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Capitalization Rate: Cap Rate Defined With Formula and Examples

Capitalization rate (Cap Rate) is a key metric used in real estate investing to evaluate the expected return on investment for an income-producing property.

It’s important for investors to understand how Cap Rate works and how it can be used to compare different properties or investments.

In this article, we will discuss what capitalization rate is, its formula, and provide some examples of how it might be applied in real estate investing.

Cap Rate: Definition

The capitalization rate is calculated by dividing the net operating income (NOI) of a property by its market value, and is expressed as a percentage. The NOI is the total revenue generated from a property minus any related expenses such as taxes, insurance, and utilities. The result of this calculation provides investors with an understanding of how much unlevered return on their investment they can expect from a particular property.

For instance, if you are looking at purchasing a property for $200,000 and it has $20,000 in NOI, then your cap rate would be 10%. This means for every one dollar invested in this property, you can anticipate receiving ten cents back in return over time. This is assuming you have no debt on the property.

Formula: How to Calculate Cap Rate?

Calculating the cap rate is relatively simple if you have the property’s NOI. To calculate NOI, subtract all expenses associated with the property from its gross rental income. The resulting figure is then divided by the property’s current fair market value to arrive at the cap rate.

For example, if a rental property has a gross rental income of $20,000 and total expenses of $10,000 per year, its NOI would be $10,000 ($20,000 – $10,000). If this same property has a current fair market value of $150,000 then its cap rate would be 6.67% ($10,000/$150,000).

The cap rate formula can also be used in reverse to estimate what price an investor should pay for a given return on their investment. For example, if an investor wants to achieve a 7% return on their investment they could use the formula to calculate that they should pay no more than $142,857 for the property ($10,000 / 0.07 = $142,857).

Gordon Model for Cap Rate

The Gordon Model is a mathematical formula that enables the determination of a stock or real estate investment property’s intrinsic value, completely disregarding the current market circumstances. In particular, the present value of a stock’s future dividends is calculated to assess its worth. 

It takes into account the expected growth rate of NOI and the discount rate, which is usually the current market cap rate for similar properties in the same area.

The Gordon Model formula is as follows: Intrinsic Value = Cash Flow/ (Discount Rate – Growth Rate). The Net Operating Income (Year 1) is the expected first year’s net operating income after all expenses have been paid. The Growth Rate is the annualized expectation of how much NOI will increase each year and can be determined by looking at comparable markets in a particular area. The Discount Rate reflects the amount of return an investor expects to receive on a similar investment in that area.

For example, if an investment property has an expected NOI of $50,000 in Year 1 and its comparable neighboring rental properties have a 7% cap rate, then its intrinsic value can be calculated using this formula: Intrinsic Value = [$50,000 x (1+0%)] / (7% – 0%) = $714,285.

The Gordon Model equation can be used by investors to help them evaluate potential investments and make informed decisions about their investments. By understanding this equation and using it to compare different properties, investors can get more accurate insight into what price they should pay for their investments in order to receive their desired return on investment.

What is a Good Cap Rate?

Generally, a cap rate of 4 -10% is considered to be a good range by many analysts, indicating that the investment could be profitable within a reasonable timeline. A lower cap rate of 4% typically indicates lower risk but a longer timeline for profit. Investors should consider the current market conditions, the specific property and its location, their own goals and risk tolerance when deciding which rate is best for them.

A good cap rate is determined by the investor’s unique goals and risk tolerance as well as market conditions and the specific property. Generally, a higher cap rate indicates higher risk but theoretically higher returns, while a lower cap rate usually indicates lower risks but potentially lower returns. Investors should compare the current market cap rates for comparable properties in their area to their own expected return on investment (ROI) in order to determine whether a potential investment is worthwhile.

What Factors Affect Cap Rates?

There are several factors that can affect cap rates, including market conditions, property location, and property type.

  • Market Conditions

Market conditions refer to the current state of the real estate market in a given area. If there is high demand for rental properties in an area, this could lead to higher cap rates due to increased competition among buyers.

  • Location

Property location is also important as certain areas may be more desirable than others, leading to higher cap rates for those locations. 

  • Property Type

Cap rates are not only location dependent but also asset class dependent as well. For example, a highrise apartment building in New York City may be a 4% Cap rate due to the high demand for housing and the high rent in the area but a mobile home park in rural Des Moines may be a 9% cap rate due to the low population density, lower rents and higher associated risk. 

Understanding the asset class and location cap rates is crucial when evaluating commercial properties in a given market. It is important for real estate investors to determine the appropriate cap rate for a given property based on these factors in order to maximize their ROI. 

Benefits and Limitations of Cap Rates

The simplicity of cap rates is one of its major benefits. Investors can quickly compare properties to determine which offers the best return without needing to understand complex financial models or ratios. However, this same simplicity can be a limitation as well. Cap rates rely heavily on accurate NOI figures which may not always be available or reliable. Additionally, they do not take into account any debt associated with the property, meaning that investors must use other metrics in conjunction with cap rates to get a full picture of their potential returns.

When used effectively, cap rates can provide valuable insight into the value of a real estate investment property. However, investors should consider them alongside other metrics such as cash flow analysis and debt service coverage ratio to ensure they have a complete understanding of their potential returns before making any decisions.

Applying Cap Rates in Real Estate Investing

Cap rates are used to assess the risk involved in a particular investment and compare different investment properties. They can also be used to evaluate potential future cash flows and determine whether an investment will be profitable over time. Higher cap rates generally indicate higher risk investments, while lower cap rates indicate less risky investments.

It’s important to consider other factors when using cap rates to evaluate real estate investments such as expected growth rate, mortgage interest payments, taxes and other expenses associated with owning a rental property. Additionally, it’s important to understand the cap rate in a given area of your desired asset class to be able to offer a competitive price in line with the prevailing marketing conditions given the properties’ NOI.


Cap rates are a powerful tool for real estate investors looking to evaluate potential investments. By understanding how to calculate and apply cap rates alongside other metrics, investors can make more informed decisions about which properties they should purchase and which ones they should avoid. 

Anthony Pinto
Anthony Pinto
Anthony Pinto is the founder and CEO of Pinto Capital Investments (PCI), a real estate investment firm focused on acquiring affordable and workforce multifamily properties and apartment buildings through syndications. Since 2019, PCI has gone full cycle on 2 large apartment complexes (+100 units) with an IRR in excess of 85%.