Real Estate Accounting 101: How to Do Accounting for Your Real Estate Business

If you’re in the real estate business, you need to know how to do accounting for your business.

Real estate accounting is important for two main reasons:

First, it keeps track of your income and expenses so you can know whether or not your business is profitable;

Second, it provides the information you need to prepare your tax return.

There are two basic types of real estate accounting: cash-basis and accrual-basis.

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What is accounting 101 for real estate?

A real estate transaction involves the exchange of assets for cash or another real estate asset.

The real estate industry comprises many different types of businesses, from developers and real estate agents to appraisers and investors.

This kind of accounting is the process of recording, classifying, and summarizing financial transactions to provide information that is useful in making business decisions.

The goal of real estate accounting is to ensure that the financial statements of a company accurately reflect the economic activity of the company.

Real estate accounting principles are generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that specifically apply to the real estate industry.

GAAP is a set of accounting standards that have been issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Real estate accounting 101 focuses on providing students with a basic understanding of GAAP as they relate to the real estate industry.

Why is accounting important for real estate?

Real estate accounting is important for several reasons.

First, it helps to track and monitor the financial health of a business.

By maintaining accurate records, businesses can identify areas where they are losing money and make necessary changes.

Second, real estate accounting helps to ensure that investors are getting a fair return on their investment.

If a business is not properly managed, it can quickly become unprofitable, leaving investors with little recourse.

Finally, real estate accounting provides essential information for tax purposes.

Without accurate records, businesses may end up overpaying or underpaying their taxes, which can have a significant impact on their bottom line.

In short, real estate accounting is an essential part of any successful business.

7 accounting basics for real estate you need to know about

If you’re thinking of getting into the real estate game, there are a few key accounting principles you’ll need to wrap your head around first.

Here are 7 basics for this business you need to know about: 

1. Depreciation

It is the process of allocating the cost of a property over its useful life.

This allocation is done for two reasons: to reflect the wear and tear on the property, and to reflect the declining value of the property over time.

Depreciation is calculated using one of several methods, including the straight-line method, the declining balance method, and the sum-of-the-years’-digits method.

The choice of method depends on several factors, including the type of property, its expected useful life, and its expected resale value.

Whichever method is used, depreciation is a critical tool for correctly valuing rental properties for tax purposes.

2. Amortization

Amortization is an accounting system used to gradually reduce the cost of a physical asset, such as real estate or equipment, over its useful life.

Amortization is often used in property management and real estate investing.

When a property is purchased, the buyer typically pays a lump sum upfront, which is then depreciated over time through amortization.

This allows the buyer to gradually offset the cost of the property against their income, which can result in significant tax savings.

Amortization can also be used to finance repairs or improvements to a property.

By spreading out the cost of the repairs over time, the borrower can make smaller payments and free up cash for other purposes.

3. Cash flow

In real estate accounting, cash progress refers to the inflows and outflows of cash that are used to finance a property.

The net cash progress is the difference between the total cash inflows and the total cash outflows.

A cash progress report is a statement that shows how cash is being used by a business.

It can be prepared on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

The purpose of a cash progress report is to show how cash is generated and used by a business.

It is also used to assess the financial health of a business.

The cash flow report includes information on cash receipts, disbursements, and bank balances.

Net cash flow reports

Cash inflows include cash from sales, loans, and investments.

Cash outflows include operating expenses, loan payments, and taxes.

The net cash flow is the difference between the total cash inflows and outflows.

A positive net cash flow indicates that a business has more cash coming in than going out.

A negative net cash flow indicates that a business has more cash going out than coming in.

This can be a problem because it can lead to a shortfall of funds and difficulty in paying bills on time.

A cash flow forecast is an estimate of future cash flows.

It is used to plan for short-term needs such as inventory levels and payroll.

It can also be used to identify potential problems early on so that corrective action can be taken.

4. Net operating income (NOI)

Net operating income is a business term that refers to the funds available in a business bank account after all operating expenses have been paid.

In this business, NOI is used to calculate the profitability of a property.

To calculate NOI, simply take the total revenue.

Total revenue generated by the property and subtract all operating expenses, including taxes, insurance, utilities, and repairs.

This figure can then be used to compare different properties and make informed investment decisions.

Because it provides a clear picture of a property’s profitability, NOI is an essential metric for anyone involved in the real estate business.

5. Taxation

Taxation is a tricky business, and tax accounting is no different.

Tax returns are filed either annually or semi-annually, and they detail all the tax deductions and income earned from activities over the year.

Personal expenses, such as travel and entertainment, can also be tax deductible if they’re related to the real estate business.

In addition, there are different tax laws for different types of properties. 

It’s important to be aware of the tax implications of any real estate transactions before they’re made.

With all that in mind, tax accounting can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it’s important to get it right to avoid any penalties.

6. Return on investment (ROI)

Return on Investment, or ROI, is a real estate accounting measure that is used to evaluate the profitability of a property.

