How Much Can You Make Buying Apartments

Investing in apartment buildings is more than just buying property; it’s a complex venture that involves multiple financial facets. This article aims to guide you through the intricacies of apartment investment profitability, covering topics from rental income to expense management, and finally, weighing the pros and cons of such an investment.

How to Value Apartments: A Case Study Walkthrough

Imagine you buy an apartment in Atlanta. The average unit price at the end of 2022 is $205,788.42 per Multi-Housing News. See the table below from the site:

Metro Sales Volume $2022 Price Per Unit 2022 Assets Sold 2022 Units Sold 2022
NATIONAL $200,240,131,245 $212,181 5,946 1,144,213
Atlanta $11,964,229,394 $205,788.42 275 62,167
Phoenix $11,306,035,129 $322,582.62 201 39,691
Dallas $10,284,900,277 $174,147.76 497 107,430
Houston $9,887,173,638 $152,435.73 381 96,354
Miami $6,673,451,883 $325,575.83 114 22,599
Orlando $6,453,854,031 $242,914.18 112 28,590
Los Angeles $6,359,607,395 $437,496.65 99 13,477
Washington, D.C. $6,271,248,445 $276,764.86 103 25,223
New York $6,034,606,218 $626,998.92 51 7,657
Charlotte $5,263,281,111 $248,778.04 106 21,088

Market Overview: Atlanta

  • Price Per Unit 2022: $205,788.42

Data Collection

  • Average Sales Price: $205,788.42 per unit (Atlanta-specific)
  • Rental Rates: The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Atlanta is $1,729 (as of October 2023 per Zumper).
  • Occupancy Rates: Assume 90% occupancy for this example.

Financial Metrics

Net Operating Income (NOI)

  • Property taxes estimated at 1.21% (per DeKalb County) = $24,900.46
  • Assume other operating expenses (maintenance, insurance, etc.) are $25,000 annually.
  • You would deduct other annual expenses from your gross operating income
  • NOI = ($1,729 x 10 units x 0.9 occupancy) x 12 months – ($24,900.46 + $25,000)
  • NOI = $186,132 – $49,900.46 NOI = $136,231.54

Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)

  • Cap Rate = $136,231.54 / $2,057,884 (10 units x $205,788.42)
    Cap Rate = 6.62%

Cash on Cash Return

  • Loan: $1,646,307 (80% of $2,057,884) at 7%, 30-year term.
    Debt service = $131,676
    Cash on Cash Return = ($139,482 – $131,676) / $411,577
    Cash on Cash Return = 1.11%

In the article below, you can walk through how these numbers are calculated.

Profitability Analysis

Rental Income Analysis

In this section, we’ll delve into the various factors that influence the rental income you can expect from your apartment investment. We will discuss market rates, demand, potential income calculations, and other influencing factors like seasonality.

Assess current market rental rates in the area:
Understanding the rental market in the target area sets the stage for your investment. Research comparable properties and consult local real estate experts to establish a baseline rental rate. Average rent prices can give you a ballpark figure for what to expect. Knowing these numbers can help you decide if the investment is worth pursuing.

Our case study assumes $1,729 average rent for a 1 bedroom unit. Note: units having 2 bedrooms, or different configurations, will affect average rent prices. For pure simplicity sake, we assume that all units are one bedroom in our example.

Evaluate rental demand and occupancy rates:
In areas with high demand and low vacancies, you can charge higher rent. Census housing data can provide insights into local demand and occupancy rates. Keep an eye out for upward trends in rental demand; they’re a good indicator of future profitability.

In our example, we assume 10% vacancy based on census data.

Calculate potential rental income based on unit mix and rental rates:
Multiply the rental rates by the number of units to get a rough estimate of the monthly and annual rental income. Factor in the types of units available—studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom—and their respective demand in the market. Potential Gross Income is a metric that estimates the maximum income that could be derived from a rental property. It’s a key figure that can guide your investment decisions.

