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Cap Rate in Real Estate

Breaking Down the Most Important Metric in Real Estate

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Cap Rate in Real Estate

In This Article
  • What is a cap rate
  • Why are cap rates so important in real estate
  • How cap rates are used in practice
  • The key drivers impacting an investment property’s cap rates

Cap Rate Example

A property with asking price of $1m and NOI of $125k will have a $125k / $1 m = 12.5% cap rate.

If you’re specifically familiar with EV/ EBITDA multiples, the closest thing to a cap rate is is an inverse EBITDA multiple because NOI as a measure of profit is closest to EBITDA (with some major differences which we address here).

Cap rates in practice

Cap rates are the primary shorthand by which different real estate properties are compared by investors.  For example, if you’re evaluating a property with a $10 million asking price and expected NOI of $1 million, that property would have a 10% cap rate.

All else equal, the higher the cap rate, the higher the annual return on investment.  However, a higher cap rate isn’t always better.  For example, higher cap rates are often achieved by investing in riskier properties, so there is a tradeoff between risk and return.

Observed property value

To decide whether the asking price is appropriate, you’d look at the cap rates on similar properties.  If the cap rates of comparable properties are on average lower – say 8% – you might perceive the asking price as reasonable because it provides a higher NOI relative to the property value.

If you’re more comfortable thinking about multiples, simply invert the cap rate – in our example you’d be comparing an asset valued at 10x (value/NOI) against a seemingly more expensive peer group trading at 12.5x (value/NOI).

Defined cap rate

Alternatively, cap rates are often used to help price properties.  For example, if an investor own a property generating NOI of $2 million but comparable properties trade at only 6% cap rates (perhaps due to higher risks with these types of properties), the investor would use the peer group cap rates to guide the investor’s pricing decision. So at the 6% cap rate, the property would be priced at $2 million / 6% = $33.3 million.

What factors influence the cap rate?

Just as with traditional multiples, there are many variables that can distort the comparison of properties using this metric, including:

  1. Timing of NOI (LTM or forward)
  2. Growth rates
  3. Returns on capital
  4. Cost of capital of properties (or REITs) being compared

However, in real estate, it is much easier to find comparable properties (with therefore similar growth, returns and cost of capital profiles), which mutes the problems described above

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