Leverage is the number one reason you can get such great returns on real estate. Most people don’t understand leverage or understand the principals that make leverage such a fantastic tool in your real estate investing arsenal.

First let me define leverage in the way it applies to real estate. You use leverage when you buy a $200,000 property with a 20% down payment and borrow the rest of the money from the seller or the bank. If you paid cash for the property you would need to come up with 200,000 and change at closing to take over a piece of real estate. You would be using no leverage and you would be looking for a return on your capital that would be similar to what you would get in other investments. If you made $2400 in rent per month and after expenses put $1500 cash in your pocket each month you would make $18000. This $18,000 would be your yearly return on capital invested. It is a good return and it is possible to make a good living buying property for cash. You can calculate your cash on cash return by taking your $18,000 profit divided by your $200,000 investment.

The number is given as a percentage. You would end up with a return of about 9% for the year. This is a good return on capital but not nearly what you can get if you use leverage to make your purchase.

Let me give you the same example but with a 20% down payment. You would have to bring $40,000 to the closing for your down payment and you would be financing $160,000 from the seller or the bank. Rates are relatively low now but they tend to be higher on investment property but I will use 6% rate of interest on the $160,000 financed. We can calculate what it will cost you in interest the first year by taking 6 % of $160,000. The amount of interest on your loan will be $9600. You are paying $9600 the first year of your loan in interest to use leverage. If you fully amortized the loan you will pay $959.28 a month principal and interest. This also leaves you the 160,000 in cash that you would have been investing in one property available in your bank account for other purchases so you are keeping your options open to buy more real estate.

Let’s take a look further at my example and see if you can actually make more money by using leverage.

You will still receive the same 2400 payment for rents per month except now we need to add in the interest cost into the calculation. You will still be taking in the 18000 a year but you have to pay your mortgage or at least the cost of interest out of cash flow. You will pay principal and interest of $11,511.36 out of your gross rents and your free cash flow at the end of the year will be only $6489 in our example. It looks like a lot less but let’s pencil out what return you can actually get by using leverage and not paying all cash.

We take the $6489 net gain for the year and divide it by the amount of capital invested which is 40,000 this time. So what looks like smaller gain in income becomes a much greater return as a percentage of your capital because the new calculation comes out to over 16% return on your investment.

Leverage is the key to profiting from real estate. It is possible to double or triple your return on capital invested by financing a portion of the deal. The lower your down payment the greater your return on your money.

:argue

You have made a good point here. By using a lender’s capital, investors can effectively increase their cash on cash return. Cash on cash is the return not on the whole investment price but the return on the amount of money spent from your pocket. Instead of using all of your money to invest in one property, instead use that money to pay down payments on several properties to create the same amount of total cash flow but your cash on cash return will skyrocket and you will have more properties appreciating in value.