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Real Estate Syndication Returns Explained

Real estate syndication has emerged as a dynamic investment strategy, offering individuals the opportunity to participate in large-scale property ventures that might otherwise be out of reach. As investors increasingly turn to syndication to diversify their portfolios, understanding the intricacies of returns becomes paramount. In this article, we delve into the multifaceted world of real estate syndication returns, demystifying concepts such as cash flow, preferred return, and average annualized return. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or exploring syndication for the first time, this exploration will equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of returns in the realm of real estate syndication.  

Real Estate Syndication Returns Explained: Cashflow

What is Cashflow, Preferred Return, and Average Annualized Return?

Cash flow is a fundamental concept that refers to the net cash generated by the property’s operations after deducting all operating expenses. It’s the money that flows into the hands of investors regularly, typically on a monthly or quarterly basis. Cash flow is a key component of the overall return on investment (ROI) and plays a crucial role in the attractiveness of a multifamily syndication deal.


  1. Imagine you are part of a real estate syndication group that has collectively purchased a 50-unit apartment complex. The total rental income from all units is $200,000 per month. The operating expenses, which include property management fees, property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and utilities, amount to $100,000 per month. The debt service, or mortgage payment, is $40,000 per month.

    Now, let’s calculate the cash flow:

    1. **Gross Rental Income:** $200,000 per month

    2. **Operating Expenses:** $100,000 per month

       Gross Rental Income – Operating Expenses = **Net Operating Income (NOI)**

       $200,000 – $100,000 = $100,000 per month

    3. **Debt Service (Mortgage Payment):** $40,000 per month

       NOI – Debt Service = **Pre-Tax Cash Flow**

       $100,000 – $40,000 = $60,000 per month

    In this example, the $60,000 per month is the pre-tax cash flow generated by the multifamily property. This amount is distributed among the investors according to their ownership percentage or as specified in the syndication agreement.

    It’s important to note that positive cash flow is generally a key goal in real estate syndication, as it provides investors with regular income while holding the property. Investors often look for properties where the rental income exceeds the operating expenses and debt service, resulting in a positive cash flow. This positive cash flow can be used for reinvestment, distribution to investors, or a combination of both.

    Understanding the cash flow in multifamily real estate syndication is crucial for investors to assess the financial health of the investment, make informed decisions, and ensure the sustainability of the project over the long term.Fairly easy right? This is usually a fundamental piece of every syndication and one of the easier ones. 

    Fairly easy, right? So what other returns are there?

Real Estate Syndication Returns Explained: Preferred Return

What is Preferred Return?

Often referred to as a “pref,” the preferred return is a crucial component that shapes the distribution of profits among investors. The preferred return represents a priority or a predetermined rate of return that certain investors receive before the remaining profits are distributed.


Let’s consider a scenario involving a multifamily property syndication with a preferred return of 8%. Investors in this syndication, often limited partners, are promised an annual return of 8% on their invested capital before any profits are distributed to other participants, such as the general partners or sponsors.

Assuming an investor contributed $100,000 to the syndication, the preferred return would be calculated as follows:

– **Preferred Return Calculation:**
  – Preferred Return = (Investment Amount) x (Preferred Return Rate)
  – Preferred Return = $100,000 x 8% = $8,000

In this case, the investor is entitled to an annual payout of $8,000 before any profits are shared among other stakeholders. The preferred return acts as a form of protection for investors, ensuring they receive a fixed percentage of their initial investment before the general partners receive their share of profits.

Now, let’s explore the implications of the preferred return when the property performs exceptionally well:

– **Scenario 1: Property Performance Meets Expectations**
  – If the property generates enough income to cover the preferred return, the investors receive their $8,000 each year, and the remaining profits are distributed according to the agreed-upon profit-sharing structure.

– **Scenario 2: Property Outperforms Expectations**
  – If the property exceeds expectations and generates a higher return, the excess profits are typically shared among all investors according to the predetermined profit-sharing ratios. This means that after meeting the preferred return obligation, the remaining profits may be split differently among limited partners and general partners.

Understanding the preferred return is crucial for investors, as it provides a clear picture of the minimum return they can expect, even if the property’s performance fluctuates. It also aligns the interests of limited and general partners, creating a structured and equitable distribution of profits in multifamily real estate syndication.

Real Estate Syndication Returns Explained: Average Annualized Return

The Average Annualized Return (AAR) is a crucial metric in multifamily real estate syndication, providing investors with a comprehensive measure of the overall profitability of their investment over time. It takes into account various factors such as cash flow, appreciation, and potential tax benefits, offering a more comprehensive view than simple annual returns. Let’s break down this concept with an illustrative example:


Consider a multifamily real estate syndication opportunity where an investor contributes $100,000 to a project that aims to acquire and manage a 50-unit apartment complex.

1. **Cash Flow:**
   – The property generates an annual positive cash flow of $8,000 after deducting operating expenses, property management fees, and debt service.

2. **Appreciation:**
   – Over the investment period, the property experiences an average annual appreciation of 5%. If the property is initially valued at $5 million, this results in an additional $250,000 in value each year.

3. **Holding Period:**
   – The investor plans to hold the investment for five years.

Now, let’s calculate the Average Annualized Return:

**Step 1: Calculate Total Cash Flow over the Holding Period:**
   – $8,000 annual cash flow * 5 years = $40,000

**Step 2: Calculate Total Appreciation over the Holding Period:**
   – $250,000 annual appreciation * 5 years = $1,250,000

**Step 3: Calculate Total Return:**
   – Total Cash Flow + Total Appreciation = $40,000 + $1,250,000 = $1,290,000

**Step 4: Calculate Average Annualized Return:**
   – AAR = (Total Return / Initial Investment) ^ (1 / Number of Years) – 1
   – AAR = ($1,290,000 / $100,000) ^ (1 / 5) – 1
   – AAR ≈ 0.3881 or 38.81%

In this example, the Average Annualized Return of approximately 38.81% reflects the compound annual growth rate of the investment over the five-year holding period. This metric allows investors to gauge the performance of the syndication more comprehensively, considering both cash flow and property appreciation, and facilitates better comparison with alternative investment opportunities. As with any investment, it’s essential to carefully assess the assumptions and projections provided by syndicators and understand the associated risks before committing capital.


The above basic returns are fundamental to almost every deal or real estate syndication. Hopefully now you have an understanding on what to look for and how real estate syndication returns are structured. 

Simply knowing these terms and where they come from will only help your investment strategy and confidence. Happy Investing!

Curious on how to get started? See our simple guide to passive multifamily investing here.

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