The Power of Appreciation and Leverage: Boost Your Real Estate Returns

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If you’ve read any of my blogs on BiggerPockets, you’ve probably noticed that I am a believer in real estate appreciation. Yes, real estate can and has lost value in recent years; but over time, real estate generally increases in value. This is especially true if you happen to time the market effectively. I have not been shy about the fact that I believe now is a very good time to buy investment properties. With certain markets at historically low prices and interest rates also at historical lows, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to determine that now is probably a good time to invest in real estate. Just watching the dynamics in my own market and the upward pressure on prices, I have no doubt in my mind that investors have an unbelievable opportunity to buy low and ride a wave of rising values over the coming years.

While most investors today care solely about cash flow, I can’t help but talk about the potential for increasing values. Cash flow is absolutely fundamental to a long term real estate investment, but one of the most powerful principles behind real estate investing is the combination of leverage and appreciation.

Real Estate Leverage & Appreciation Explained

New investors may be asking the question, “What do you mean by leverage?” Simply put, leverage is a term used in real estate (or any type of investing) to describe the effect of borrowing money to purchase an asset (i.e. property). It’s the idea that you can buy a $100,000 property by investing only $20,000 of your own money. You are essentially “leveraging” somebody else’s (i.e. the bank’s) capital to buy the property.

When you combine the ability to use leverage in real estate with appreciation, you have an unbelievable money making combination. Let me illustrate with the example below (For the sake of this example, I’m going to leave out any cash flow calculation):

Let’s say you are able to buy an investment property for $100,000. Over the course of 5 years, the property increases at a rate of about 6% per year so that in year 5, the value of the property is worth approximately $134,000. Most people would nod their head and say 6% per year on an investment is fairly respectable.

However, if you are able to buy this property with leverage, your true return actually looks a lot better than 6% annually. Let’s say in this example you put 20% down or $20,000 to buy the property. Your $20,000 investment actually made an additional $34,000 (134K-100K) over the course of just 5 years. That’s approximately a 22% annual return for each of those 5 years! Why? Because while you only had $20,000 invested, you had the benefit of the entire asset increasing in value, not just the dollars you had invested.

(And again, this example doesn’t even include the returns generated by renting the property!)

It’s been reported that over 90% of millionaires made their money in real estate – this is why! I know this is a simple concept, but it’s one of the reasons that real estate investing is so powerful. Living in the United States, we have unbelievable access to financing as well as an abundance of properties. All of the tools to build this kind of wealth are at our fingertips if we just take a little initiative.

About Author

Ken Corsini

Ken Corsini G+ is the host of the Deal Farm Podcast (on iTunes) and has 10 years of full-time real estate investing experience. His company, Georgia Residential Partners buys and sells an average of 100 deals per year and has helped hundreds of investors around the country make great investments in the Atlanta market.

Ken has a business degree from the University of Georgia and a Master Degree in Building Construction from Georgia Tech. He currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia with his wife and 3 children.


  1. Chris Clothier

    Ken –

    Your article is excellent and I really appreciate you taking the time to break this topic down in detail and with a very good example and explanation. Hopefully, your point about looking at these items separately from rental income will not be lost on readers. These items can be a hidden source of future revenue.

    Great stuff –


  2. At times it seems that real estate is so easy that everyone should be investing in it. The main attraction for investing in real estate has always been leverage or using other people’s money (OPM). You use OPM by borrowing money from the bank to buy the property and then you use OPM to pay it back with the rental payments you receive from tenants. One problem you have to guard against is getting yourself over leveraged. You must always maintain a reserve for emergency situations.
    Those who invested for the appreciation were hurt the most when the crash came. Everyone was following the mantra of real estate always goes up so they would continue buying when they should have been watching from the sidelines.
    Even though you do not put much emphasis on cash flow, this is the bottom line for most investors. All things really should be considered together. Leveraging your money, counting on the appreciation of the property over time as well as the annual cash flow will assure you being able to grow your holdings in real estate.

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