Have you heard this statement before? “I made a lot of money on this property – I bought this house for $200,000 and I sold it for $300,000”. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and heard a story similar to this? Does $100,000 sound like a good return on investment? It depends on many factors. The example in this article will initially focus on real estate used solely as an investment, but your principle residence will also be examined this way if you are trying to figure how much money you have made living in your house.
How long did it actually take this person to make this money?
If you bought a house for $200,000 and sold it for $300,000 one year later, versus 20 years later, this makes a big difference. Why? When looking at investment returns, you have to look at how long it took for you to achieve the return. This is true because when looking at other investments, time as well as the return itself will be the common yardsticks for comparison. If the price increase of $100,000 happened in one year, this is a 50% return in one year. Other investments might average 1% for cash, 2% for bonds, and 5% for stocks for that same time frame. If you made this $100,000 in 20 years, this would mean 50% spread over 20 years. If you do a simple linear calculation, that is 2.5% each year. Now, the bonds and stocks are pretty attractive compared to this real estate investment. This is important because most people hold on to real estate for a long time and forget how long it took them to achieve the return that they received.
The numbers presented are usually only about the buy and sell price
Did you notice that the only numbers mentioned in this example are the buy and sell prices? For most goods, these are the only prices that matter when examining if you made money or not. With real estate, this is not true. Why? Real estate has to be maintained, which is not the case for stocks, bonds, cash or any other paper based or contract based investment. Why does this matter? If you have ever lived in a house, you know that there are utilities to pay, renovations to make, repairs to perform and taxes to pay. If you were to buy a GIC at a bank, and the bank said to you: “you will receive $100 in interest each month. However, to keep the GIC you need to pay $20 a month for a maintenance fee.” Wouldn’t this mean you would only make $80 per month, and not $100 per month? This same thinking applies to real estate. If you buy a house as an investment, and you have to pay utilities, taxes, renovation costs, mortgage interest, and repairs as well as costs to buy and sell the real estate, shouldn’t these be accounted for in your return? If you are renting the property, the rent collected would also add to your return. If you are trying to rent a property, but it is vacant for 6 months, that 6 month period is not part of your return.
As an example related to the above, let’s say the house was bought for $200,000 and sold for $300,000, and it took 5 years for this transaction. To actually buy the house, the legal fees, land transfer taxes, mortgage contract and real estate fees amounted to $1000, $3000, $500 and $5000 respectively. The total set up costs would be $9500 so far, which would be subtracted from the money you made, because it actually costs you $200,000 PLUS $9500 to physically buy the house.
Let’s say now that you rented the house for $2000 per month, but you had mortgage costs of $600 per month in interest (note that the principle is not included in this figure because principle is your money that you receive in return). You also have property taxes of $250 per month and utilities of $500 per month. You are netting out $2000 – $250 – $500 per month or $1250 per month. With the mortgage interest deducted from this sum, you would have $1250 – $600 or $650 per month. This equates to $7800 per year in extra income. Since the house was rented for the entire 5 year period – this is an additional $39,000 in return.
If for example, work had to be done to get the house ready to rent, wouldn’t this cost be part of the return as well? This is money that you have to spend, and it is only being used on this investment property. If it cost you $5000 for paint, landscaping and minor repairs, this would come off of your investment return.
If the roof had to be fixed during that 5 year period, and you paid another $5000 for that repair, the whole amount would be deducted from your return. People may argue that the roof will last another 25 years, which is true – but you only receive the benefit of these repairs if you keep the house! If you sell the house, you may receive the benefit of keeping the house well maintained in a higher selling price, but it will also depend on how hot the real estate market is, what the local neighbourhood is like and other factors which are beyond your control and will come into play only at the time that you are making the sale. This means now that you have an additional $10,000 deducted from your return.
To sum up so far, the house profit generated was $100,000. You would subtract $9500 in closing costs to buy the house, add $39000 in rental income less expenses, subtract $5000 for minor repairs, and deduct a further $5000 for a major repair. This would leave you with $100,000 – $9500 + $39,000 – $5,000 – $5,000 = $119,500. Since this transaction took 5 years to complete, the $119,500 should be spread over 5 years. This means that the return per year is $119,500/5 years or about $23,900 per year. Since the original HULT PRIVATE CAPITAL price of the house is $200,000, this means that you are making $23,900/$200,000 or about 12% per year. This is a relatively good return, but if stocks are making 10% per year, this is fairly comparable to what everyone else is getting. Would you have that impression reading only the original story: “I made a lot of money on this property – I bought this house for $200,000 and I sold it for $300,000”?
What About the Effort in Managing the Real Estate Property?
Consider the time you are spending on your house. If you are a landlord, you will have to inspect your house, make sure your tenants are paying you on time, look for tenants and do minor repairs. If you don’t like doing these things, this is considered work and it will cost you in terms of time you could be doing something else. How to account for this? Tabulate how long it takes you to manage the real estate investment, and multiply how many hours you spend by how much money you are making at work – this would represent a substitute for what else you could be doing since you are already working in that job. If you spend 5 hours per month maintaining the house, and you make $20 per hour at your day job, this is an additional $100 per month in costs. This translates into $1200 per year in your time. Note that with paper based investments like stocks and bonds, there may also be time required to read the news, follow how the stock market is doing and research for timing and alternative investments. An underlying factor here is whether managing real estate feels like a job or a hobby. If it feels like a job, the time should be treated like a job. It the time spent is enjoyable and feels like a hobby, you will get benefits that cannot be quantified and it will likely not bother you to spend time taking care of the property.
If you spent time cleaning up the property or moving things left on the property by previous owners, this would all be included in your costs. The rule of thumb is that any money or resources you would have to outlay for this property would be added to the costs and would affect the final return. Any extra money generated, like rent or credits would be added to the return. Another way to say this is: if I didn’t own this investment property, would I still be spending this money? If the answer is no, this would be deducted from your return. If the answer is yes, the cost would not be deducted.
What about taxes?
Taxes have been left out of the calculation s so far, but if this is an investment property, there will be capital gains taxes on the return generated. They may even be taxes on the rental income if it is deemed to be income, and all of these numbers would get reduced. This is also not part of the story that people describe for their own real estate experience, but you should consider this in your experience. If you borrow money, the interest is tax deductible for an investment property so the situation goes both ways.