To calculate ROI, divide the property’s net operating income by its total investment. The resulting number will be expressed as a percentage and will represent the property’s ROI.

For example, if a property has a net operating income of $100,000 and a total investment of $1,000,000, its ROI would be 10%.

In general, properties with higher ROIs are considered to be more profitable than those with lower ROIs.

Return on equity (ROE), which measures the profitability of an investment relative to the amount of money that was originally invested.

For example, if an investor put $100,000 into a property and it generated a net operating income of $10,000 over one year, the property’s ROE would be 10%.

In general, properties with higher ROEs are considered to be more profitable than those with lower ROEs.

7. Leverage

When a property is purchased with leverage, the buyer is using borrowed money to finance the purchase.

The loan is usually secured by the property itself, which means that if the buyer defaults on the loan, the lender can foreclose on the property and recoup their losses.

Leverage can be a useful tool for buyers who want to purchase a property without having to come up with all of the cash upfronts.

However, it is important to remember that leverage also comes with risks. If the value of the property decreases, the buyer may end up owing more money than the property is worth.

As a result, it is important to carefully consider whether or not leverage is right for you before making any decisions.

How to start with accounting for your real estate?

Many real estate businesses don’t have a real estate accounting system in place.

This can be a big mistake.

Without a real estate accounting system, it can be very difficult to track expenses, income, and profit.

This can lead to real estate businesses losing money.

Real estate agents need to be especially careful when it comes to accounting for their businesses.

Real estate agents typically work on commission, which means they are paid based on the sale of a property.

If an agent doesn’t have a real estate accounting system in place, they could end up losing money on a sale.

Common real estate accounting mistakes

Real estate investors are no strangers to accounting mistakes.

Many real estate investors make the same mistakes year after year when preparing their tax returns.

Here are some of the most common real estate accounting mistakes:

1. Not keeping accurate records:

This is one of the most common real estate accounting mistakes.

It is important to keep accurate records of all income and expenses to avoid overpaying or underpaying taxes.

2. Not knowing the difference between capital gains and ordinary income:

Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income, so it is important to know the difference between the two.

Many real estate investors mistakenly treat all of their income as capital gains, which can lead to higher taxes.

3. Not taking depreciation deductions:

Depreciation is an important deduction for real estate investors, but many fail to take it.

This can be a costly mistake, as it can increase your tax bill by thousands of dollars.

4. Failing to understand the basis:

The basis is the measure of your investment in a property.

It is used to calculate gain or loss when you sell a property.

Many real estate investors do not understand the basics and as a result, they may overpay or underpay taxes on the sale of a property.

5. Not knowing the IRS rules for rental properties:

There are specific IRS rules for rental properties that must be followed to avoid paying taxes on phantom income.

Many real estate investors are unaware of these rules and end up paying taxes on income that they should not have to pay.

By avoiding these common real estate accounting mistakes, you can save yourself time and money when preparing your tax return.

Accounting for real estate: DIY or outsource?

For business owners, one of the key considerations is how to account for real estate expenditures.

Many business owners opt to outsource this function to a property management company or an accountant.

However, several business owners choose to do their accounting for real estate.

There are a few key things to consider when deciding whether to DIY or outsource your accounting for real estate.

First, you’ll need to consider how much time you’re willing to invest in keeping track of your business funds.

If you’re not comfortable with bookkeeping or don’t have the time to keep up with it, outsourcing may be the best option.

However, if you’re willing to put in the time to learn the basics of accounting, you may be able to save money by doing it yourself.

Second, you’ll need to consider your tax situation.

If you’re not sure how your real estate expenditures will impact your tax return, it’s best to speak with an accountant or tax advisor.

Finally, you’ll need to decide whether you want all of your business funds in one bank account or if you’re comfortable splitting them between a business account and a personal account.

Once you’ve considered these factors, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether DIY or outsourced accounting is right for your business.

Do I need accounting software for my real estate business?

If you’re in the real estate business, you may be wondering whether you need accounting systems to help manage your finances.

The answer depends on a few factors, including the size and complexity of your business, the bookkeeping system you currently have in place, and your budget.

For small businesses with simple bookkeeping needs, a basic accounting software package may be all that’s necessary.

On the other hand, if you have a more complex business or are looking for more robust bookkeeping features, an accounting system may be a better option.

Of course, no matter what type of accounting software you choose, it’s important to factor in the cost of implementation and ongoing maintenance.

With so many options on the market, taking the time to find the right solution for your business can save you money in the long run.


Real estate accounting is not difficult, but it is important to get it right.

The most important thing is to keep accurate records of all your income and expenses.

This will help you stay organized and avoid mistakes.

Another important tip is to stay on top of your tax obligations.

This can be complex, so it is best to consult with a tax professional.

Lastly, remember that real estate investing is a long-term game.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.

Instead, focus on building a solid foundation that will serve you well for years to come.

With these tips in mind, you can be sure that your real estate accounting will be a success.

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