What is Forced Real Estate Appreciation?

Learn the art of forced appreciation in real estate investing. Discover strategies to increase property value and rental income for higher returns.

By
Vivian Tejada
|
Last Updated
August 17, 2023
What is Forced Real Estate Appreciation?

There are two ways to approach real estate investing: passively or proactively. Proactive investors are constantly looking for ways to enhance home appreciation. Passive investors, on the other hand, prefer to sit back and let the market do its thing. Property values naturally increase over time with or without investor interference, so there’s nothing wrong with taking on a passive approach. 

However, if you’re the type of investor who likes taking on a more hands-on approach, you’ll be happy to know that there is plenty you can do to force appreciation out of your property. Savvy investors achieve forced appreciation mostly through strategic home improvements and optimized property management. 

Whether you choose to let a home appreciate naturally, force its appreciation, or implement a combination of both, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your returns as a real estate investor. Here’s what you need to know about home appreciation:

Forced appreciation vs. market appreciation

Market appreciation

Market appreciation, also referred to as natural appreciation, is when home values increase in value over time. Investors buy property hoping that the home will be worth more at some point in the future. Given that future appreciation is a natural process in the real estate economy, most investors end up selling their property for more than its original purchase price.

Natural appreciation is driven by changes occurring in the real estate market that are outside of an investor’s control. Several factors affect home appreciation such as rising interest rates and persistent inflation, as we’ve seen in recent years. This happens when demand for property is high and supply is low, resulting in a favorable situation for property owners.

However, not all of these occurrences are positive. Economic factors can also negatively impact property values, resulting in a devaluation of property or stagnant growth. A sudden rise in crime rates or a mass exodus of local businesses could bring down home prices and an investor's income potential at no fault of their own. That’s why all investors should be aware of proactive ways to increase appreciation rates, regardless of their preferences.

Forced appreciation

Forced appreciation in real estate is when the value of an investment property increases as a direct result of an investor’s actions. The idea behind forced real estate appreciation is to strategically raise a property’s net operating income (NOI). NOI is used to calculate property appreciation and measure the profitability of a home. The higher your NOI, the better the return on the initial cost of your investment, ie: purchase price. Raising your property’s NOI can be achieved in one of three ways:

  • Increasing property value
  • Raising rents
  • Reducing property expenses

3 forced appreciation strategies for real estate investors

1. Increasing property value

The primary way investors force appreciation is by completing home renovations that increase property value. If you’re interested in home renovations with high ROI, discuss the following projects with a trusted real estate agent: 

  • Add bedrooms: Extra living space is always an appealing feature to tenants and homebuyers. If you have a large living room or double dining area, it may be worth converting some of that space into an extra bedroom. 
  • Add bathrooms: In addition to adding an extra bedroom, you may also want to add a bathroom. As one of the most frequented places in a home, bathrooms are key selling points for tenants and buyers. Even minor bathroom upgrades could go a long way in raising home price appreciation.
  • Enhance curb appeal: If your current budget doesn’t allow for a bedroom or bathroom remodel, you can start increasing property value by simply enhancing curb appeal. First impressions make a difference and can easily sway buyers from one home to another.

Keep in mind that forced appreciation doesn’t need to happen all at once. You can enhance curb appeal the first year, create a second bedroom the third year and finish remodeling your half bath in year five. There’s no specific timeline you need to follow when planning home renovations. Just make sure it's the right time in the market to make home improvements and that you have the necessary funds available.

2. Increasing rental income

Once you’ve enhanced your property value through home improvements, you’ll want to get your money’s worth, of course! The best way to do this in the short term is to increase your rental income by raising rents, minimizing vacancies, and implementing short- and mid-term rental strategies whenever possible.

  • Raise monthly rents: Before moving forward with any property renovations you’ll want to calculate how much you’ll be able to raise rents as a result. Take into consideration not just the cost of renovation but also local market conditions. If your property is unique and offers something neighboring homes don’t, you’ll be able to command higher rents. 
  • Minimize vacancy rates: When raising rents, it’s important to strike a balance between making a profit and attracting tenants. Charge too little and you may miss out on fair returns but charge too much, and you may find your unit vacant for months on end. If you're going to charge a higher rent than most landlords in the area, make sure you're highlighting recent renovations and featured amenities in your listing descriptions to avoid long vacancy rates.
  • Incorporate short-term rental stays: One way investors often curb vacancies is by turning their properties into short-term rentals or mid-term rentals. If you’ve recently renovated your home and are charging a higher rent but can’t find long-term tenants to sign a lease, hosting a short-term rental may be the way to go. Short-term rentals can be great investments because hosts can charge more rent per night than they could for a monthly rental property.

