# Category: articles

## The Single-Family Home as a Rental Property Investment — Using Regression to Estimate Value

Regression – no, it’s not what your family and friends accuse you of when you want to trade in the mini-van for a two-seater stick-shift convertible (well, maybe it is, but that’s a topic for a different article).

If you’re familiar with our RealData software, my online video courses, and my other blog posts here, then you know that I’m usually talking about income-producing property like multi-family, retail, office, or the like — seldom about single-family homes. And when we estimate the value of most income properties, we typically do so by looking at their income stream.

Recently, many investors (both big and small) have been buying up single-family homes to hold as rental properties, and that presents something of a conundrum: We still want to analyze cash flows and returns as any investor should, but when we think about the price we pay to acquire a home or the price we’ll get when we sell, our usual income-capitalization may not be the best approach.

Simply put, that’s because most single-family residences are bought and sold based on the price of comparable sales, not on their ability to produce rental income. Often, our comparable sales approach is informal and unscientific. The neighbor got \$250k, so I guess this house is worth the same. Or not.

Linear regression is a statistical technique we can use to approach this with more rigor. To put it into non-technical terms, it lets us look at a situation where we can take some facts that we know (dare we call them real data?) and use them to identify a trend. If a trend really does exist, that trend, in turn, allows us to predict the value of something otherwise unknown.

Let’s look at some examples. Five years ago my property taxes were \$1,000. Four years ago they were \$1,100. Three years ago, \$1,200. Two years ago, \$1,300 and last year \$1,400. Given this trend, what can we reasonably predict we’ll pay this year? Right. \$1,500.

How did we guess? We probably had a flashback to our junior high school algebra class (talk about regression!). In the graph paper of our mind, we plotted a perfectly straight line. The line was formed by a series of data points and it clearly suggested a trend.

Each data point on this graph represents two pieces of information, or “variables:” an independent variable (time) plotted along the horizontal x-axis and a dependent variable (the tax amount) plotted along the vertical or y-axis. The first data point, therefore, is a dot that appears where “5 yrs ago” and “\$1,000” intersect. The second point lands where “4 yrs ago” and “\$1,100” intersect and so on. The tax amount is the dependent variable because it changes as a function of time. In other words the tax bill depends on the year, not the other way around.

When we play connect-the-dots as in the graphic above (hence the name linear regression), we see that those dots form a perfectly straight line. If we extend that line beyond our known data points a bit, we can see that in the current year, assuming that the trend holds up, we could reasonably expect the taxes to be \$1,500. Of course, in real life our ducks don’t always line up so nicely in a row. When they look like the graphic below, we’ll probably need computer software to fit the best possible line to the series of points. Then we can use the resulting straight line to make our predictions.

There are numerous ways that we can use linear regression in real property analysis. We invite you to download a RealData® model to give the concept a spin. “Real estate value by linear regression” is a Microsoft Excel® workbook designed to help us estimate a property’s worth using the market data, or comparable sales, approach to valuation. This approach assumes that recent sales of properties that are nearby and are comparable to the subject provide the best indicators as to the value of the subject.

While we might sometimes use this model with other types of real estate, let’s assume for the sake of example that we want to estimate the value of a single-family residence. Although previously sold homes may be comparable they are unlikely to be identical, either to each other or to the subject being appraised. One may have more land; another may offer more interior space; a third may boast a better layout and so on.

As a rule such differences are generally reflected in the selling prices of the homes. Properties that are otherwise similar sell for more or less as a function of their distinguishing features. If we can identify some measure (index) of the appeal or amenities of the properties in a given neighborhood, then we may also be able to discern a pattern between that measure and the value of the properties — our trend line again. We can then use the pattern to predict the values of other properties in the same locale.

Our model will permit us to determine by regression analysis whether or not a linear relationship exists between selling price and some independent variable that we define. One possible technique is to use the property tax assessment as an index of value. Although assessments seldom reflect true market price, they often provide a good indication of relative value, so they’re worth a try. If the assessments and prices from a number of recent home sales in a neighborhood define a linear relationship, our model can measure the strength of that relationship and use it to estimate the worth of a home not yet sold.

