will need to know certain calculations so that you can make the right decision. One decision you will need to make is, are you holding the property to be rented out or are you going to rehab it and flip the property.

Remember, your profit is usually determined when you buy the home, not when it sells. This means if you buy the property for the right price, you will have the profit margins you are wanting.

Using a Realtor, you can get help with some of the information you will need to complete the formulas or double check the numbers. Websites like Zillow and other public sites that offer FREE VALUATION can provide inaccurate information.

Gross Scheduled Income

This real estate formula lets you know how much income your property will generate if all units within it are rented and if there are no defaults in rent payments. This can be a useful measure to compare with your actual income.

Talk with your Realtor and get some rent comps for the area. Many investors guess the rents or place what they think they will be asking. Rental comps are as important as sales comps. You want to be realistic in your calculations. If you get more than what you expected…GREAT!

Gross Scheduled Income = Rental Income + Lost Rental Income from Vacant Units

Gross Operating Income

This figure reflects the gross operating income in addition to all other sources of income from your rental property. This can include revenue from parking spaces, laundry, public vending machines, or others.

Gross Operating Income = (GSI – Lost Rental Income from Vacant Units) + Other Income

Net Operating Income

To use the net operating income formula, you first need to figure out your gross operating income. Once you have that figure, you subtract your operating expenses- things like insurance and maintenance costs. You should note, however, that things like investment property depreciation and interest payments do not factor into operating costs. 

Net Operating Income = Gross Operating Income – Total Operating Expenses

Capitalization Rate

The cap rate is one of the most important real estate formulas. The cap rate formula compares an investment property’s net operating income with its market value, allowing investors to quickly compare properties to see which one is most worth it.

Cap Rate = Net Operating Income / Market Value of Property

Cash on Cash Return

Figuring out your cash on cash return is crucial in real estate investing. It is a widely popular real estate formula since it allows investors to compare investments and evaluate the most profitable one based on the terms of financing. A spreadsheet is a good way to see the side by side comparison between properties that are similar. By setting up the spreadsheet with formulas, you can quick input the basic numbers and see which one is the best property for your investment.

To use the cash on cash return formula, you simply divide your net operating income by your total cash investment. Typically, your total cash investment will include the down payment, closing costs, renovation costs, and any other upfront fees you paid to acquire the investment property.

Cash on Cash Return = Net Operating Income / Total Cash Investment

Equity Build-Up Rate

Smart real estate investments do not always come in the form of immediate income. Some properties are great investments due to their potential to build equity, therefore becoming more valuable assets in the future. This simple real estate formula can help in measuring these gains.

Consulting with your Realtor is also a good way to see how quickly an area is growing in value.

Equity Build-Up Rate = Mortgage Principal Paid (Year 1) / Initial Cash Invested (Year 1)

Price to Rent Ratio 

This figure shows you how much rent you will be receiving, versus the price at which your property was purchased. This can be useful when comparing residential real estate investments. Like other calculations, a spreadsheet with formulas can help make quicker decisions.

Price to Rent Ratio = Purchase Price of Property / Annual Rental Revenue

Price Per Square Foot

Along the same lines, the price per square foot real estate formula can be useful when comparing investments. Savvy investors can use this calculation to evaluate if a rental property is overpriced before it is purchased. Your Realtor can help you evaluate this more in depth by pulling both rental and sales comps, which list out the price per square foot (as-is, not post-rehab).

Price Per Square Foot = Market Value of Property / Property Square Footage

Return on Investment

The return on investment formula allows you to see how much of your initial investment you can recoup annually.

Return on Investment = Annual Returns / Cost of Investment

Cash Flow From Operations

Successful real estate investments will involve more money coming in than going out. You need to subtract your capital expenditures (roughly defined as large expenses that do not reoccur) from your net operating income to figure out your cash flow from operations.

Cash Flow From Operations = Net Operating Income – Capital Expenditures

Cash Flow After Financing

Considering that most real estate investors have borrowed money in order to make their investment, this cash flow formula can provide a better idea of what your cash flow is like.

Cash Flow After Financing = Cash Flow From Operations – Financing Costs

Occupancy Rate

This figure reflects the time that an investment property is rented out over a period. Your occupancy rate is one of the most important indicators of your success, and a low occupancy rate can let you know that action is needed from your end.

Low occupancy can occur when properties are in need of repair. People tend to look for a replacement place to live if a landlord is not keeping the place livable or did not complete some repairs required previously. Landlords can “promise” to fix things to get people to move it, in turn causing them to move out as fast.

Occupancy Rate = Number of Days Occupied / Total Number of Days in One Year

Break Even Ratio

This figure is often used to evaluate risk when making a real estate investment. Too high of a figure when using this real estate formula can indicate that it will be an uphill battle to break even with an investment property and recoup debts.

Break Even Ratio = (Debt Servicing Costs + Operating Expenses) / Gross Operating Income

Gross Rent Multiplier

The gross rent multiplier real estate formula allows investors to figure out the market value of a rental property. This is especially useful when selling a rental property, as it allows you to set the right price the first time.

You will want to compare notes with a Realtor. This calculation can help set the value based on the numbers, but it is always good to have a second pair of eyes.

Gross Rent Multiplier = Market Value / Gross Scheduled Income

Debt Service Coverage Ratio

This real estate formula can be used to figure out the current cash flow you have available to recoup the debt which financed your investment.

Debt Service Coverage Ratio = Net Operating Income – Annual Debt Service


If you have a question about buying or selling your home, please reach out to Joseph Walter Realty at 248-294-7849 or via email at 

Thank you,

Scott Fader and Gary Brincat
Joseph Walter Realty

Joseph Walter Realty is a veteran owned company located in Michigan. Scott Fader and Gary Brincat are two of Michigan’s multi-million-dollar top producers. They have been working in real estate as brokers, Realtors, investors, property managers and real estate company owners for over 20 years. Together they would like to share their experiences, knowledge, success and failures to help buyers, sellers, Realtors, brokers and anyone else in the real estate and business, so that together we can grow as a community.