If you want to purchase a commercial property, you’ll almost always need to get an appraisal first. An appraisal is a professional estimation of the market value of a property, which needs to be conducted by a certified appraiser in the area which the property is located. In most cases, commercial real estate lenders require an appraisal before they approve a borrower for a loan, since they need to determine the value of a property in order to accurately calculate its loan-to-value ratio and other important financial metrics.
When it comes to making a decision on whether to invest in a commercial property, there are a variety of variables that an investor can take into account. First and foremost, in many cases, is return on investment, which calculates the amount of money that a investor will make compared to the amount of money they’ve invested into the property, minus any expenses. Other variables include the safety of an investment property, a property’s development potential, the property’s location, and an individual investor’s financial instincts.
In commercial real estate, return on investment (also known as ROI), is a measurement of how much money an investor receives after all expenses have been deducted. The formula for ROI is:
ROI = (Investment Gain - Investment Cost)/Cost of Investment
Many factors can affect the ROI of a commercial real estate investment, including the size of any commercial real estate loans on the property, the interest rate of those loans, as well as any management, repair, or renovation expenses needed to maintain or upgrade the property.
When an investor or developer sells a commercial property, they'll usually have to pay taxes then and there-- but not always. An IRS 1031 exchange is a transaction that allows a commercial property seller to defer paying taxes on the sale of the property if they use the funds to buy another, similar property within a specific period of time.
In commercial real estate, the floor plate is the amount of leasable square footage on an individual floor of a building. In multistory buildings, especially taller office properties in major urban areas, the floor plate on lower floors is likely to be larger than the the floor plate on higher floors. In some cases, a building's floor plate is also known as its footprint.
A waterfall and promote structure, also known as a waterfall model, is a method for distributing the profits from a real estate investment in an uneven way. Typically, the project's sponsor (the individual or group putting most of the work in to identify, acquire, and manage the property) will receive a disproportionate share of the profits, known as a promote, as long as the project hits certain profitability benchmarks.
In hotel construction and acquisition, price per key is a metric that compares the amount of money spent on building or aquiring the hotel with the amount of rooms, or keys, in the hotel. To determine price per key, simply use the formula below:
Total Hotel Construction or Acquisition Cost/Total Number of Rooms (Keys) = Price Per Key
The break-even ratio for a property is the percentage of its gross operating income that the property needs to break even, i.e. for costs to equal expenses. Investors can use a property's break-even ratio to determine if it's a good investment; too high of a break-even ratio may be a red flag. Break-even ratio can be calculated using the formula below:
Debt Service + Operating Expenses/Gross Operating Income = Break-even Ratio
RevPar, or revenue per available room, is a measure of a hotel's financial performance, which can be calculated by dividing a hotel's total room revenue by the amount of available rooms. Another easy way to calculate RevPar is to multiply a hotel property's ADR (average daily rate) by its occupancy rate.
An anchor tenant is the largest or most prominent store in a retail commercial real estate development, intended to help draw customers into the area. In strip centers and power centers, anchor tenants are often big-box stores or grocery stores, while in shopping malls, they're more likely to be department stores.
A power center is an outdoor shopping center with multiple big-box retailers, as well as an array of smaller retailers, restaurants, and other kinds of businesses. Power centers are typically located in suburban areas due to cost and space restrictions, but can sometimes be located in urban areas as well. Many power centers are set up as large strip centers, but also may contain several out-parcels, pieces of land intended for individual tenants, such as banks or fast-food chains.
In industrial real estate, a property's clear height is the height to which product can safely be stored on racking. Clear height can also be defined as the height of a building from the floor to the bottom of the lowest hanging item on the ceiling (i.e. sprinklers, lights, etc.). In recent years, clear height has become much more important due to the increase in online retailers, many of whom are trying to increase warehouse efficiency in any way possible.
Restrictive covenants are restrictions placed on the use of a property. In commercial real estate, restrictive covenants may be placed on a property by a lender, restricting the activity of the owner while a loan is being repaid, or, by an owner, restricting the activity of tenants. In addition, restrictive covenants can also be written into a property's deed, either for a certain number of years or indefinitely.
An operating expense ratio, or OER, sometimes simply known as an expense ratio, is a metric comparing a property's operating expenses to the amount of income it generates. To determine a property's operating expense ratio, you can use the formula below:
Operating Expenses/Gross Operating Income = Operating Expense Ratio
For example, a building with operating expenses of $40,000 a year that brings in $100,000 of gross income would have a 40% OER.
Amortization is the process of spreading a loan into payments that consist of both principal and interest over a set timeline, called an amortization schedule. While many commercial real estate loans are fully amortizing, not all are. For example, balloon loans are typically only partially amortizing, while interest-only loans usually have a non-amortizing interest only period, then a period that is either partially or fully amortizing.
An interest-only loan is a type of loan in which the borrower only needs to pay the interest, not the principal, for a specific amount of time. This period will typically be laid out in the loan agreement. After the interest-only period of the loan ends, the loan will become a typical, amortizing loan, in which the borrower contributes to both the interest and the principal of the loan with each payment.
In commercial real estate loans, a prepayment penalty is a fee charged to borrower if they attempt to repay their loan early. When a lender issues a loan, they typically want to lock in their profit for a certain amount of time, so the prepayment penalty is a way to compensate them for their financial loss if the loan is paid off early.
In commercial real estate, an assumable loan is a loan that can be taken over by a buyer when the owner of the property sells. Determining whether or not a loan is assumable (and under what conditions it can be assumed by a new buyer) can be very important, since otherwise, an owner/investor could face significant prepayment penalties if they need to pay off the loan in order to sell the property.
Discounted Cash Flow Analysis, or DCF analysis, is a method used to determine the current value of a set of cash flows using a predetermined discount rate. In practice, DCF analysis is often used to compare the potential return from a commercial real estate investment to the estimated return from another investment, such as a stock, mutual fund, private equity investment, or another piece of commercial real estate.