3. Decreasing property expenses

Lastly, you can force appreciation by reducing monthly operating expenses. Investors should focus on reducing energy bills, managing water usage, and immediately repairing property damage. This helps conserve your property and ensure its functionality and safety throughout the years.

  • Manage energy usage: Installing LED bulbs, smart thermostats, and heating sensors are all great ways to manage energy efficiency. The more energy-efficient your home is, the lower your utility expenses will be. Your home’s lighting and heating systems will also endure less wear and tear, making your property more appealing at the time of sale. 
  • Regulate water usage: Similar to energy management, water regulation within the home can help real estate investors save money on their monthly utility bills. Installing tampers that regulate shower and toilet flow and repairing leaky faucets will not only make your home more competitive on the market but it'll also ease the strain on your home's water systems over time.
  • Repair damage without delay: Even the most passive real estate investor will have to interact with their property from time to time. It’s a good idea to either hire a property manager or regularly check up on the property yourself. Maintaining an open line of communication with your tenants is also ideal because they can alert you of any issues that come up. Try your best to address problems as soon as you hear about them. Delayed maintenance often results in more expensive repairs down the road.

How to calculate forced appreciation in the housing market

Calculating the average home appreciation rate on forced appreciation involves understanding your property’s NOI and cap rate. 

NOI is easy to calculate. All you need to do is add up monthly revenues and subtract this dollar amount from monthly property expenses. Once you have your NOI, you can then use it to calculate your property's cap rate.

  • NOI = revenue (rent) - operating expenses

Cap rates are used to determine the rate of return on an investment property. You find it by dividing your property’s NOI by its current market value. Investors usually aim for a cap rate between 8% and 12%.

  • Cap rate = NOI / current market value (CMV).

Once you’ve calculated these two figures you can then determine the forced average appreciation rate by dividing NOI by the cap rate.

  • Forced appreciation = Net operating income (NOI) / cap rate. 

Pros and cons of forced home appreciation

As with any real estate investment strategy, forced appreciation comes with advantages and disadvantages. Although it’s a great way for investors to increase the appreciation value of property and home values in a relatively short amount of time, it’s not always possible depending on finances and local laws. Here are some factors to consider about forced appreciation:

Pros

  • Property value rises almost instantly after renovations are complete.
  • Investors enjoy a boost in cash flow via increased rental income.
  • Compound appreciation occurs through market and forced appreciation, often leading to a higher median sales price in the future. 

Cons

  • It requires additional time, effort, and financial resources.
  • It’s usually a one-time benefit, after which appreciation occurs at a normal pace.
  • Not every rental property qualifies for forced appreciation depending on local zoning laws and the physical location of the property.

Bottom line: Is forced appreciation right for you?

Forced appreciation can be a great way to boost property value, but it’s not for everyone. It takes a considerable amount of planning to be successful. You also need to accurately calculate appreciation to secure a healthy ROI.

When considering whether or not forced appreciation makes sense for you, ask yourself if you have the time and resources available to implement one of the strategies mentioned above. If the answer is no, you could always try again at some point in the future.

You will also want to consider if the property you have or are looking to buy is fit for a forced appreciation. Make sure your property meets all of the following criteria before moving forward:

  • It’s in a good location that's likely to appreciate over time. (In other words, natural appreciation is a given).
  • It needs some repairs or renovations that can be done relatively inexpensively.
  • It’s currently under-rented, meaning that occupancies are not at capacity. 

Successful investors may find a combination of both forced and natural appreciation methods maximizes returns. Ultimately, the key lies in making informed decisions, considering market conditions, and strategically implementing improvements to enhance property value and rental income. By staying informed and proactive, real estate investors can position themselves for success and navigate the dynamic world of home appreciation with confidence.

Vivian Tejada

Vivian is a freelance real estate writer based in Brooklyn, NYC providing SEO blogging services to real estate companies. Her work focuses on educating first-time real estate investors on investment strategy and explaining proptech tools to new customers.

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