Should you use FFO or AFFO as a metric to measure a REIT’s cash flow?

Published On - July 26, 2019

Over the years, REIT investment has become a popular choice among real estate investors, particularly among the retirees. With benefits akin to that offered by a mutual fund investment, REIT lets investors invest in real estate properties without the burden of purchasing and managing those properties. The majority of REITs own, and in most cases operates, income-producing real estate properties. They lease spaces to tenants and then collect rents on those properties. Whereas, some REITs lend money to real estate investors and invest in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

Equity or Mortgage REIT – Which is better?

Equity REITs own and operate real estate properties. The primary source of income of an Equity  REIT is the rent they receive by leasing spaces to strong tenants. These kinds of  REITs provide high liquidity as their shares can be easily purchased and sold on the National Stock Exchange.

Mortgage REITs (mREITs) function in a different way. They lend money to real estate investors and invest in mortgage and mortgage-backed securities. The spread between the interest earned on the mortgages and the cost of financing the loan determines a Mortgage REIT’s income.

Since the Equity and Mortgage REITs have different working models, both are beneficial in different ways. Investors seeking instant income can go with Equity REITs. However, as they trade on the National Stock Exchange, they are subject to market risks. On the other hand, those who require funds for their real estate adventures may find Mortgage REITs a blessing in disguise.

How to evaluate a REIT’s cash flow?

Some real estate analysts use FFO (Funds From Operations) as a metric to measure the revenue generated by a REIT. There is a whole formula for calculating FFO. Analysts calculate FFO by adding depreciation and amortization in the net income minus any gain from the sale of real estate properties.

FFO = Net income + Depreciation + Amortization – Gain from the sale of real estate

FFO helps in calculating a more precise value as it adds depreciation in the net income and subtracts any gain the REIT has made from the sale of its real estate. Some analysts also use AFFO (Adjusted Fund From Operations),an advanced version of FFO, to get a more precise value. While there is no derived formula for calculating AFFO, it is taken out by subtracting recurring expenditures from FFO that are first capitalized by a REIT and then amortized. It could be some minor maintenance expenses such as money spent on changing floor carpet or repairing damaged ceiling, and so on.

AFFO =  FFO – Recurring Capital Expenditure

Both FFO and AFFO are used by analysts for calculating a REIT’s cash flow, and you too can use either of them. As REITs don’t need to make maintenance expenditures every day, you may ignore it. However, if you need a more precise value, consider subtracting it from a REIT’s FFO.

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