The best rental investors we work with are acutely aware of cash on cash return, and it may well be the #1 metric or KPI to focus on as you grow your rental property portfolio. Rental property investors that use the BRRR method care deeply about cash on cash return.
Cash on cash return is a measure of your net annual cash flow as a percentage of the amount of cash you have invested in a rental property or flip. A high cash on cash return is better than a low cash on cash return. Typically, investors want their cash on cash return to be at least 10%, though many BRRR investors are able to generate cash on cash returns that are infinite because they pull out all of their invested cash when they cash out refi, and their property generates cash flow on $0 of invested cash.
The best way to think about cash on cash return is to think about how much cash you have currently invested in a rental property, and how much free cash flow that rental property generates. So, if you bought a property with cash, rehabbed it, and then did a cash out refi and left $10,000 of your original cash in the property, and you generate $500 in free cash flow per month after all of your expenses are paid and maintenance reserves are factored in, your cash on cash return is 60% ($6,000/$10,000). That's an incredible return on your cash investment, and it doesn't even factor in the equity you are accumulating as you pay down your mortgage.
Cash on cash return is the ultimate investment capital efficiency metric and focusing on it and optimizing it will result in compounding of your wealth.
Net Cash Flow ÷ Invested Cash
Cash on cash return or COC return, is the amount of cash flow (rental income less mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance) your rental property or real estate investment generates as a percentage of the amount of capital you invested in the property, another way, a cash yield. If your rental generates $10,000 per year in free cash flow and you have invested $50,000 to buy and renovate the property (i.e. down payment plus closing costs and rehab), your cash on cash return is 20%. This is otherwise known as return on invested capital (ROIC)
Cash on cash return calculates the cash return on for a property, let's take a look at a detailed example. A real estate investor buying a commercial real estate property for a purchase price of $1,000,000 with a $200,000 down (total cash invested). At the end of every month you get $4,000 in cash flow net of operating expenses. At the end of the year you would have accumulated $4,000 × 12 = $48,000 in net cash flow. So the net operating income (NOI) on cash would be calculated as:
$40,000/$200,000 = 0.20 ~> 20%
However, since real estate investor used debt to acquire this property, a payment that must go out to the lender each month to cover the mortgage payments. There is another common metric that captures this relationship between cash flow and debt service, called the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR). Due to this the $48,000 in cash the investor received is not what he gets to keep. For the $800,000 ($1,000,000 purchase price minus $200,000 cash downpayment) they got in debt to finance this purchase, they must pay $1,500 in monthly mortgage payments.
Now to calculate cash on cash return, we must, take the monthly $4,000 in net cash flow, subtract $1,500 in mortgage payments which includes (interest payment and principal payment), netting $2,500 in monthly income. We must take this amount for the whole year and divide it by total cash invested to get out cash on cash return
(($4,000 - $1,500) * 12) / $200,000 = 0.15 ~> 15%
15% percent is the cash on cash return in this transaction. This examples simplifies several things, specifically the tax situation of the transaction which would most likely lower the cash on cash return further. This measures the return on the cash the investor had to put into the transaction net of all possible expenses. Another good measure
A good cash on cash return varies based on several factors including the interest rate environment, local market, property type, property condition and investor strategy. Cash on cash return rates wildly differ from location to location and might not fully capture all financial incentives to own a property. For example, some areas with lower cash on cash return might have stellar property appreciation rates, where and exit after a few years will more than make up for a lack luster cash on cash return rate. We have seen cash on cash return rate in the 7% to 11% range to be attractive to buy and hold investors that were not planning on flipping property for many years, with lower range being applicable to areas where property appreciation and demographic trends might make up for lower cash on cash return. Additionally this rate might be wildly different between single family, multi family and commercial properties so make sure to always compare apples to apples.
One more considerations is usage of debt to structure the deal. In all cash deals, the denominator of the equation will be much higher producing a worse cash on cash return, thus using debt in the deal will artificially inflate the cash on cash metric's attractiveness. This makes this metric really good for comparing between several investment options where you know you will use a certain, fixed percentage of debt, location is similar and the property type is the same, but makes it a poor metric to look at individual properties where you are not comparing it to anything similar in terms of financing structure.
For professional real estate investors, cash on cash returns are the most important performance metric on a per unit basis. But just because you generate high cash on cash returns doesn't mean much unless you can scale the volume of properties you are investing in. What we mean by this is that an investor may be able to generate 75% cash on cash return on one or two properties, but it. may be very hard to find more than one deal per year that meets this high standard. 30% cash on cash return projects may be more abundant, and this level of returns is objectively excellent when you look at the historical returns of the S&P 500 which are roughly 8%.
This metric is based on before tax cash flows investor receive from the property thus the metric ignore taxes applicable to the investor. This may distort the attractiveness of the investment if taxes are higher in certain jurisdictions and are completely ignored by this metric.
Interestingly, the real estate investor can deduct or even defer capita cost allowance (CCA) to lower their marginal tax rate to increase the attractiveness of the property on cash on cash basis
The formula is completely numbers driven and ignores any factor that is associated with the actual property, such as its location, condition, rental market climate, local government climate, public investment direction and many other factors that are important to consider when making an investment decision.
Additional inputs are needed to accurately describe the financial position and cash returns, such as adjusted taxable income of the investor, depreciation, expenses associated with maintenance and rental of the property to gain an accurate picture on the attractiveness of the investment.
The formula completely ignores the effects of compounding interest payments. While we take out the debt payments from the cashflow we ignore any effects of compounding and this is a critical shortcoming since a property with lower nominal rate of interest compounding may be a better investment than an investment with a higher cash on cash return.
As stated above, this formula completely ignores more qualitative factors that take time to discover about the property itself such as depreciation (tax) and actual depreciation rate, the outlays you have to maintain the property in rentable condition. Additionally, no property appreciation (resale value of the property) increases or decreases are taken in to the account. While the property might be cash flowing and have a good return, an exit from the position might be impossible if the property attractiveness or market declines making it an overall a bad investment.
It is possible to have an incalculable Cash On Cash Return if you use the BRRR method highly effectively and pull all or more than the cash you originally invested out of the property by mortgage refinancing.
In conclusion, cash on cash return is a great metric to take into account when considering an investment into a rental property, but it's can't be the only criteria for evaluating an investment. Other metrics and qualitative factors regarding the property must be part of the analysis of the attractiveness of the property under evaluation.