After we open this model we can enter the address, an index and an adjusted selling price for as many as fifteen comparable sold properties. (Regarding the term “adjusted:” We may want to correct for price inflation whenever a sale is more than a few months old.) At the bottom (after #15), we’ll enter the address and the index amount of the subject property. The program will fill in the field for the number of comparables used and compute the subject property’s estimated selling price.

The results appear in a report and graph, in the section below.

Notice that the program will specify a correlation coefficient. This is a new bit of terminology we didn’t see in our simplified explanation above. This number is a statistical measurement of the reliability of the relationship between the index and the adjusted selling price. To put it another way, it’s a numerical way of expressing how straight our dots line up. A correlation of 1.00 is a perfect relationship, while zero indicates that we have completely random data. In most cases, we would like to see a correlation coefficient of at least 0.80 to believe that there is a strong enough relationship between the index and selling price to use that relationship as the basis of a prediction.

As an interesting sidebar, we can see how accurately this regression analysis would have predicted the values of the homes whose actual selling prices we know. That is because the program computes and displays the selling prices that the analysis would have predicted for each of the comparables. We also see the dollar and percentage differences between the projected and actual prices. This section provides a very graphic demonstration of the accuracy — or inaccuracy — of our model’s prediction.

We need to keep in mind that, as with most projections, the quality of our output is entirely dependent on the quality of our input. We certainly have to make appropriate choices for our comparables. Otherwise we can’t reasonably expect to achieve meaningful results. In addition, the kind of index we select must relate consistently to value. If we find tax assessments to be unreliable, we may want to try gross living area or experiment with a scoring system (X points for each bedroom, Y points for each bath, etc.). We may also want to consider trying for even greater accuracy in our predictions by advancing to what’s called “multiple linear regression,” a similar technique where we consider two or more independent variables as possible predictors of an outcome (i.e., a dependent variable).

A regression analysis like the one provided in this model can be very useful because of its ability to provide statistical support to what might otherwise be a subjective estimate of value. Property sellers and buyers can use it to support price negotiations; and agents can use it to enhance the effectiveness of their listing presentations. And of course, investors can estimate the initial cost and ultimate reversion value of a single-family home bought and held as a rental property. With a bit of imagination, linear regression can be used in many ways to poke and prod our analyses and projections. It’s name notwithstanding, it can take us a big step forward.

The information presented in this article represents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of RealData® Inc. The material contained in articles that appear on realdata.com is not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. We urge you to consult an attorney, CPA or other appropriate professional before taking any action in regard to matters discussed in any article or posting. The posting of any article and of any link back to the author and/or the author’s company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the author’s products or services.

## Yield on Cost — a metric for real estate investors and developers

I had a question recently about a metric called Yield on Cost, aka Return on Cost and also sometimes called Development Yield. So what is it and when and how might it be useful?

Yield on Cost is very similar to cap rate, which you’re already familiar with, especially if you’ve followed my posts, read my books or taken my online course. It’s a metric commonly used by investors and commercial appraisers, and it’s the ratio of a property’s Net Operating Income to its market value. It looks at an income property at a point in time.

What’s the difference between cap rate and Yield on Cost?

Cap rate measures income in relation to the value of a property. Yield on cost measures income in relation to the total cost of the property.

Another way to think of Yield on Cost is as a forward looking cap rate.

Let’s try to make some sense of this by hanging some numbers on these words.

You decide you’re going to buy a property today with its 50,000 NOI at the market cap of 5% for \$1 million. But you see a value-add opportunity here to make improvements and to create value. You’re going to spend money to make money.

Specifically, you’re going to upgrade these apartments and raise the rents. Remember value-add is an opportunistic approach to investing. You’re looking for a better return, and almost by definition, higher return implies greater risk. So you want to try to get a quick read on whether that higher return – in your judgment – is going to be worth the greater risk.

You’re thinking of spending \$75,000 on improvements so you can bump up rents by 15%. Let’s see how that looks:

Now you have a new total cost for the property of \$1,075,000 – the purchase price plus the improvements — and a NOI that’s 15% higher than before, or \$57,500. Let’s use the Yield on Cost formula, which is basically a lot like the cap rate formula:

YOC = stabilized NOI / total cost

YOC = 57,500 / 1,075,000  = 5.35%

I believe you’ll see right away how this is just slightly different from the standard cap rate formula. With YOC you’re using the NOI as it is stabilized after you make your improvements; and you’re using total amount the property cost you rather than what you think it might be worth. Again cost, not value. So now…

Yield on Cost  = 57,500 / 1,075,000 or 5.35%

Your yield on cost is higher than the 5% market cap rate, and that’s what you want. You want a so-called spread between the Return on Cost and the market cap rate for your value add scenario. That spread is 0.35%.

