What is the difference between Net Operating Income, Net Income, and Cash Flow?

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What is the difference between Net Operating Income, Net Income, and Cash Flow?

Are you a real estate investor? If so, it’s important to understand the different financial metrics that can indicate how your investment is performing. Understanding the differences between Net Operating Income (“NOI”), Net Income (“NI”), and Cash Flow (“CF”) means being able to better assess performance and make informed decisions about investing in real estate. In this blog post, we will explore what these three terms mean and why they are crucial when assessing current and potential investments. With an understanding of NOI, NI, and CF, investors can better comprehend the metrics underlying the performance of their investments.


Understanding the Basics of Net Operating Income (NOI)

As a real estate investor or owner, it is important to understand the basics of NOI. In simple terms, NOI refers to the income generated from a property after deducting operating expenses. This calculation gives investors an idea of a property’s profitability and can be a valuable tool when making investment decisions. Understanding NOI can help you identify ways to increase income or reduce expenses, ultimately leading to a higher return on investment. Additionally, NOI is used to determine a property’s value, making it a crucial factor in the buying or selling process. By grasping the concept of NOI, you’ll have another tool to make informed decisions that may help maximize the potential of your real estate investments. NOI should not be confused with cash flow, as NOI is an accrual accounting concept. Operating revenue is accrued, or booked per the billed amount, and expenses are booked based upon the invoice. Neither takes into account the revenue collected or expenses paid. It is important to calculate the NOI accurately because it may be used to calculate property value.


Exploring Net Income (NI) and its Components

NI is accounting based profit earned by an investment after all expenses have been deducted from revenue. In other words, if one deducts the accrued non-operating expenses (e.g., legal, interest, and other owner related expenses) from NOI, one gets NI. A major distinction of NI from cash flow is that it takes into account depreciation and amortization, which both are outlined below.


Comparing NOI and NI to Cash Flow

Understanding the distinction between NOI, NI, and cash flow is vital for investors. These three metrics are not interchangeable and represent three different aspects of an investment’s financial health. NOI refers to the amount of money generated by a business after deducting operating expenses on a purely accrual basis (as noted above). NI is the continuation of NOI after deducting non-operating expenses. Cash flow represents the amount of cash and cash equivalents flowing in and out of an investment during a given period, i.e., cash flow is purely the cash received vs. the cash spent in a period. While an investor looking for regular distributions may look more closely at an asset’s cash flow, a value add investor may pay more attention to the NOI, as they are focused on the terminal value of the investment. An investor should understand the investment strategy to know which metrics are most informative about each investment.


A Closer Look at Amortization and Depreciation

Taxes and depreciation are two key aspects of a real estate investment, yet they can often be misunderstood or overlooked. Amortization and depreciation are often misunderstood. In simple terms, depreciation refers to the decrease in value of an asset over time that may be tax deductible depending on a number of factors. Amortization refers to non-depreciable expenses, e.g., loan fees and leasing commissions, that are expensed over the life of the contract. Both of these figures are included in NI, but not NOI or cash flow, as they are not operating expenses nor cash that is spent. Both are purely accounting practices.


Knowing the basics and understanding NI, NOI, cash flow, depreciation, and amortization as related to commercial real estate investing is key to being a knowledgeable investor. Additionally, it is important to be able to distinguish between NI, cash flow, amortization, and depreciation. Analyzing investments’ financial health by properly measuring these key metrics will help an investor understand if the financial results of their investments meet or exceed expectations. While some strategies exist for improving these metrics, which strategy to employ depends on the type of investment. Before making strategic decisions about real estate investments, it’s best to speak with a trusted real estate expert who can properly evaluate what’s best for your property. If you’re looking to maximize your returns and better understand how NOI, NI, cash flow, depreciation, and amortization apply in assessing a commercial real estate asset’s value, it’s time to take action. To learn more, contact us today at ir@fairwayamerica.com.



Nothing in this blog is or should be construed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation of offers of investments. Both Real Estate Investments and Securities offerings are speculative and involve substantial risks. Risks include but are not limited to illiquidity, lack of diversification, complete loss of capital, default risk, and capital call risk. Investments may not achieve their objectives. Investors who cannot afford to lose their entire investment should not invest in such offerings. Consult with your legal and investment professionals prior to making any investment decisions. All Securities are offered through North Capital Private Securities, Member FINRA/SIPC.

About Fairway America

Fairway America is a leading alternative investments manager focused on middle market commercial real estate. Established in 1992, the company specialize in real estate credit and private equity strategies on behalf of individual and institutional investors. As of Q1 2022, the firm manages more than $315 million of investor capital and a portfolio of assets representing more than $2.2 billion in gross asset value across several major property types. For additional information, visit www.fairwayamerica.com.

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