When your property yield is not enough

Post-recession, investors take greater risks to generate goal-satisfying yields

Dubai’s property rental yields have always been strong when compared to countries where rental income is taxed at high rates. With a market that boasts an average gross yield of around 7.0%, it has stood as a beacon for those who appreciate the structural and regulatory developments it has undertaken which decrease the risk perception associated with investing in the market.

What is gross yield? It is the income of an investment prior to deduction of expenses expressed as a percentage. It only measures the income as a percentage of the original purchase price and does not reflect the significant effects of underlying fluctuations in underlying asset values.

The ratio can reveal how accurately market factors were comprehended, analysed, forecasted and modelled when planning a particular development. It can highlight inefficient and costly construction methods and techniques, future price/revenue adjustment opportunities, and new segment or geographic concentration opportunities. It can reveal superior (or inferior) sales, branding and marketing techniques, or superior product attributes. It can highlight impending revenue and eventual margin pressure where yields appear a little too extravagant when compared to the market, or even highlight where an industry is with regard to its cycle.

The expectations of net yield will pressure gross yield and the cost of resources required to generate that gross yield. In times of tight supply, inefficiencies in construction, administration, maintenance and operating methodologies are hidden because elevated gross yields driven by excessive market demand are likely to drive acceptable net yields. But the real test of an effective yield management is when supply exceeds demand.

The capitalisation rate (or cap rate) of a property also comes into play. It is the rate of return on a property based on the income that the property is expected to generate. It is used to estimate the potential return of an investment. It may be calculated by dividing the net operating income (NOI) of the investment by its current market value, where NOI is the total revenue derived from renting or leasing the property, less all operating costs.

Put simply, cap rate = net operating income / current market value.

Given that the capital values of properties in Dubai have shown greater volatility than the income being derived from them, we need to look at the NOI being generated from the properties at today’s value. This allows us to see whether a certain property’s wealth-generating performance is improving or declining by referring to the cap rate. If the cap rate is declining, it may lead us to conclude that selling the property and reinvesting elsewhere will generate greater income even if the gross or net yield still looks very impressive.

Cap rates are used when establishing a client’s property portfolio. Real estate firms determine the lowest cap rate that the client should accept to make the investment worthwhile. Typically, they suggest a cap rate of between 5% and 10% depending on expectations of asset value fluctuations. As revenues are typically locked in courtesy of rental contracts for at least 12 months or up to five years for commercial leases, the ability to accurately forecast the potential and likely shifts in property asset values will be essential to establish realistic cap rates and form longerterm portfolio strategies.
There is another useful application of the cap rate. When you divide 100 by the estimated cap rate, you arrive at an estimate, expressed in years, which will provide an indication of the payback period of the investment. Caution must, however, be used when using this ratio, and it must be reviewed periodically as the underlying asset value and the revenues generated from the asset will always exhibit different rates of volatility

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