The question that only you can answer is, is that spread worth the risk?

One way that might help you decide is to ask: What do you think the property is going to be worth after these improvements? For that you cycle back to the cap rate formula, because that deals with value as function of income. You’ll use the market cap of 5% with your new stabilized NOI

Value = NOI / cap rate

Value = 57,500 / .05

Value = 1,150,000

Its value now, after these improvements, is \$1,150,000, which is \$75,000 more than your total cost:

Value (1,150,000) minus cost (1,000,000 + 75,000) = 75,000

The math here is probably simpler than the decision itself. That decision rests on your subjective evaluation of the risk involved. How confident are you that you can raise the rents by 15% after spending \$75,000 on improvements? In other words —  You’ve calculated the potential reward, objectively. Now you must weigh that against the risks, — risks which you measure pretty much subjectively.

So to wrap things up… Yield on Cost is similar to cap rate except it uses stabilized net operating income after improvements and measures that against total property cost. It does that rather than weighing current NOI against current property value — which is what you’re doing with regular cap rate. Yield on Cost is extremely easy to calculate and it can be useful with value-add investments to get a sense for how improvements to a property will impact your return. It should also give you a sense as to whether the additional return is worth the risk.

Yield on Cost is often used by developers for a quick read on a potential project. Look for more about this metric in a new lesson I will be adding to my course, Introduction to Real Estate Investment Analysis.

In the meantime, if you’d like to watch my discussion of this topic in a video post, you can get that here:  https://vimeo.com/635351764

The information presented in this article represents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of RealData® Inc. The material contained in articles that appear on realdata.com is not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. We urge you to consult an attorney, CPA or other appropriate professional before taking any action in regard to matters discussed in any article or posting. The posting of any article and of any link back to the author and/or the author’s company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the author’s products or services.

## What Happened to Your Property Management?

If you’ve taken my video course, read any of my books, listened to some of the podcasts I’ve been on, then you’re very aware that I often rant about how important it is for you to account for just the real operating operating expenses when you evaluate the worth of a property — no more and no fewer.

There is one mistake I see really often, and I want to call it out here in this video blog.

## Love Your Hat! What is Your Lender Really Looking at When You Apply for a Commercial Mortgage?

If you’re not an all cash buyer, then when you purchase a piece of income-producing real estate you’ll probably need to secure mortgage financing to complete the deal. It’s essential for you to understand what your lender is looking at when underwriting that loan.

And — If you guessed that he or she is not admiring your millinery —  ok then, stick with me here. I’m going to discuss briefly a couple of key yardsticks.

Of course, this short video blog post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluating, financing, and acquiring a successful real estate investment.

For in-depth insight into on all the key metrics and methods, check out https://realestateeducation.net/

And you’ll find the software that will do all the heavy lifting for your analysis and presentation at https://realdata.com

The information presented in this article represents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of RealData® Inc. The material contained in articles that appear on realdata.com is not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. We urge you to consult an attorney, CPA or other appropriate professional before taking any action in regard to matters discussed in any article or posting. The posting of any article and of any link back to the author and/or the author’s company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the author’s products or services.

## Video post: Understanding Net Operating Income, Part 2

In Part 1 this post, we looked at the revenue side of our NOI calculation. Now let’s look at the expense side, and how the end result – the NOI itself, is typically used when evaluating a potential real estate investment. Click the image below.

If you missed Part 1, you can watch it here.

The information presented in this article represents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of RealData® Inc. The material contained in articles that appear on realdata.com is not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to substitute for proper professional advice and/or due diligence. We urge you to consult an attorney, CPA or other appropriate professional before taking any action in regard to matters discussed in any article or posting. The posting of any article and of any link back to the author and/or the author’s company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the author’s products or services.

## Sharpening Your Pencil – Create Better Analyses With Published Real Estate Data

It’s tempting to rush through a property analysis by simply reviewing the broker’s sell sheet, plugging the data into your favorite software program and printing the results. You’re done, right?

