Investing in Real Estate in the United States

Investment in real estate (Real Estate Investment) is a financial strategy that involves acquiring properties, whether land or buildings, with the aim of making profits. In the United States, this form of investing has its own set of terminology and tax considerations that investors must understand. In this article, we will explore the key concepts related to real estate investing in the United States.

Investment Terminology


The appreciation refers to the increase in the value of a property due to economic forces beyond the investor's control. When the value of a property increases over time, investors can make significant profits by selling it at a higher price than they initially paid.


A asset It is a tangible or intangible element of value. In the context of real estate investing, a property is considered an asset because it has a value that can increase over time.


The base It is a measure of how much is invested in the property for tax purposes. The adjusted basis is the original cost of the asset plus capital improvements minus depreciation. Adjusted basis is used to calculate capital gains or losses when the property is sold.

Capital Gain (or Loss)

The capital gain (or loss) refers to the difference between the net proceeds from the sale of an asset and its adjusted basis. If the proceeds of the sale are greater than the adjusted basis, there is a capital gain; If it is less, there is a capital loss.

Cash Flow (Cash Flow)

He Cash Flow is the positive or negative amount of income an investment produces after subtracting all operating expenses and debt service (loan payments) from gross income. It is essential to evaluate the profitability of a real estate investment.

Capital (Equity)

He capital refers to the portion of a property's value that is owned by the legal owner. It is expressed as the difference between the market value of the property and all outstanding loan balances on the property.


He leverage refers to the relationship between the rate of return on an investment and the interest rate on the funds borrowed to finance the investment. If the rate of return is greater than the interest rate on the loan, positive leverage is obtained. If the rate of return is less than the interest rate, you get negative leverage.


The liquidity refers to the degree to which an investment is easily marketable or convertible into another form of asset. If an investment is easily sellable, it is considered liquid. However, real estate is typically relatively illiquid compared to other types of investments.

Tax Shelter

A tax shelter is an investment that produces depreciation or other nonmonetary losses that a taxpayer can deduct from other income to reduce tax liability. This is especially relevant in real estate investing due to property depreciation.

Investment Characteristics

Ownership benefits

Real estate investors can enjoy several property benefits:

  • Income: Rents paid by tenants generate regular income for the owner.
  • Appreciation: As the property increases in value over time, the owner can make significant profits by selling it.
  • Tax Shelter: Tax deductions, such as depreciation and interest deductions, can reduce the owner's tax burden.

Property Risks (Ownership risks)

Investing in real estate also carries certain risks:

  • Relatively Illiquid: Real estate is relatively illiquid, meaning it can take time to sell a property and convert it into cash.
  • Requires Intensive Management: Owners must manage and maintain the property, which can require time and resources.
  • Negative Leverage and Price Movements: If the rate of return is less than the interest rate on the loan, negative leverage occurs. Additionally, property prices can fluctuate.

Investment Entities

Direct Investment (Direct)

In a direct investment, the investor purchases the property directly and manages it personally. This involves active participation in the management of the property.


A labor union is a group of investors who combine funds to purchase, develop and/or operate a property. Syndicates allow investors to share risks and resources.

General Partnership

In a general partnership, all members are owners and participate in the management of the property. Everyone has unlimited liability.

Limited Partnership

In a limited society, the general partner is in charge of management, while limited partners are owners but do not participate in management and have limited liability.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

In a real estate investment trust (REIT), investors purchase trust certificates and the trust invests in real estate assets. Investors share the returns according to their ownership percentage.

Taxation of Real Estate Investments

Income-producing investments are subject to taxes on:

  • The annual income they generate.
  • Any profit realized when they are sold.

Taxable Income

He taxable income It is calculated by subtracting expenses and allowable deductions from gross income. The net investment income is added to the investor's other taxable income.

Cost Recovery or Depreciation (Cost recovery, or depreciation)

The cost recovery involves deducting a portion of the property's value from gross income each year over the depreciable life of the asset. The depreciable life is defined by tax laws.

Depreciable basis

The depreciable basis is the non-land or improvement portion of an income-producing property. The value of the land cannot be depreciated.

Depreciation Schedules/Terms

Investment properties generally depreciate over a period of 27.5 to 39 years, depending on tax depreciation tables.

Capital gain and loss

The capital gain or loss refers to the taxable gain or loss that occurs when selling an investment property. It is calculated as the difference between the sales price and the adjusted basis.

Adjusted basis

The adjusted basis is the cost of the investment plus capital improvements minus accumulated depreciation. It is used to calculate capital gain or loss.

Interest (Interest)

Interest paid on mortgage loans is deductible from income for tax purposes. However, the principal of the loan is not deductible.

Tax Liability On Sale Of Residence

When a homeowner sells his or her primary residence, he or she may have a tax liability on the capital gain resulting from the sale. However, there are tax exclusions that may apply.

Investment Analysis of an Income Property

Pre-tax Cash Flow

He cash flow before taxes It is calculated as follows:

  1. Potential Rental Income: Potential gross income is reduced by factors such as loss due to vacancy and collections.
  2. Net Operating Income (NOI): Rental income and other income are added, and operating expenses and reserves for maintenance and repairs are subtracted.
  3. Debt Service: Debt payment (mortgage loan) is subtracted from the NOI to obtain pre-tax cash flow.

After-tax Cash Flow

He cash flow after taxes It is calculated by subtracting tax liability from pre-tax cash flow. The result is the net cash flow the investor actually receives after taxes.


Investing in real estate in the United States is a sound financial strategy that can offer regular income, property value appreciation, and tax advantages. However, it also carries certain risks and challenges, such as intensive management and the relative illiquidity of properties.

It is critical that investors understand the terminology and tax considerations associated with real estate investing to make informed decisions. By understanding key concepts, investors can better evaluate the profitability of a property and maximize the tax benefits available.

Before embarking on real estate investments, it is advisable to seek guidance from financial and legal professionals to ensure sound financial decisions are made and all tax obligations are met. Investing in real estate can be an effective way to build long-term wealth when approached with knowledge and care.

Legal and Tax Disclaimer

Please be advised that the content presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The articles and information provided here are written from the perspective of a real estate agent affiliated with Keller Williams, and do not represent legal or tax counsel.

As the author, I am a licensed real estate professional under Keller Williams, holding Brokerage DRE License Number: #02197031. However, it is important to note that my expertise is in the field of real estate, and not in legal or tax matters. The insights and opinions shared on this blog are based on my experiences and knowledge in the real estate industry and should be treated as general guidance rather than definitive legal or tax advice.

For specific legal or tax concerns relating to any real estate transactions or investments, readers are strongly encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or tax advisor who can provide tailored advice based on your individual circumstances and the latest legal and regulatory requirements.

The information on this blog is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, and I, along with Keller Williams and its affiliates, disclaim all liability for any loss, damage, or misunderstanding arising from reliance on the information contained herein.

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