Real Estate

Top 5 Real Estate Investment Terms Everyone Needs to Know

Whether you’re taking your first steps or fine-tuning your strategy, understanding the fundamental language of real estate is paramount. In this post, I’ll cover the top 5 real estate investment terms that are essential for every investor’s toolkit. From cash flow to leverage, these terms form the bedrock of successful investing. I think it is also important to know the right meaning for these terms and many people stretch the meanings or completely change them!

So, let’s dive in and equip ourselves with the knowledge that will shape our journey towards financial prosperity.

1. Cash Flow – The Foundation of Financial Success

Let’s start with a term close to every investor’s heart – cash flow. Beyond the straightforward inflow and outflow of funds, it serves as the cornerstone of financial success in real estate. It is one of the primary metrics I use to make purchase decisions. I also look at how good the deal is and how much value I can add.

Many people will tell you that cash flow is simply the rent minus the mortgage and insurance. However, if you want to know the true cash flow you will need to know all of your expenses. Here is an example of what true cash flow looks like:

  • Rent: $2,000
  • Mortgage: $1,100
  • Taxes: $200
  • Insurance: $200
  • Hoa: $50
  • Vacancies: $100
  • Maintenance: $200
  • Property management: $180

One investor might tell you the cash flow is $500 a month but they are leaving out many of the expenses the property will incur over time. The true cash flow would be -$30!

Determining cash flow requires a variety of calculations, so I’ve created a calculator to help you out: InvestFourMore Cash Flow Calculator

2. Cap Rate – A Metric for Strategic Decision-Making

Cap rate, a metric mostly used on commercial properties and multifamily housing gives an idea of what the property will make without financing and what the property is worth based on the NOI or net operating income. The basic formula is:

net income / price = cap rate

The Cap Rate formula may seem simple enough but it can be manipulated very easily. Investors may not include all the expenses in the NOI or they may use projected income instead of actual income. Never take these numbers as absolute without digging into them.

You can use my calculator here: InvestFourMore Cap Rate Calculator

3. ROI – Evaluating Investment Performance

Return on Investment (ROI) serves as the scorecard for your property’s performance. As a pair to cash flow, ROI helps you determine what the property will make based on many factors like loan pay down, appreciation, and value add. Cash flow looks at what the property makes on a monthly basis and ROI looks at the big picture.

ROI is not easy to figure because some years may have a huge increase in value thanks to adding tenants or making repairs while other years may have much more modest returns. You would figure ROI on an annual basis and may want to separate out first-year ROI from the later years’ ROI because of those jumps in value.

Below is a video of a value-added play I invested in recently.

4. Leverage – Maximizing Potential While Mitigating Risks

Leverage is the prime weapon of real estate investors if you are looking to scale quickly. With leverage, you only invest a fraction of the total purchase price, which can cause your returns to be significantly higher than investing in something like stocks. To achieve leverage, you use financing. Financing is one of the most important aspects of investing in real estate. You can make more money with loans than by paying cash.

On this site, I talk about the many different, creative ways you can finance real estate investments.

5. Equity – The Silent Wealth Builder

Equity, an often-underestimated force in wealth accumulation, goes beyond property values, embodying true ownership.

equity = current market value - amount financed

Equity can be built slowly through market appreciation and loan pay down. You can also build equity by adding value and getting great deals on properties. I prefer to use both! Many people may say equity does not matter because it is not cash in hand, but it can become cash in hand by using a cash-out refinance, or selling. You can even use a 1031 exchange to sell and not pay taxes on the profit.

Thanks to leverage and equity, my net worth has skyrocketed to over $10 million just from real estate.

What’s the best way to invest in real estate?

Even better, you can use equity and leverage together to purchase additional properties and scale up your business using the BRRRR method.


This primer serves as a solid foundation for fundamental real estate investment terms. As you navigate real estate, I invite you to explore the extensive resources on InvestFourMore, where a wealth of data-driven insights and strategies await.

Feel free to engage with the community, sharing your experiences or seeking guidance. Here’s to your continued success in the world of real estate investment – stay informed, stay strategic, and keep building your path to financial prosperity!

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