Think again.

We’re not saying the seller isn’t providing accurate income and expense data, but is he or she giving you a complete picture of all the issues? Consider such questions as:

• What is an appropriate cap rate for the market in which the property is located; and more specifically, what’s the prevailing cap rate for the particular sector, such as multi-family or self-storage?
• What seems like a realistic assumption for revenue and expense growth over time?
• How have vacancy rates been trending for the area, and what might those trends say about future leases, renewals, and demand for space?

You’ll probably need to look beyond the owner’s statement to build your best property analysis and thus create your best chance at a successful investment. Thankfully, you can find a number of sources online to help you achieve accuracy, and along with it, some peace of mind.  You can find data on:

• Metropolitan and submarket area cap rates
• Average rents by market sector
• Vacancy rates
• Number of units available and sold
• Sales and rental comps
• Custom reports based on your subject property

The following are some of the best-known sources of data:

## Zillow

https://www.zillow.com/research/data/

You’re probably already familiar with this site, at least in regard to its home value estimates. The focus here is residential but investors can benefit from their extensive rental information, which is provided by county, metro area, city, zip code, and even neighborhood.  You download data in Excel format. We found their series of 5 to 7 years of data particularly useful for evaluating rental trends.

You can also learn about their methodology here.

## Reis

https://www.reis.com/

Reis has been a source of commercial real estate data for nearly four decades, and say they are a “…source for property and market intelligence, including vacancy rates, rent levels, cap rates, new construction, rent comparables, sales comparables, valuation estimates, and capital market trends across eight major commercial real estate sectors.

You can get more info about their sales comps and rent comps services, including sample reports. There is also a link on those pages to request a free report.

## Costar

http://www.costar.com

Really big data commercial real estate here, for owners, brokers, appraisers, lenders, even institutional investors

They say you can search up to 1 million sales records, across all property types at http://www.costar.com/products/costar-comps; or access property-level data, including vacancy, rents, sales comps for multifamily, office, industrial, or retail property at http://www.costar.com/products/costar-market-analytics.

## Compstak

https://compstak.com/enterprise

Compstak serves up office, retail and industrial lease data for “leading institutional investors, lenders, and owners across the US and UK.”  Subscribe to their entire database or, if you are broker, appraiser or researcher, trade your own data for theirs and gain access to Compstak data for free.

## Real Capital Analytics

https://www.rcanalytics.com/solutions-for/investors-owners/

From macro trends to extensive data on individual properties, Real Capital Analytics offers data on “\$18 trillion of sales, recapitalizations and financings.”  Contact them for pricing.

## Redfin

https://www.redfin.com/blog/data-center

Redfin is a residential brokerage firm but offers a wide variety of property sales and trend data.  Of particular note is their annual report of the “Hottest Neighborhoods in the US.”

While you may not be an investor in single family homes, consider that the market for your commercial property is linked to the health of the local residential market.

## LoopNet

http://www.loopnet.com/salescomps/

Gain access to their database of 1.6 million sales listings.  Cost is \$175 per month.  They also offer, at no charge, sales and lease trends for hundreds of localities across the US.  See http://www.loopnet.com/markettrends/

What data sources do you use? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

## What is Your Marginal Tax Rate, and Why is It Important to You?

Unless you make your living by helping people complete their returns, you probably prefer to spend as little time as possible thinking about income taxes. The rules and forms are generally opaque and the process is often stressful. However, there is at least one concept in the U.S. tax system that is both very simple and really important, and yet I find that it is unfamiliar to many. That concept is the Marginal Tax Rate, and the short version goes  like this:

Your marginal tax rate is the rate at which your next dollar of income will be taxed.

Now let’s see just how that works and why it matters to you.

### Tax Brackets

If the U.S. had a so-called “flat tax,” then each person would pay a fixed percentage of his or her income. For the sake of example (and putting all political agendas aside), let’s say the flat rate were 10%:

#### \$1,000,000 income x 10% = \$100,000 tax

Simple enough, and the person with the higher income would pay a proportionally higher tax.

