Understanding Capitalization Rates and Debt Coverage Ratios


Capitalization Rates or “Cap Rates” and Debt Coverage Ratios or “DCRs” are highly effective and popular commercial real estate metrics that can be used for valuation analysis of real estate, property trends, and to help make purchasing decisions. Provided below is a basic overview of how Cap Rates and DCRs are utilized.

First, what is the definition of a cap rate and what is the formula for determining a cap rate? The definition of a cap rate is the ratio of Net Operating Income to the Asset Value. To obtain the cap rate, simply use the following formula: Cap Rate = annual net operating income/cost (or value). For example, if a property is on the market for $1,000,000 and the net operating income is $150,000, the cap rate is 15. Using another example where the net operating income is $7,000 and the property is listed for $100,000, the cap rate is 7.

cap rate definitionSo what can we learn from using cap rates and what do they tell us about a potential real estate investment? One thing we learn from the cap rate is the return on investment an investor can expect to earn on a purchase using all cash. The examples in the above paragraph would, therefore, yield returns of 15% and 7% respectively. Another thing a cap rate is helpful for is evaluating risk. For example, two equally sized office buildings in the same neighborhood can be evaluated for risk based upon cap rates, all other things being equal. The higher the cap rate between the buildings, the greater the risk premium. Investors often use cap rates to evaluate the risk of certain investments in making decisions about their portfolios.

Cap rates can also help to identify trends in a particular market over time. For instance, if cap rates are trending lower in a market over a period of a few years, the market is growing more competitive. Whereas, higher cap rates over the same period indicate less competition for that particular product. This, therefore, provides some insight into the performance of the particular markets over this time period. Utilizing this simple analysis can help to evaluate risk for the purchaser.

It is important to remember that cap rates are much more accurate an indicator of property performance when the source of Net Operating Income is relatively steady. A discounted cash flow analysis may need to be used when a Net Operating Income stream is complex and/or irregular.

Another example of important real estate investment metrics is the debt coverage ratio or DCR. Examples of how the DCR is utilized are outlined below.

The Debt Coverage Ratio (DCR) is used to determine the ability of an income stream from a property to pay its operating expenses and mortgage payments. Banks and investors will set a limit on their tolerance for this ratio and expect a particular project to remain at or above this ratio for the duration of the loan or investment term.

The larger the DCR the better the investment is covering its debt service. A DCR of 1 means that the investment is meeting its obligations to the bank or investor but with no free cash flow left over. Therefore, it is not unusual for a bank or investor to require a DCR of 1.25. This provides 25% of each dollar in excess of expenses as a cushion for the bank or investor. To calculate the DCR, simply add all operating expenses and debt service, including interest, and subtract them from gross revenue. This leaves Net Operating Income. An example of a DCR of 1.25 would be Net Operating Income of $150,000 on Debt Service of $120,000 ($150,000/$120,000 = 1.25). This simple calculation can be critical when pre-qualifying your investment to ensure you are heading down the correct path. As interest rate and amortization are functions of this ratio, these are important to consider when calculating your DCR.

Utilizing Cap Rates and Debt Coverage Ratios will often be the first things your commercial real estate broker will do for you when assisting you with your project. Therefore, it is important to utilize a professional when determining the best plan of action for your commercial sale or purchase.



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