In commercial real estate, cap rate, or capitalization rate, is used to determine the values of income producing properties such as apartments of five units or more, office buildings, strip malls and other such properties. The cap rate can represent extremely different things to different people in respect to their interests in commercial real estate. Before we investigate why cap rate matters, and what it means to specific people, let's look at the actual equation and see how it works.
Cap rate has two main components which area: net operating income (NOI) and price or estimated value of the property. NOI is found by subtracting all expenses from the gross income of the property. When the NOI is divided by the price or value of a property, you are left with the cap rate.
You can move the components of cap rate around in order to determine each of the variables in the equation. The different equations used to determine any of the three variables are below:
Cap rate = --------
NOI = Value x Cap Rate
As you can see, depending on the information you have regarding the property, you can determine any of the three variables.
That's great, you say, I can determine these three variables! But how does it affect my commercial real estate endeavors?
To show the main differences between cap rates, I am going to divide investments into three major categories:
Safe investment: Cap rate of 5%
Average investment: Cap rate of 10%
Risky investment: Cap rate of 20%
What the buyer wants out of the property determines what a buyer is looking for.
For example, property being sold at a 5% cap rate is often characterized by low vacancy percentages (less than 5%-10%), beautiful property grounds, good management, up to date amenities, and rents or leases priced at market rate. There is a positive and strong cash flow every month because the property is operating at its full potential.
This property's value is greater when operating at peak performance, so a higher price is asked by the seller, making the cap rate lower. Those who buy at low cap rates are often looking for retail, already performing property that brings in a steady cash flow every month. A buyer such as this is often part of a REIT, or real estate investment trust, or a professional, such as a doctor or lawyer, who wishes only to deal with good properties and watch the cash flow in.
A property being sold at a 10% cap rate is often characterized by higher vacancies (around 10%-20%), average grounds, an average management team and average amenities. There is definitely some room for improvement with these properties. A buyer who picks up a property like this is looking to make those improvements by increasing rates, renovating and fixing up the property, as well as employing a well operating management team.
The sole purpose of this type of buyer is to create value in the property where it is lacking. It does take some work, and is more risky than the 5% cap rate property, so the asking price is less. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be created in this difference between an average and good operating property.
A property being sold at a 20% cap rate, or more, is usually considered a very distressed property with vacancies of 20% and more, rundown grounds, old buildings that are falling apart, a poor management team and even a problem owner. Because of the risk, low operating income and problems with the property, a person who is willing to undertake such a property must not be afraid of a little (or much) work and the risk involved in attempting to turn a property of this type around.
However, there are hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars to be made in these properties! It takes a keen eye and some varied and creative scenarios to determine if the property will perform as you expect it will.
As you can see, the cap rate can be great for one person, and horrible for another, depending on the type of investor the buyer is!
As a seller, the seller wants to sell the property at the lowest cap rate possible because that means it is being offered at the highest price possible. It definitely depends on the condition of the property, operating income, expenses, vacancies and management team to determine what the seller can get for the property. The market will dictate what the right price is for a property.
Cap rates are considered the best way to determine the value of a property. Remember that a bank, or other type of lender, will be looking at the NOI of a property compared to the debt in order to determine if it is a safe investment for the lender. To a lender, the debt coverage is more important than the cap rate. However, if you can get the cap rate higher by getting a lower purchase price, then you can get a smaller loan, and possibly be able to cover the loan with the current NOI. It is a matter of working the numbers to see if a deal is feasible.
When you investigate commercial properties, use the cap rate to determine if the subject property fits your specific criteria. Always create future scenarios and manipulate the property's income and expense sheets to determine if you can get the money out of the property that you hope to get.
Gold mines can be found in higher cap properties, so check it out and see what you can discover in your own community.