Understanding Cash on Cash Return

Commercial Real Estate

OCT 12, 2023

Investing in real estate offers a multitude of ways to generate returns, and one important metric that savvy investors use to evaluate the profitability of a property is the "Cash on Cash Return." This metric provides insights into how much cash flow an investor can expect relative to their initial investment.

What is Cash on Cash Return?

Cash on Cash Return (CoC) is a financial metric used to assess the profitability of an investment property, particularly for those who are financing their purchase. It indicates the annual before-tax cash flow generated by an investment property as a percentage of the total cash investment made by the investor. Essentially, it answers the question: "How much cash income am I generating relative to the amount of cash I initially put into the property?"

How is Cash on Cash Return Calculated?

The formula to calculate Cash on Cash Return is relatively straightforward:

Cash on Cash Return (%) = (Annual Before-Tax Cash Flow / Total Cash Investment) x 100

Annual Before-Tax Cash Flow refers to the net income generated by the property over a year, which includes rental income minus operating expenses like property management fees, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance costs. This figure represents the actual cash an investor receives before accounting for income tax.

Total Cash Investment includes all the cash put into the property, such as the down payment, closing costs, and any initial renovation expenses.

Why Does Cash on Cash Return Matter?

Quick Initial Assessment

When evaluating potential real estate investments, Cash on Cash Return allows investors to quickly compare different properties' potential returns relative to their initial cash investment. This helps investors focus on properties that align with their financial goals.

Risk Management

A higher Cash on Cash Return typically signifies a more attractive investment opportunity, as it indicates the potential for stronger cash flow. It can also serve as a risk management tool, providing a buffer against unforeseen expenses and vacancies.

Financing Considerations

Cash on Cash Return is especially relevant for investors who finance their purchases. A property with a higher CoC Return can help investors cover their financing costs and generate positive cash flow more effectively.


Cash on Cash Return provides a benchmark to assess the performance of a real estate investment against other potential investment avenues, helping investors make informed decisions about where to allocate their resources.

Limitations of Cash on Cash Return

While Cash on Cash Return is a valuable tool, it does have some limitations. It doesn't account for the property's appreciation or potential tax benefits, both of which can significantly impact an investment's overall return. Additionally, it doesn't consider the property's financing terms – two properties with the same Cash on Cash Return might have different financing structures that affect the investor's overall return.

Cash on Cash Return is a fundamental metric in real estate investing that provides investors with a clear understanding of how efficiently their initial cash investment is generating ongoing income. By using this metric, investors can quickly assess the potential profitability of different properties, manage risks, and make informed investment decisions. However, it's important to consider this metric alongside other factors, such as appreciation potential and tax implications, to create a comprehensive view of an investment's potential return.

This content is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, legal, or insurance advice.


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