Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSC) – What it is and Why it Matters For You!

Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSC) – What it is and Why it Matters For You!

2 min read
Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is a full-time buy and hold and fix and flip real estate investor with over 15 years of experience. He and his wife Terron operate Kevron Properties, LLC, a boutique real estate investing company in Memphis, Tenn.

Kevin was a past president and is a current board member of the Memphis Investors Group. He’s also a blogger and writer who has authored hundreds of real estate investing articles on BiggerPockets and his own blog,, some of which have been featured on The Motley Fool and MONEY: Personal Finance News & Advice.

Kevin is also host of the SmarterLandlording podcast.

Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Kevin moved to Memphis to attend graduate school at The University of Memphis. After receiving his master’s degree in City and Regional Planning, Kevin climbed the planning career ladder to eventually become planning director of a county in the Memphis metro area. He “retired” from planning in 2003 to pursue real estate investing full-time.

Since “retiring,” Kevin’s main real estate investment strategy has been to buy and hold, otherwise known as landlording. Generally working in historic Midtown Memphis, Kevin is also known to fix and flip grand, historic homes when the right opportunity presents itself. He and his wife Terron (who is the principal broker at Perk Realty) have participated in dozens of real estate transactions in the Memphis metro area.

Kevin has the heart of a teacher and believes in helping others through education. An instructor of college-level geography for over 25 years, Kevin also regularly participates in seminars and panel discussions at such forums as the Memphis Investor’s Group and the Single-Family Rental Summit.

In addition, Kevin has been interviewed in publications such as the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Daily News, and the Foreclosure News Report.

Kevin earned a master’s in City and Regional Planning from The University of Memphis.

As a Guest you have free article(s) left

Join BiggerPockets (for free!) and get access to real estate investing tips, market updates, and exclusive email content.

Sign in Already a member?

The Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSC) is a term often used by bankers and others when discussing investment real estate.  In my experience, DSC is one of those items often examined by bankers when evaluating the potential of an income property.  Thus, it is something that real estate investors should understand.

What is a Debt Service Coverage Ratio?

DSC is a ratio of income to principal and interest payments.  It measures cash flow.  A DSC of 1 means that there is roughly equal amounts or money coming in and going out.  A number greater than 1, like 1.5, would mean that you have positive cash flow.  While a number below 1 would mean the property has negative cash flow.

The Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Market Analysis

Before diving into real estate investing, make sure you understand how to compare markets and properties. Whether you’re trying to decide between investing in Boise or Sacramento—or you’re just comparing two similar homes—this guide will walk you through all the numbers you need to know. From calculating cash-on-cash return to running a comparative market analysis, the experts at BiggerPockets demonstrate the steps you need to follow and the statistics you must know with The Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Market Analysis.

How is Debt Service Coverage Ratio Calculated?

When calculating DSC each property is often looked at individually.  But, one can lump everything together to get an overall picture of the investor and their business.

DSC is calculated as follows:

DSC = Net Operating Income (NOI) / Principal and Interest Payments

Let’s do a quick example.

A property’s gross monthly rental income is $1500.  To calculate NOI, subtract out expenses and vacancy credits along with taxes and insurance.  For simplicity, let’s say each of these equal 10% of gross income or $150 for a total of $600.  Thus, NOI is $1,500 – $600 or $900.

The monthly principal and interest payments are $600.

The DSC is therefore $900 / $600 or 1.5.

Here’s Why it Matters

The above example shows that the property has excellent cash flow.  A ratio of 1.25 or higher demonstrates that the property will be generating enough cash to handle expenses, some potential emergencies and still have enough left over to pay the debt service (mortgage).  Essentially, it demonstrates that the property is a good risk from a cash flow standpoint.  It tells the banker that there will be money available to repay the loan, even after all other expenses.

Here is Where You Should Use It:

Calculate the DSC ratio for your existing properties and include it in your info packet when shopping around for commercial loans.  This will demonstrate that you have properly structured your business and have cash coming in to handle your expenses.

Also, calculate the ratio for your bank when approaching them on financing a potential purchase.  It is another way to help them say “yes” to your loan request by showing that the purchase is a good risk.

To Sum Up

Using the DSC ratio demonstrates to bankers and others that you just might know what you are talking about when it comes to real estate investing.  It puts you on their level because you are speaking their language.  It may just be what you need for the banker to tell you yes.