Property and Real Estate Investments – Financial Aspects

Property and real estate are not considered investment instruments that are truly liquid because individual or real estate properties cannot be exchanged. Therefore identifying the land or real estate where you invest can take quite a lot of time and effort and depends a lot on how familiar investors are with certain market segments that suit their interests. Real estate or land investors often use various valuation methods to make their lives a little easier, through price comparisons. Sources of information relating to prices can include: public auctions, private sales, public agents, market listings or real estate agents.

Real estate or land assets are much more expensive than bonds or stocks. Therefore investors most often avail themselves of a mortgage loan that can be collateralized by the land or real estate itself. Accordingly we usually use the terms *equity* or *leverage* with reference to the money paid by the investor as opposed to the amount lent by the bank. Their ratio is called Loan-to-Value (LTV) which is considered to represent the risk taken by the investor. Most banks regard 20% of the appraised value as a minimum equity requirement. Quite a number of pension funds and REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts, regularly purchase land or real estate with *zero* leverage thereby minimizing their risks, but capping their Return-On-Investment (ROI) as well.

If the purchase of the land or real estate is leveraged, the necessary monthly installments or “carry costs” might create a negative cash flow for the investor right away after purchase. In addition to possible positive cash flow elements such as those generated by depreciation, equity buildup and capital appreciation, investors might also partially or entirely offset the “carry costs” by means of the so-called Net Operating Income, or NOI. This technical term typically means *rents less expenses* and in countries other than the US it is often referred to as Net Cash Flow. The ratio *NOI/purchase price* is called the Capitalization Rate. It indirectly indicates in how many years the property or real estate will pay for itself in an interest-free financial environment.