Consider factors such as seasonality and lease terms:
Rental income can be seasonal. For instance, tourist destinations may have high summer rents but low off-season rates. Tailor your lease terms to minimize vacancies during low-demand periods. Offering longer leases during slow seasons can ensure steady income.

Expense Analysis

Expenses are the other side of the profitability equation. This section covers operating expenses, trends, cost-saving measures, and the impact of inflation on your investment.

Identify and categorize all operating expenses for the property:
The first step in understanding your financial obligations is to list all operating expenses, such as property taxes, maintenance, utilities, and property management fees. A detailed breakdown reveals that common expenses can also include insurance and marketing costs.

Analyze historical expenses and trends:
To create a realistic budget, study past operating expenses of the property or similar properties in the area. Emerging trends suggest that expenses like technology and sustainability measures are increasingly significant.

Consider any potential cost-saving measures or efficiencies:
Examine each expense category for opportunities to save money. Energy-efficient lighting and renegotiating property management contracts are among the strategies that can result in substantial annual savings.

Evaluate the impact of inflation on expenses:
Inflation can significantly affect your operating expenses. Recent data shows that inflation rates stood at around 7% at the start of 2023, affecting both home buyers and sellers. Build a small inflation percentage into your long-term expense projections to future-proof your investment.

Cash Flow Analysis

Cash flow is the financial lifeblood of any real estate investment. This section will guide you through calculating your net operating income, estimating annual debt service, and assessing the property’s cash flow potential.

Calculate net operating income (NOI):
NOI is your total rental income minus operating expenses. A positive NOI is usually an indicator of a sound investment. However, it’s essential to consider other factors like mortgage payments and potential vacancies.

Estimate annual debt service or mortgage payment:
Understanding your debt service or mortgage payment is critical in determining your investment’s sustainability. Use mortgage calculators or consult with financial advisors to get an accurate estimate.

In our example, we used a 7% interest rate based on current Internet providers.

Determine cash flow before taxes:
Cash flow before taxes gives you a snapshot of your investment’s financial health. To get this figure, subtract your annual debt service from your NOI. It’s a straightforward calculation, but one that can make or break your investment. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you out.

Assess the property’s ability to generate positive cash flow and its potential for future growth:
If the property shows a positive cash flow and has potential for rent increases or cost-saving measures, it’s likely a good investment. However, always prepare for unforeseen circumstances by maintaining a financial cushion.

Return on Investment (ROI) Analysis

ROI is the ultimate measure of an investment’s success. In this section, we will discuss initial investment costs, how to compare ROI with other investment opportunities, the impact of financing, and long-term appreciation potential.

Assess the property’s initial investment costs:
Your initial investment isn’t just the property’s purchase price; it also includes closing costs, initial repairs, and any other upfront fees. Add these up to get the total initial investment, which is crucial for ROI calculations.

Compare ROI to other investment opportunities:
Key metrics like the capitalization rate can help you weigh this investment against others. Rapid inflation and changes in the bond market can significantly impact real estate ROI. Keep an eye on market trends to ensure you’re making the most lucrative choice.

Consider the impact of leverage and financing options:
Financing can be a double-edged sword. It can boost your ROI by allowing you to invest less upfront, but it also increases your financial obligations and risks. Demographic changes, for example, can influence home prices and, in turn, your financing options. Make sure to factor these into your calculations.

Evaluate the potential for long-term appreciation and equity growth:
Apartments usually appreciate over time, but this isn’t guaranteed. Research market trends and consult experts to gauge the property’s long-term appreciation potential.

Sensitivity Analysis

This section will explore how different variables can impact your investment’s profitability. We’ll discuss scenario analyses, sensitivity to changes in rental rates and expenses, potential risks, and economic resilience.

Conduct scenario analysis:
A scenario analysis will help you understand how different variables, like a dip in occupancy rates or an increase in maintenance costs, will affect your profitability. Emerging trends in real estate for 2023 suggest that the industry is moving beyond cyclical headwinds like rising interest rates. Use this information to prepare for various scenarios.