However, the U.S. has instead what is called a “progressive” tax system. It’s like a layer cake. The bottom layer is taxed at a certain rate; the next layer is taxed at a higher rate; the next at a still higher rate. We call these layers “tax brackets.” Here is what the brackets for a married couple filing jointly looked like in 2015:

The logic here is that the higher your income, the higher the rate at which that income will be taxed. The tax rate becomes progressively higher as income increases, hence the name.

### What Is Marginal Tax Rate?

Your marginal tax rate is simply the rate at which your next dollar of income will be taxed. Let’s say that our married-filing-jointly couple, Jack and Jill, had income only from their jobs in 2015. After deductions, they had a taxable income of \$74,900. They are at the top of what we would call the “15% tax bracket.”

Then Jill received a one-time year-end bonus of \$1,000, raising their total family income to \$75,900. How much of that bonus will be lost to federal tax? Recall our table:

Every dollar earned starting with dollar # 74,901 (and continuing until 151,200) is going to be taxed at 25%. So she will pay \$250 of that bonus in federal tax.

\$1,000 x 25% = \$250

### What Marginal Tax Rate Isn’t

If someone were to ask our couple what tax bracket they were in, they would say, correctly, “25%.” Many people assume, incorrectly, that this would mean they are paying 25% of their total income in taxes. But that is not the case. This couple is paying 10% of their first \$18,450 of income, 15% of the next \$56,450, and 25% of the last \$1,000.

And so, they are actually paying an effective rate that is just a bit less than 14%.

\$10,562.50 income / \$75,900 tax = 13.92% effective tax rate

### Why Does It Matter to You?

Now that you understand how it works, you ask the obvious existential questions: So what? Why do I care?

Knowing your marginal tax rate is essential to anticipating the tax consequences of new income or new deductions. Consider some examples:

Our couple knows that their effective tax rate is currently around 14% but their marginal rate is 25%. What if they decide to acquire a profitable new investment property? They need to recognize that the additional income, which is layered on top of their employment income, is going to be taxed at their marginal rate of 25%. That information may factor into their decision as to whether the income from that property, after-taxes, is attractive enough to justify the cost and the effort.

What if they were thinking about making a \$1,000 donation to charity at the end of 2015, or possibly waiting until next year to do so? If Jill’s bonus is indeed a one-time event, she would save \$250 on their joint taxes if she makes that donation this year, while she is in the 25% bracket; but she would save only \$150 if she waits until next year when she expects to drop back under the 25% marginal rate and into the 15% bracket.

Perhaps in 2016 this couple encounters a fantastic real estate opportunity where they make a quick \$85,000 profit. Short-term gains are treated as ordinary income, so add this profit to the \$74,900 taxable income they had expected from their jobs and you can see that they will catapult across two tax brackets. At \$159,900, assuming the bracket table remains the same, their marginal rate is going to jump to 28%.

By being aware of their new marginal rate and where it is that they may fall within that 28% tax bracket, they can do some sensible tax planning. It looks like \$8,700 of their income (i.e., the amount that their 2016 income is over \$151,200), will be taxed at 28%. Are there some 2017 deductions that they could accelerate into 2016? Perhaps they could pre-pay the property taxes on their home. All or part of that deduction would save 28% if they took it the year of atypically high income, versus 15% in a year where their income returned to the 15% bracket.

One word of caution to so-called high-income investors (and that could mean folks with income as low as about \$200,000 for individuals or \$250,000 for joint filers): There are a variety of potential gotchas lurking for you in the ever-changing tax code. Certain deductions or exemptions may phase out, and the Net Investment Income Tax may kick in. Don’t try parsing this at home; consult a professional tax advisor.

For most people, however, awareness of your marginal tax rate and where you fall in the tax-bracket chart can be a big help in understanding the consequences of changes in income and making informed tax-planning decisions.

—-Frank Gallinelli

Your time and your investment capital are too valuable to risk on a do-it-yourself investment spreadsheet. For more than 30 years, RealData has provided the best and most reliable real estate investment software to help you make intelligent investment decisions and to create presentations you can confidently show to lenders, clients, and equity partners. Find out more at www.realdata.com.

