I had the understanding that leverage always helped improve cash on cash returns so long as the interest paid was less than the unlevered rate of return/cap rate. doing a quick back of the envelope calculation in excel on first year returns seems to suggest otherwise.

my quick calculations show that there is a spread required from interest rate to cap rate in order to achieve positive first year leverage. It also shows that as amortization tightens the necessary spread increases.

I'm only considering year one one returns with and without leverage, so not taking into account any NOI growth

is my analysis correct here? what am I missing?

my example:

purchase: $7,100,000 cap rate/ unlevered return: 6.99% cash flow: 496,310

if using 80% leverage 30 year debt at 5.75%: payment: 397,763 cash flow: 98,547 cash on cash: 6.94%

if using 80% leverage 25 year debt at 5.75% payment: 428,799 cash flow: 67,511 cash on cash: 4.75%

in both of the examples above I'm using debt that is less expensive than the unlevered return that I'm getting, so why does year one cash on cash suffer?

  • $\begingroup$ I am not a real estate expert. But because you have a shorter mortgage (25 years vs 30) in the second case, you probably have higher principal repayments in each mortgage payment in the 2d case compared to the first, so a lower CCR. Could principal repayments be the issue which falsifies your rule? If you only had to pay interest your rule might be true. Just a guess. $\endgroup$
    – Alex C
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


Alex's post hits the main point: leverage amplifies returns (either positive or negative). In this case, it is not interest rate but loan constant that we should be focusing on. For a \$5.68MM loan (80% of \$7.1MM), the loan constant is 7.55%.

In excel, I used the function: $$PMT(5.75\%/12,30\times12,5680000)\times12$$ to come up with annual debt service of \$496,290 which gives a loan constant of 7.55%.

Thus the annual debt service is dilutive to the yield of 6.99% (and even moreso for the 25-year mortgage).


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