What Is NOI in Real Estate? A Comprehensive Guide

Posted by Excelsior Realty Team on September 7, 2023

NOI is a valuable metric for evaluating the financial performance of rental properties and commercial real estate investments. Understanding Net Operating Income (NOI) is crucial in real estate investing. But what is NOI in real estate?

Simply put, NOI refers to the income generated by a property minus its operating expenses. It gives investors a clear picture of how much their property generates before considering debt service or income taxes.

This article discusses how to estimate net operating income and how it impacts the value of investment properties and their cash flow potential. You will gain valuable insights on utilizing NOIs effectively, whether you are an experienced investor or just starting.

What Is NOI in Real Estate?

Net operating income (NOI) is a crucial metric in real estate investment that helps determine the profitability of a property. It indicates ongoing revenue and cash flow potential. It specifically focuses on the property's ability to generate income independent of 

  • Taxes
  • Interest payments
  • Capital expenditures
Real estate investors often employ NOI to evaluate potential deals or income-generating properties. They compare operating costs with expected rental revenues. The calculation typically considers annual figures, but can be adjusted monthly by dividing expenses accordingly.


NOI excludes financial aspects like mortgage interest and taxes. Hence, it provides a clear picture of how much revenue the property can independently generate.

NOI is considered less prone to manipulation than other real estate calculations. That's because it solely relies on operational efficiencies.

However, accurately predicting NOI requires careful consideration of market factors. It's especially true when estimating rental earnings based on how well the property is managed.

Understanding NOI empowers investors with valuable insights into a property's profit-making capacity. Moreover, it helps them make informed decisions about its viability for sustained earnings. 

This key metric allows them to analyze various investment opportunities objectively using additional financial metrics like capitalization rate (cap rate). 

An assessment of the net operating income of each opportunity, along with these metrics, offers clarity in assessing future returns.

What Is NOI in Real Estate - A Comprehensive Guide


Why Is NOI Important for Real Estate Investors?

NOI is crucial for real estate investors due to two main reasons. Firstly, it serves as a tool for estimating the value of an investment project. By dividing NOI by the cap rate, potential property value can be determined accurately. This determination helps investors make informed decisions about their investments.

Secondly, commercial lenders also employ NOI to assess project funding eligibility. Alongside taxes and interest expense, they calculate EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxes) based on NOI. This calculation helps to determine the property's potential generating capacity before tax and interest obligations are considered.

Net Operating Income Formula

The net operating income formula in real estate is: 

Income Generated From Property - Operating Expenses = NOI 

It's important to note that various formulas are used to compute NOI. These formulas can differ depending on the individual making the calculation.

How to Calculate Net Operating Income

Follow a series of steps to calculate a real estate property's net operating income (NOI). 
First, determine the gross operating income by adding the monthly rental earnings and subtracting any potential vacancies.

Next, consider additional revenue sources such as parking fees or service charges associated with rented units. Add these amounts to your gross operating income before proceeding.

Now, it's time to factor in all of your operational costs. They include insurance fees, utility bills, property administration charges, taxes, and repair costs.

Subtract the total cost for maintaining and operating your property from the gross operating income plus any additional rental earnings you calculated earlier.

The resulting figure will be your Net Operating Income (NOI). It is essential because NOI helps provide insight into how much cash a rental property generates after accounting for its expenses.

What Is an Example of a NOI in Real Estate?

In real estate, a simple calculation can show an example of net operating income (NOI). Let's assume the operating gross income is $10,000, generating an additional $2,000 in miscellaneous income. The total would amount to about $12,000.

If the operating expenses add up to roughly $4,000, the operating net income would be around $8,000. 

However, if multiple vacancies are causing the total income to only reach approximately $4K while the fees amount to $10k, the NOI would become negative at -$6k.

This is known as a Net Operating Loss (NOL). Understanding such examples helps real estate investors determine the profitability of their assets and make informed decisions.

What Expenses are Included in NOI?

Comprehending the components of net operating income (NOI) in real estate is essential for investors and property owners. To calculate NOI accurately, knowing which expenses should be included is crucial. Below are some key expense categories that impact a property's NOI:

Property Management Fees 

When landlords choose more passive investment strategies, they often hire property management services to handle day-to-day operations. However, these fees must be factored into the calculation of NOI as they reduce the overall income generated.

General Maintenance

All rental possessions require ongoing maintenance, especially older ones. Any costs incurred for maintaining the subject property should be considered when calculating its net operating income. Such maintenance can involve landscaping or repairing plumbing or electrical systems.

Legal Fees

Property ownership might lead to legal matters such as litigation or lease drafting assistance from attorneys. These matters can result in legal fees incurred by landlords/sellers/ buyers investing in real estate assets. 

These fees need proper accounting because every cost needs consideration while determining what constitutes a healthy cash inflow via NOIs.

Utilities Not Paid by Tenants

A landlord may pay certain utilities for tenants, like sewage/waste disposal charges. Such utility payments made by them affect their revenues. Consequently, these payments reduce their Net Operating Income since less amount still needs to be accounted for under this term.

Property Taxes

Taxes can vary based on your area, but they play a significant role in determining NOI. Property taxes must be considered when calculating potential rental income and overall returns on long-term or short-term real estate assets.

Insurance Costs

The money spent on insurance is an expense that helps protect against possible risks. Moreover, it provides benefits after acquiring or selling real estate assets. 

Whether you pay your insurance bills annually or every two years, these costs affect profitability and get factored into NOI estimations. Hence, it ultimately impacts the profitability earned from the property.

What Expenses are Not Included in NOI?