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## Real Estate Expense Recoveries—What are they, how do they work? (part 3)

In Part 2 of our discussion of real estate expense recoveries, we looked at several different methods that property owners use to recover some of their operating costs from tenants:

• Simple pass-throughs — These typically work well in single-tenant properties, or in properties with no common area. The expenses chosen for reimbursement are billed to the single tenant; or if there are multiple tenants, then the charge is divided according to each tenant’s share of the total space.
• Expense-stop pass-throughs — Some pass-through arrangements require the tenants to pay a just portion of the recoverable expenses. The landlord pays up to a certain amount, called an “expense stop,” and the rest is passed through to the tenants. The “stop” can be a dollar amount defined in the lease, or it can be a “base-year stop,” where the landlord pays whatever amount comes due in the first year of the lease and the tenants pay any increase in subsequent years.
• CAM — In larger properties, where there is common space for the benefit of all tenants as well as for the public, the landlord my collect CAM (Common Area Maintenance) charges—expenses related to the maintenance of these common areas.

We left off at sticking point, however, regarding larger properties. If there is a significant amount common area, then the landlord will surely be thinking about the fact that this space accrues to the benefit of the tenants but doesn’t earn anything for the landlord. There must be a way to remedy this apparent inequity.

Recall two definitions near the end of the previous article:

usable square feet (usf): The amount of space physically occupied by a tenant.

rentable square feet (rsf): The amount of space on which the tenant pays rent.

The load factor represents a percentage of the common area, which is then added onto a tenant’s usable square footage to determine the tenant’s rentable square footage.

Let’s say a shopping center has a total area of 100,000 square feet. 90,000 is the usable area, occupied by tenants, and 10,000 is common area.

Load Factor = total area / usable area

Load Factor = 100,000 / 90,000

What this means is that each tenant’s usable square footage will be multiplied by 1.11—in other words, bumped up by 11%—to determine its rentable square footage, the amount on which it pays rent.

Say for example that you operate a 2,000 square foot boutique in this 100,000 center, and have contracted to pay \$40 per rentable square foot.

2,000 usable sf x 1.11 load factor = 2,220 rentable sf

2,220 rsf x \$40 = \$88,800 per year rent

Unlike what you did in the earlier pass-through models, you’re not paying an additional charge on top of your base rent here. Your base rental rate remains the same, but now it is applied to a greater number of square feet—the space you actually occupy plus a proportional share of the common area. This combination of your private space plus a pro-rata portion of the common space is what we now call your rentable square feet.

You and the other tenants are paying rent for your proportional shares of the common area from which you all benefit, and the landlord is receiving rent for all the space in the property. Cosmic equilibrium is restored.

Is It More Income or Less Expense?

Regardless of the name we give it—reimbursement, recovery, or pass-through—the end result is the same. The bottom line of our Annual Property Operating Data (APOD) form, Net Operating Income, is increased. The final issue to confront is how do we account for this additional money when we assemble a presentation or analysis?

One way that I see often, and which I believe to be incorrect, is to treat the reimbursement as if it were a negative expense—in other words, to show the expense reduced by the amount reimbursed. For example, if the actual property tax bill were \$10,000 and the amount reimbursed were \$9,000, then by this method the property tax expense would be shown as \$1,000. Why do I say this is incorrect?

The purpose of an APOD, or of any income-and-expense statement, is to convey information that is both accurate and useful. The taxes for this property are \$10,000. If you were a broker or property owner and handed me a report that showed taxes of \$1,000, I would…

a) suspect you were trying to con me

b) doubt all of the rest of the numbers on your report

c) be denied essential information I need to evaluate the property (e.g., the true cost of property taxes and the lease terms regarding expense reimbursement)

d) find another broker or owner to work with

e) all of the above

The correct answer, of course, is “e.” You’ve missed a key ingredient of successful business discourse: clarity. You should convey your analysis of a property in terms that are unambiguous, accurate, and relevant to your audience.

If you don’t treat the reimbursement as a negative expense, then how should you handle it?

You should treat it as revenue, the same as rent.

• It is rent. The amount may be based on a calculation involving one or more operating expenses, but it is still money paid by a tenant to a landlord under a lease agreement. If it walks like a duck, etc.
• Many lease agreements will in fact describe the reimbursement as additional rent.
• You can then apply a vacancy allowance to the total of base rent plus recoveries to account for the loss of both from a vacant unit. The top portion of your APOD might look like this:

(One side note on the interplay of vacancy on expense recoveries: Some leases will contain a gross-up clause. In such a lease, if there is less than full occupancy (which is defined in the lease, and is often pegged at 90 or 95%), then the landlord may take certain variable expenses that would be directly affected by the level of occupancy, such as janitorial cost, and “gross them up” to the amount they would be at full occupancy.)

