it's all about cash flow
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We are surveyors and we have looked at how best to manage a property portfolio, and here are a few of our thoughts.
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Property and cash flow
We recently put together a course on cash flow and profit in the property industry and, whilst it is aimed at property investors, it could also be of use to businesses in general, who want to understand how to utilise spreadsheets, we have used Excel spreadsheets, and also how to develop cash flow charts to manage the money, because if you are proposing to buy property as an investment you will soon understand that, whilst there may be long term capital growth, you do need to have cash flow to survive until you get to the point where the long term capital growth has occurred!
The difference between cash and profit, or should we more correctly say cash flow?
As the name implies, this is the cash that is flowing in and out of your business, but as you will soon discover it is also what we would term as real money, as you can spend it. Whereas, profit is more of an accountancy term, as looked at on the balance sheet, and may well not be visible at all, or at least until the end of the year or, in many cases, to the end of years.
You could, for example, be refurbishing a property this year that won't actually then become profitable for three to five years, as it has to pay back the cost of the refurbishment and then also the cost of the interest on the money.
The importance of cash: the term 'cash is king'
The term 'cash is king', which we heard some years ago but it you've never truly understood what it means we will put it this way. It means that you will need to have some cash and cash flow to run your business. To put it into property investment terms - you have a property portfolio to manage, this could mean having the cash flow to pay your finance or funding and, as has been commented, if you have cash flow and can keep paying your mortgage then you will keep the property. If you don't have cash flow you won't be able to pay your mortgage.
The Excel spreadsheet example
We are going to consider a year's income on a property; one of many, hopefully, in your property portfolio!
Going to your Excel spreadsheet. Put January and February into two cells and then drag across the top of the screen Excel, assuming it is a reasonably new version, will understand that you mean to have the months and will put them in for you.
On the left hand column, just before January, you can type Property 1, and underneath that you can type income. The rent in this case is £600, so in each of the boxes if you type £600 and at the end you put the word Total and then press the Sum Key (which looks like a strange shape capital E). This will total up all of the rental incomes for you.
Underneath that if you put a heading of Funding and put £400 in each column that will be your costs. Again, use the Sum Key at the end. You will therefore have £7,200 in the rental income column and £4,800 in the outgoings column. You will be able to see that in each of the months you will have a cash flow of £200 and if you add up all the £200 you will have £2,400 profit for the year. That will all be well and good if we could buy properties without putting any money in. Incidentally, this is known as buying with no money down, which is possible (although it seems impossible).
We need to add the cost of buying the property, using the nominal sum of £10,000, you will see that at the end of the year there will in fact be a loss. The great thing about spreadsheets is you can project into the future, so if you simply copy and paste the years and add in the cumulative total for each year you will see how long it takes for you to return the cost of your initial investment.
Of course, this is a very simple example because it doesn't make allowances for the value of money changing and the value of the property changing, be it up or down. However, it does demonstrate how having a good cash flow forecast can mean you are very pro-active in how you spend your money. The cash flow forecast also allows you to budget how you are going to spend your money for the year and, what is known as, manage against that budget. Depending upon how accurate your budgets are it can be a depressing or an enjoyable experience!
Cash flow forecast spreadsheet
We have devised a cash flow forecast spreadsheet for property that we are more than happy to share with you, although it's not free it's a free property spreadsheet if you go on the course, which will be of great benefit for you as you will learn how to use it.
The problems we looked at when carrying out the cash flow forecast were as follows:-
Simplicity -v- efficiency. There's a very fine balance between not spending too much time filling out the spreadsheet and it being accurate enough. We have got round this problem by having a top level information sheet, that can be filled in across all of the properties in the portfolio, or you can go through the individual sheets within the Excel spreadsheets and fill them in. There are over 20, so I think we have covered every eventuality!
Build your own free Excel spreadsheet for your properties
We thought it would be a good idea to give a free Excel property spreadsheet that you can make at home, so to speak, as for many people with just a few properties this will be sufficient, and also it will be good practice, because you do need a basic understanding of Excel spreadsheet to use our spreadsheet.
Starting the Excel spreadsheet
We are assuming you are going to be using a relatively recent version: last three years. If you put January, February in the two cells going across and drag, as mentioned previously, it will then give you all the calendar months. Down the left hand side you put income and then you put rent, applications fees and percentage of utility bills, as these will be your typical income streams, and it's a shame there aren't more of them!
Many property investors don't have an application fee, but there is certainly a time and cost implication in processing new applications for the rental of a property if it is to be done properly and the searches are going to be done on their credit history, etc.
Then you put a column along the bottom: total cash in, and you use the Sum Key, or the word Sum. If we stick with £600 per month rent and a £250 application fee in January then we can't go far wrong.
Unfortunately there are a lot more expenses than there are incomes:
Mortgages, repairs, insurance, court costs, gas and boiler check. Again, use £400 as the mortgage fees and let's assume an annual bill of £300 on repairs and a bill of £100 for a gas and boiler check.
If you copy this x 10 for ten years, you will start to see how the profits and losses look over that time.
What we are going to add in to make it more realistic is a column along the left hand side called purchase costs. The first bit we will put is assumed no money in a deal. Then we will just have solicitors fees (£500), mortgage arrangement fees (included) and valuation fees (£300).
Now, we are starting to build quite a nice spreadsheet. A couple of things that will make it look even better are adding borders around it, for example, if you go to the toolbar on the right hand side there is a box with squares in it and it is highlighted at the bottom. This allows you to underline it or box around, the rental section, for example. You will also notice in the same toolbar that there is a decreased decimal point section, which you can amend as appropriate, and also you can justify right or left, whichever suits you best.
The Sum Key on the top toolbar, which you will remember looks like a strange shape capital E, makes the adding up of columns relatively easy. You just highlight them if you don't wish to add them up, you just change the signs within the Sum Key. We also noticed a nice feature where you have quite complex mathematical equations, the Sum Key will change into different colours to highlight where they have come from.
Equally, we like triangular boxes, where you can add comments, where you can double click and leave a comment for someone else. They also advise where the calculations are wrong, or possibly wrong, Excel just warns you about it.
Working on another sheet
You will notice that it is opened up as three sheets along the bottom tab. If you want to transfer the data to another sheet then this is possible. Just be aware of the Dollar sign. This means that the numbers are fixed. To unfix the numbers you simply have to remove the Dollar sign.
Freeze pane, or window splitting
This is something we think is great. If you go up onto the top toolbar and on the left hand side is a cell with Windows in. It has freeze pane and you just click on the section that you want.
Property portfolio management by surveyors
We hope this has given you an idea of a very basic spreadsheet for your property portfolio or business. We have developed a much more specialist one. If you are interested in coming on a course on this and talking with surveyors that not only manage other people's property but also manage their own and who have done this through several recessions and several booms! Please free phone us on 0800 298 5424.
Independent professional property advice
If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a surveyor with regard to rising damp, lateral damp, condensation or other dampness issues as well as surveys, building surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects reports, structural surveys, home buyers reports or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a free chat with a surveyor.
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We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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