When calculating net operating income (NOI) in real estate, it's essential to understand which expenses are not included. Some of the costs that would not be factored into NOI include:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Income taxes
  • Leasing commissions
  • Debt service
  • Property depreciation
  • Tenant improvements
  • Capital expenditures 

These expenses are considered unique to the investor and may vary depending on individual circumstances. If these costs are excluded from NOI calculations, investors can focus exclusively on assessing a property's operational profitability.

When to Use NOI in Real Estate

Net operating income (NOI) is a crucial metric for determining the profitability of commercial or residential rental possessions in real estate investments. It serves as an indicator for both investors and lenders when evaluating potential deals. 

Lenders rely on NOI to assess whether investors will generate enough cash flow to repay loans. It's especially true when approving commercial loans. 

While NOI provides insights into a property's potential income, there should be other calculations investors use. Familiarizing themselves with different formulas allows them to analyze deals more effectively. It helps them make informed decisions about their investment portfolios. 

Real estate investors can maximize returns and mitigate risks without relying solely on NOI by using various financial metrics.

Calculations That Use NOI

The NOI in real estate is not only a valuable metric on its own but also plays a crucial role in calculating other essential metrics. Here are some calculations that utilize the Net Operating Income (NOI):

  • Capitalization Rate: The cap rate helps determine the rate of return on a real estate investment property by dividing the NOI by the current market value and multiplying it by 100.
  • Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): Lenders often use DSCR to assess whether a property's cash flow can cover operating expenses and mortgage fees. It is calculated as NOI divided by total debt owed, including mortgage and interest expense.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Property landlords rely on ROI to evaluate their investment potential using this formula: ROI = (NOI /Purchase Price) x 100.
  • Cash-on-Cash Returns: This metric compares how much money a property yields with its purchase cost. It considers annual mortgage payments alongside operating net income. The formula is:  

(NOI – Annual mortgage payments) / cash invested.

Pros and Cons of Using NOI for Investment Properties

The net operating income (NOI) formula is valuable for real estate investors. It provides crucial insights into the financial performance of investment properties. However, it's essential to understand that, like any evaluation strategy, there are pros and cons associated with using NOI.

Pros of Using NOI 

The advantages of using NOI include:

1. Initial Property Valuation: The net operating income calculation helps investors determine a property's initial value based on its potential rental income and expenses.
2. Revenue Projection: Real estate investors can gain an overview of expected ongoing revenue streams generated by the property by analyzing an investment property's NOI.
3. Risk Assessment: Lenders often use the Net Operating Income to assess whether or not a particular property represents a risky investment opportunity. They look at factors such as high vacancies or inflated expenses.

Cons of Using NOI 

The disadvantages of using NOI include: 
1. Calculation Variations: Each investor may have their own way of calculating Net Operating Income. This variance in calculations makes comparing properties challenging when looking at potential investments.
2. Inconsistent Management Impact: An asset can be managed inconsistently, with alternating self-management and third-party management periods. In such cases, the resulting implications could make reported net operating incomes (NOIs) less accurate for comparing different periods.
 3. Unanticipated Rent Projections Impacts:.If projected rents turn out differently than anticipated, it will negatively affect NOIs. It will throw off previous valuation analyses and reflect inaccurate expectations.

How To Improve NOI

If you want to improve a property's Net Operating Income (NOI), there are three main areas you can focus on. By executing these strategies, you can boost your investment's performance and increase profitability:

Minimize Operating Expenses

Analyze your budget and identify any unnecessary operating expenses that could be reduced or eliminated. Consider reevaluating your property management company to ensure they are providing cost-effective services. 

Look for ways to conserve energy and lower utility costs by installing energy-efficient appliances or improving insulation. Consider raising leasing fees or charging for additional amenities to cover expenses.

Increase Rental Income

To boost your NOI, consider if it's possible to raise rental prices without upsetting tenants or breaking any local rent control laws. Also, assess how quickly vacancies are filled in the property.  

High turnover rates could negatively affect NOI due to lost rental income during vacant periods. 
Develop a strong marketing strategy. Offer incentives like discounted first-month rents to attract more prospective tenants and minimize vacancy rates.

Find Extra Sources of Income

Get creative when looking for additional sources of income within the property itself. For example, you may generate revenue by 

  • Offering paid parking spaces (if allowed)
  • Renting office spaces inside apartment buildings
  • Providing paid laundry services for residents
  • Charging gym membership fees

Each source may contribute relatively small amounts. However, collectively, they can significantly increase overall net earnings. Ultimately, it can lead to higher returns on your investment annually.

What Is A Good NOI?

A good NOI shows higher revenues compared to expenses for a property. It indicates the value of the property if it were purchased with cash. 

In other words, you want a higher NOI than the purchase price. This NOI will ensure better returns on your investment and maximize your profits from the property's rental income.

Does NOI Include Mortgage Payment?

NOI calculations do not factor in mortgage fees. They are classified as financing costs, not operating expenses.

Does NOI Include Debt Payment?

No, NOI in real estate does not include debt payment. It solely focuses on the property's income and expenses.


In conclusion, understanding net operating income (NOI) in real estate is crucial for investors and property owners. NOI provides a clear picture of the revenue generated by a property minus its operating expenses. It serves as an essential metric to evaluate the financial viability of an investment. This article provides an accurate formula for calculating NOI that individuals can use to assess potential rental incomes.

With years of experience and in-depth knowledge of local market conditions, Excelsior Real Estate offers valuable expertise to help maximize your NOI. Whether you need assistance analyzing investments or developing marketing strategies for your home, our team is here to guide you through every step.

Take advantage of this knowledge on NOI to navigate the complicated world of real estate investing effectively. Contact us at Excelsior Real Estate today for expert insight tailored to Lake Minnetonka's marketplace.