In these three articles I’ve given you the abridged version of simple, single-tenant pass-throughs; pro-rated multi-tenant pass-throughs; expense stops; base-year stops; CAM charges; load factors; and even presentation issues. But there is no limit to the creativity of landlords and tenants in their pursuit of successful dealmaking. If you’ve been part of novel expense-recovery design, please share it with us.

—-Frank Gallinelli

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Your time and your investment capital are too valuable to risk on a do-it-yourself investment spreadsheet. For more than 30 years, RealData has provided the best and most reliable real estate investment software to help you make intelligent investment decisions and to create presentations you can confidently show to lenders, clients, and equity partners. Find out more at www.realdata.com.

## Real Estate Expense Recoveries—What are they, how do they work? (part 2)

Expense recoveries (aka reimbursements or pass-throughs) serve as a customary ingredient in leases for non-residential property. In part 1 of this article, I discussed some of the typical ways such an arrangement might play out.

The Simple Pass-Through

In a single-tenant property the tenant may be expected to pay all or a portion of certain operating expenses, such as property taxes and insurance, in addition to its base rent. If the tenant is obliged to pay just a portion of the expense, that amount is the excess over what is called an “expense stop.” Let’s say the property taxes are \$12,000 and the lease requires the tenant to pay the excess over an expense stop of \$4,000. The tenant would have to pay \$8,000.

property tax expense — expense stop = expense reimbursement

\$12,000 — \$4,000 = \$8,000 expense reimbursement

If this were a multi-tenant property, the recoverable amount would typically be pro-rated among the tenants—that is, it would be divided up according to the square footage of each tenant’s space in relation to the whole.

Base-Year Expense Stop

A variation on the expense-stop theme is the “base year expense stop.” In this scenario, the parties agree that the landlord will pay the full amount of the recoverable expenses for the first year, and in future years the tenant will pay any increase over that base.

An arrangement like this certainly seems straightforward enough, but prospective tenants sometimes view it with a jaundiced eye. What if the landlord tries to maneuver the timing of base year expenses in order to minimize them? Then the excess in subsequent years would be artificially inflated. If that’s a concern, then perhaps the tenant would prefer a pre-defined expense stop, as in the earlier example.

Keep in mind that the tenant does not pay these expenses directly to the original source of the bill. The landlord pays the tab and passes the appropriate charge through to the tenant, hence the term “expense recovery” or “reimbursement.”

Common Area Maintenance

Not every property will fit into a nice, neat, divisible mold. Take, for example, an office building or a larger shopping center. Properties like these may include areas such as lobbies, hallways, elevators, escalators, rest rooms, and parking lots—areas provided for the benefit of all the tenants, as well as for the public served by those tenants (i.e., their customers or clients). In addition, there may be services that the landlord provides for everyone’s benefit, such as security, trash removal, and janitorial. How does the property owner pass these costs through to tenants?

One approach is to bundle up the cost of common services into an item called CAM— Common Area Maintenance charges— and to pass that charge through based on square footage, just as one might pass through a property’s tax expense. Let’s take a tenant who occupies 2,000 square feet out of a total of 10,000; and let’s also say that we have identified \$1,000 in total CAM charges for a given time period.

pro rata share of space x CAM charge
= expense reimbursement

20% x \$1,000 = expense reimbursement

= \$200 expense reimbursement

This method may be fine in situations where the CAM charges are based mainly on services, but the property owner might be less than satisfied with this approach if the property has a significant amount of physical area devoted to common use. Why?

Usable vs. Rentable

Perhaps the answer lies in that we mean by “space.” Let’s pause for two definitions:

usable square feet (usf): The amount of space physically occupied by a tenant.

rentable square feet (rsf): The amount of space on which the tenant pays rent.

The common area represents space from which the tenants benefit, but that space is not part of their private, usable square footage. The common space is being used for lobbies and hallways and rest rooms, so it’s not available to lease out and earn rental income. This would not appear to be an ideal business plan for the landlord. Should the landlord absorb the loss? Is there an alternative?

