Learn How To Start Investing In Real Estate
Learn How To Start Investing In Real Estate

Real Estate Accounting: The Other Side Of The Business

Written by Paul Esajian

Key Takeaways

  • Proper accounting for your real estate business can help boost your bottom line.
  • Beginner investors can get started by first evaluating their spending habits.
  • Streamlining your real estate accounting can help you maximize business revenue while cutting down on debt.

As an investor, it can be difficult to remember that real estate is essentially a business. All too often, investors get caught up in the front-end rehabs and wholesales. However, tasks can compound rather quickly. Between generating leads and trying to get deals closed, following through with day to day operations can get overwhelming. Subsequently, there is an entire back-end to the real estate business that needs to be addressed on a consistent basis. Having said that, the point of any investing business is to generate income. It is how you manage said income that will determine the success of your business. Therefore, a strong grasp on the accounting process is absolutely critical to any investor that is serious about increasing their bottom line. Real estate accounting should be considered an important part of your business.

Accounting For Your Real Estate Business

There is a lot that goes into running any business. There are plenty of tricky formulas and calculations that can be used to gauge the profitability of a business, but the simplest question to ask is whether or not you are bringing in more than you are spending. If the answer is no; the number of properties you are closing doesn’t really mean anything. You need to look at where your money is going and where you can sharpen your pencil. Many inexperienced investors will attempt to do their own accounting on every property without any real grasp of the concept. It is impossible to know how well your business is doing if you do not know every dollar that goes out the door.

Although the realm of accounting, including both financial and corporate accounting, is complex and can take years to master, there are some basic skills that you can start brushing up on without delay. To get started, here are some key concepts that you can start examining today:

  • Evaluating expenses and spending

  • Maximizing business revenue

  • Minimizing business debt

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Real estate investment accounting

Evaluating Your Spending

It can be intimidating and quite tiresome to go through every business expense, but necessary nonetheless. Take a day whenever you can to go through every single bill and expense you have. What you will find is that there are most likely numerous areas that you are overpaying in out of convenience or habit. Maybe you have used the same oil company or marketing service for years and never really checked the bill. Have the quarterly water or sewer bills at your rental properties increased sharply over the last few years? Did the price of the dumpsters you use for your demos go up since you last looked? It is not cheap to try to save $50 or $100 here and there. Perhaps you can also take a closer look at whether or not all of your business expenses are actually necessary for your business. Do you really need those monthly shipments of office amenities, such as for a fancy coffee machine? Are you paying for weekly lunches for employees? If you do this with three or four expenses over the course of a month, you could be looking at saving thousands a year.

In addition to business expenses, it is also important to look at your personal spending habits. If you are spending money as quickly as you make it, your business will become weaker. This is especially true for investors with small or independent businesses, where there is no distinct separation between business and personal income. Many investors must pour in personal funds out-of-pocket until they have profitable business accounts, and personal spending habits may severely restrict funds that could be used for investment pursuits. It is a gratifying feeling to walk away from a closing with a large check, but that doesn’t mean you should treat it like Christmas. You need to reign in your spending until your business is strong enough that leads will continue to come in. You can certainly treat and reward yourself for your hard work, but do it in moderation. Personal spending habits can derail even the most successful business.

Maximizing You Business Revenue

The flip-side of breaking down expenses is trying to find ways to maximize revenue. This can mean looking at any rental properties in your portfolio to see if you can increase your rents across the board. It can mean looking at realtor commission plans or contractor rates and seeing if they are in line with the work that is being done. This doesn’t mean neglecting to pay for good service, but it does mean you can shop around to get the best deal. Much like the savings on expenses can add up, so does increasing your revenue. Individually it may not amount to much, but in conjunction with every other area it really does make a difference.

Minimizing Business Debt

Looking at the interest rates of any mortgages and credit cards you have is also a sound strategy. It is not that difficult to find a zero interest credit card nowadays. There is no reason you should be paying a high rate if you have an excellent payment history. By transferring your high balance and high rate accounts to a zero interest one, you can save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.

The same applies to your mortgage rate. You may have got your mortgage a few years ago and forgot about the rate or the private mortgage insurance payments you are making. It is certainly worth investigating what your refinance options are to see if there is any way to lower the payment, especially if your mortgage payments are too high. Some tactics to examine include extending your repayment term, have your tax assessment redone, or aggressively pay down your principle to make life easier down the line. Other options to look at include seeing if you can get rid of your private mortgage insurance altogether, or refinancing your mortgage. If your property down payment was less than 20 percent, then most likely you are paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). It is possible to get rid of PMI by paying enough on your mortgage until you gain a 20 percent equity on your home, and then ask your lender to drop your insurance. In addition, obtaining a new mortgage with better terms to replace your current one can help lower your monthly payments. However, it should be noted that excellent credit is usually required.

You can also look at any expenses to see if there are deep discounts in paying for services in advance such as lawn maintenance, snow removal, oil delivery or even property management services. Also take close look at in-office expenses that could be cut down, such as any unnecessary amenities or flashy expenditures. Those monthly gourmet coffee shipments can add up quickly!

Simplify Your Real Estate Accounting Today!

Your bottom line is the most important part of your investing business. At a minimum, you should treat it like you would your household budget and have a firm grasp and every expense that goes out and every dollar that comes in. There are thousands of dollars that go unaccounted for every year by investors that don’t stay on top of their business. Closing deals and getting checks is nice, but if they are going right out the window you are constantly chasing your tail. This is why real estate accounting is so important. New investors should especially consider hiring an accountant who specializes in the real estate sector. Accountants can help structure your spending and expenses in a tax-efficient manner, help you cut down on unnecessary expenses, and help you learn how to use accounting software so that you can easily track income, spending and forecasts. It may sound simplistic, but generating more income than expenses is what business is all about.

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