CapEx differs from regular expenses, known as operating expenses, or "OpEx." Operating expenses (or revenue expenditures) include the normal costs of running of a business. In real estate investing, mortgage payments or maintenance costs, such as paying to repair a leak in your investment property’s roof, count as OpEx.
CapEx vs. capital costs
CapEx vs. operating expenditures
- Fees, such as for a property manager
- Raw materials, if rehabbing
- Salaries, if you have any full-time employees
- Mortgage costs.
How to account for CapEx
Here’s how this process works: You buy a rental property for $100,000, and that figure to the appropriate asset account—in this case, your property asset account. But you still need to account for the money you spent on the property. You do this by estimating the loss of your property’s value over time, or deprecation. This cost is what’s called a depreciation expense.
Let’s return to the $100,000 rental property you bought. When you bought the house, your home inspector said you’d need to replace the roof in 10 years—the remaining useful life of the roof, during which an asset is expected to remain functional.
You estimate that replacing the roof will cost $10,000. Divide that price over ten years to determine that the roof accounts for $1,000 of your property’s annual depreciation.
On your financial statements, you deduct $1,000 from your property asset account each year for the next ten years. Doing so counts the cost of replacing the roof over time while acknowledging your property as an asset.
This accounting method is more accurate than showing only the initial expense of buying fixed assets. It allows a business to account for both the value and cost of that purchase.
And knowing your depreciation is essential for figuring your capital expenditure.
Learn more on BiggerPockets:
- How Much Should You Budget for Reserves and CapEx?
- How to Estimate Future CapEx Expenses on a Rental Property
How to calculate CapEx
CapEx = current PP&E - prior PP&E + depreciation expense
For instance, you own one investment property worth $100,000. You have no other long-term assets. In this case, your PP&E in the first year of owning the house is $100,000.
But you estimate your annual amount of depreciation is $1,000. That means, in year two of owning the property, your PP&E drops to $99,000. Your capital expenditure, using these numbers, is $0.
What if, in year two, though, you buy a second investment property in for $150,000? You add the cost of that purchase to your first year PP&E of $100,000. That means that after buying another property, your PP&E is now $250,000. You estimate your annual depreciation at $2,750.
In this example, your CapEx is $152,750.
Capital expenditures and real estate investing
Let’s say you buy a $100,000 rental property. You estimate the property’s operating expenses to be $500 a month. You decide to rent the house for $600 a month. Based on this financial analysis, you’ll earn a $100 a month profit.
But that calculation undercounts the total cost of the rental property. The longer you own the property, the more likely you’ll have to make capital expenditures to ensure the house remains profitable. For example, you might have to replace the roof or buy new appliances.
Sticking with the example above, you make $100 a month for ten years, earning $12,000. Then you learn the property needs a new roof. That work costs $13,000. In this scenario, you don’t make any money. Instead, you lose $1,000.
But what if you had accounted for capital expenditure? You spent $100,000 on the property, so your PP&E is $100,000. At the time of your purchase, your home inspector said you’d need to replace the house’s roof in 10-15 years. So, you estimate your annual depreciation at $1,300.
Your property’s CapEx is $113,000. That means you need to charge $942 in monthly rent just to cover the cost of replacing the house’s roof in 10 years.
How to use CapEx in real estate investing
The best approach is to identify all fixed-asset items you might need to replace in 10 or 20 years, like the HVAC and water heater. List the useful life of these items. Then deduct these items’ current ages from their useful life.
For example, a water heater’s useful life is eight to 12 years. You buy an investment property with a two-year-old water heater. It’s safest to use the low-end of an item’s useful life, so you figure you’ll need to replace the water heater in six years.
Doing so will help you set rent for the property equal to the cost of maintaining the house. And that’s the benefit of calculating capital expenditure in real estate investing. CapEx gives investors insight they need to run a cash flow positive business.