Assess sensitivity to changes in rental rates, expenses, and occupancy levels:
Small changes in these variables can significantly impact your profitability. Perform a sensitivity analysis to understand the range of possible outcomes for your investment.

Evaluate potential risks and mitigate them:
Every investment comes with risks. Whether it’s a sudden economic downturn or unexpected maintenance costs, having a contingency plan can save you from financial pitfalls. For instance, the rising costs of construction materials can significantly impact your budget. Always have a financial cushion and a risk mitigation strategy in place.

Determine economic resilience:
Analyze how your property performs under different economic conditions. A property that maintains a reasonable NOI and cash flow during downturns is a more secure investment. The multifamily sector, for example, has shown resilience during economic downturns. This makes it a safer bet during uncertain times.

Costs and Expenses

Investing in an apartment building involves various costs, both upfront and ongoing. This section will elaborate on acquisition costs, operational expenses, renovation and improvement costs, and other administrative and marketing-related expenses.

Acquisition Costs:
Beyond the purchase price, acquisition costs include closing fees, due diligence expenses, and initial renovation costs. Financing costs, such as mortgage application fees and credit checks, can also add up. Be thorough in your calculations to avoid any surprises later.

Operating Expenses:
These are the ongoing costs to maintain the property. Property taxes, insurance premiums, utilities, and property management fees can add up. In fact, property management fees alone can range from 8-12% of the monthly rental value. Budget carefully to ensure you’re not caught off guard.

Renovation and Improvement Costs:
These are the costs involved in upgrading the property. Remodeling expenses can enhance individual units, while capital expenditures like a new roof improve the entire property. Budget for these based on your property’s condition and market expectations.

Marketing and Advertising Costs:
To maintain high occupancy rates, you’ll need to market your property. This involves advertising expenses, professional photography, and even website maintenance costs. A solid marketing strategy can significantly impact your rental income.

Administrative and Miscellaneous Expenses:
Legal fees, licenses, and even office supplies fall under this category. While they might seem minor, they can add up and should be budgeted for. Even the cost of office supplies can add up to a significant amount over time.

Pros and Cons

Investing in apartments comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. This section will explore the potential for high returns, diversification benefits, tax advantages, and the scalability of such investments. We will also discuss the challenges, including the high initial investment, management complexities, and market and regulatory risks.

Potential for High Returns:
One of the most significant advantages of apartment investments is the potential for high returns. A well-located property with good management can yield an excellent ROI, primarily through rental income.

Investing in multiple units within the same property or across various properties can diversify your investment portfolio, minimizing risks associated with market downturns in a particular area. Real estate investments can act as a hedge against inflation.

Tax Advantages:
Various tax deductions can lower your taxable income. These include deductions for depreciation, mortgage interest, and operational expenses. Depreciation alone can provide significant tax benefits.

Owning multiple units in a single property allows for economies of scale. You can often negotiate better terms with service providers, and managing a single location is generally easier than multiple properties.

Management Challenges:
However, the management burden can be significant. You’ll need to handle tenant issues, maintenance, and various other tasks unless you hire a property management company, which then becomes an added expense. To get a sense of the common challenges faced by property managers, it’s worth doing some additional reading.

Market Volatility:
Like any investment, apartments are susceptible to market trends. Rental rates and property values can fluctuate, affecting your ROI.

Financing Challenges:
Apartments often require significant upfront investments, and securing financing can be more complicated than with smaller residential properties.

Regulatory Risks:
Local laws regarding rent control, tenant rights, and zoning can impact your investment. You’ll need to be well-versed in these to avoid potential legal issues.


Investing in apartments is a multifaceted venture that requires comprehensive planning and analysis. By understanding each aspect, from profitability to costs and the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision. Although the challenges are considerable, the financial rewards can be substantial. With meticulous planning, the question isn’t if you’ll make money with an apartment investment; it’s how much.