—-Frank Gallinelli

####

Your time and your investment capital are too valuable to risk on a do-it-yourself investment spreadsheet. For more than 30 years, RealData has provided the best and most reliable real estate investment software to help you make intelligent investment decisions and to create presentations you can confidently show to lenders, clients, and equity partners. Find out more at www.realdata.com.

## Real Estate Expense Recoveries—What are they, how do they work? (part 1)

If you’ve gotten involved as a landlord or tenant with non-residential real estate, such as retail or office buildings, then you have probably encountered a phenomenon that may go by any of several names: expense recoveries, expense reimbursements, pass-throughs, or common area maintenance (CAM) charges. What exactly is this phenomenon and how does it work?

The typical commercial lease will specify a base rent, sometimes as a dollar amount per month or year, but more often as an annual number of dollars per rentable square foot of space occupied by the tenant. Many leases also call for additional rent over the base amount in the form of expense reimbursements.

How it Works—The Math

Let’s take a simple example. Say that you own a single-tenant property with 10,000 rentable square feet. The lease specifies a base rent of \$30 per square foot. It also says that the tenant is obligated to reimburse you, the landlord, for all property taxes in excess of \$4,000 per year. The \$4,000 cut-off is called an expense stop.

In the first year of the lease, the total property tax bill is \$12,000. How much will the tenant pay during the first year? Start with the base rent:

area x rate = base rent

10,000 square feet x \$30 per sf = \$300,000 base rent

Now calculate the reimbursement:

property tax expense — expense stop = expense reimbursement

\$12,000 — \$4,000 = \$8,000 expense reimbursement

So the tenant is going to pay a total of \$308,000 in the first year.

What happens if the space is divided among multiple tenants? While the leases for these tenants could be structured in any way to which the parties agree, the most common arrangement would be to allocate the reimbursements according to each tenant’s pro-rata share of the total rentable square footage.

Let’s say now that instead of occupying the entire rentable area, the tenant we’ve been discussing takes up only 2,000 square feet and the remainder is rented to other businesses. The calculation of the base rent works just as it did before (area x rate = base rent), but the reimbursement involves an additional factor, the tenant’s pro rata share. Since the tenant occupies 2,000 of the 10,000 square feet total, its share is 20%

pro rata share x (property tax expense — expense stop)
= expense reimbursement

20% x (\$12,000 — \$4,000) = expense reimbursement

20% x \$8,000 = \$1,600 expense reimbursement

As before, we add that to the tenant’s base rent

2,000 square feet x \$30 per sf = \$60,000 base rent

to get a total of \$61,600.

In this example, we have been passing through just one expense, but the landlord and tenant can agree to pass through as many or as few as they like. Property tax is probably the most common, and a lease that has just that single reimbursement is called a net lease. If the lease passes through both taxes and insurance, it is called a net-net lease. And if it adds tenant responsibility for repairs and maintenance into the deal, it is called a triple-net lease.

How it Works—The Practical Issues

All this is nice in theory, but how does it work in practice? Does the property owner let the tenant pay the bills?

Hardly ever. If you as a property owner pass property taxes or insurance cost–or any other expense for which you are responsible–on to a tenant, what you should do is pay those expenses directly yourself and send your tenant a bill for the reimbursable amount. A moment’s reflection will make the reason for this immediately obvious. Do you really want to rely on a third party to pay your tax or insurance bill on time? What if they don’t? You’re probably already picturing the nightmare scenario, where the insurance bill was left unpaid by the tenant, and then a catastrophic uninsured loss occurred. Or the tax bill was ignored, and you end up with a lien against your property and a black mark on your credit. If it’s your bill, pay it yourself and then collect from the tenant.

More…

Now that we’ve nailed down the basic mechanics of expense reimbursements, we want to go a bit further. There are some variations we should look at, like base-year reimbursements and CAM charges; there are some accounting and presentation issues worth considering; and there is the fundamental question as to why commercial landlords and tenants follow this pass-through practice at all. Come back for Part 2 to find out more.

—-Frank Gallinelli

####

Your time and your investment capital are too valuable to risk on a do-it-yourself investment spreadsheet. For more than 30 years, RealData has provided the best and most reliable real estate investment software to help you make intelligent investment decisions and to create presentations you can confidently show to lenders, clients, and equity partners. Learn more at www.realdata.com.