5 Questions that Should be Answered by Your Real Estate Financial Model  

Over the last four decades, median prices of rent and houses sold in Melbourne have grown close to 8% per year. After a pandemic-related setback, a strong rebound is expected. The current period offers a rare investment opportunity: Higher gains due to unusually low prices.

Before making the investment decision, consider financial modelling Melbourne properties. Real Estate Financial Model, in a nutshell, answers the question ‘should you buy the property or not’. The model will give you a simple yes or no answer but show you expected profit at certain conditions. The model is illustrated in a spreadsheet summarised in a Pro Forma page. If done right, it should answer the basic investment questions.

How much money do you make?

Profit as a percentage of investment is the basic measure of investment. A purchased house of $100,000 then sold at $125,000 will yield a profit of $25,000 with Return of Investment (ROI)1 of 25%. Computation is trickier when you factor renovation costs, equity, amortisation, and rental income.

When do you get your money back?

All investors want to get their money back as soon as possible. The sooner you get it, the smaller profit you will likely receive. Buying a house today and selling as it is three months later will give you very little profits or likely suffer losses due to transaction costs. If you sell the same house three years from now, you will probably benefit from the 8% annual price increase. That is assuming no other changes other than natural price escalation. What if home prices in the neighbourhood became stagnant due to better developments in other parts of the city? The longer it takes, the more risks involved.

What is my annual return?

Back to our previous $100,000 house, selling the house at $125,000 a year from now or 10 years later both give 25% ROI. The example shows the limitation of ROI by not considering the time it took to earn the profit. Hence, real estate investments tend to focus on the Internal Rate of Return.

Internal Rate of Return or IRR is ‘annualised rate of return for a given investment’2. Usually, the higher value is better. The critical point, however, is the assumptions made to arrive at the rate. Are they realistic or do they take in too much risk?

Buying a typical apartment with renters in the middle of the city may have a lower IRR compared to a soon-to-be-built condominium two hours away. The former gives you sure and safe cash but suffers low IRR. The latter takes more uncertainty but when realised, offer greater profits. The big risk is if it fails to convince home buyers to live that far away.

The key takeaway at almost any rate is possible in IRR by just tweaking assumptions. A model may assume a 15% annual rent increase, but is it possible if the industry trend is 6%?

What is the expected cash flow?

Net Operating Income is gross revenue minus operating expenses. Income usually comes from rent. Operating expenses include maintenance, security, taxes, and interest payments. Ideally, this is positive but expect negative periods. Rent revenue falls while units are undergoing renovation. On the bright side, the losses are tax deductibles. This is called negative gearing.

How can you lose money?

A multi-family dwelling investment opportunity is close to a planned subway station. From the current 40%, you expect at least 90% occupancy when the trains are operational in the area. If construction gets delayed by at least a year, can you still earn the desired returns? How long can you sustain the negative cash flow without resorting to more loans?

Expected profit is based on ‘if everything goes to plan’. Almost every time this is not the case. Performance can be better or worse. A crucial element to your decision is the likelihood where you will lose money on the transaction. Stress testing should not just illustrate occupancy risks. It should also cover worse scenarios for cash flow, asset valuation, liquidity, and debt.

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