Average Operating Expenses of Commercial Real Estate • Parent Portfolio (2023)

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It is acknowledged that a commercial real estate business is responsible for making you a billionaire, but what about the expenses when you are associated with any commercial property? These expenses are mainly called operating expenses. In this article, we will talk about the average operating expenses of commercial real estate.

What are the Operating Expenses of Commercial Real Estate?

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Commercial property operating expenses refer to the costs linked with the maintenance and operation of a commercial property, such as retail space, office place, and warehouse space. It solely depends on the lease structure of the building; hence it might be a part of the gross rent or an extension to the base rent. Similarly, in triple net leases, the operating expenses are mostly paid by tenants as base rent addition.

In the case of the buildings with multiple tenants, the operating expenses are the responsibility of the tenant, which is the due share amount for his part, which in turn depends on the comparison between the occupied square footage of the space tenant and the square footage of the total rentable space/building.

While leasing commercial real estate, it is important to consider what is included in the decided rental rate and what amount you are paying. Most commercial leases will be triple net leases where you pay your pro-rata share of operating expenses and the base rental rate.

Breakdown of Commission Costs

Even though each state and territory has its own regulation, in most cases a broker’s fee for representing a client in buying or selling single-family home runs between 6% and 6.5%. The same range applies to some forms of cooperative housing.

On an apartment building with 10 units or fewer, agents typically charge between 4% and 5% of the sale price; if there are more than 10 units that fee drops to 3%. In general, larger apartment buildings incur lower commissions:

Common Operating Commercial Real estate Expenses: Bar Chart

Average Operating Expenses of Commercial Real Estate • Parent Portfolio (4)

Whether you have an office building or a retailer, you need to bear the burden of CAM, which is the Common Area Maintenance Expenses.

They are given as:

  • The electricity expenses related to billing and repairing electric appliances, including the wiring.
  • The Janitorial Expenses to manage and maintain the property up to its market value.
  • Expenses related to water supply or sewerage to add value to your property.
  • The company mainly decides the insurance fee, and the landlord has little or no control over it, which passes to the tenants. If you are working as a team with several employees, you need to cover the compensation insurance of workers and the liability insurance.
  • The landlord normally pays real Estate Taxes, but the lease structure of NNN makes the tenant liable for paying taxes.

What is not counted as Operating Expenses?

Property management is not an easy job, nor is it free of cost. It includes operating expenses and other levies that are not typically regarded as operating expenses.

They are:

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  • Amount spent on the marketing of the property,
  • The debt service,
  • Capital reserves for the mega repair projects for the future,
  • Improvement allowances of tenants or the leasing commissions.

Are the operating expenses negotiable?

It depends on the type of expense, typically Common Area Maintenance expenses (CAM), as the property managers or the landlords decide how and what to manage? Tenant protection can be ensured by proper capitalization rate (cap) negotiation.

Similarly, when it comes to the property tax, which is fixed by the state and the insurance amount is considered to be non-negotiable.

What is the operation pattern of the Capitalization rate or cap?

Average Operating Expenses of Commercial Real Estate • Parent Portfolio (5)

Cap expenses operate in three ways.

Non-Cumulative Cap:

It is also known as Year-to-Year Cap. There is a cap on the percentage that the landlord can increase the CAM year-over-year.

Example: An agreement between a landlord and a tenant can be explained with a simple example if a contract caps the amount of 4 percent.

Still, if it increases by 3%, then the tenant will pay only that 3%, but in the next years, if it increases to 6%, then the tenant will pay only the agreed amount, that was 4%. Since the year-to-year cap is predictable, thus tenants prefer it.

Cumulative Compounding Cap

It is also set on a percent basis. However, in this type, the landlord carries authority to increase CAM every year, but upon a condition that is the landlord is liable to recoup the previous year’s unused increases.

Example: If the cap is set as 4%, upon a 3% increase, the tenant can pay only 3%, but next year if it is increased to 5% in next year, the tenant is responsible for paying 5%, as the landlord collects 4% from the current year and the leftover 1% from the previous year. Therefore, it is mostly preferred by the landlords.

Useful Tips for Tenants

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Be careful if you intend to operate in a completely or partially occupied building. In such cases, the landlords mostly charged for the vacant spaces. While signing a contract, ensure the clarity of every clause so that you don’t find yourself in trouble with any ambiguous injunctions in the future.

Commercial tenants should be more concerned about the following hazardous issues.

Administration Charges:

If the operating costs paid by the tenants are used to pay the salary of the property manager, and any increase, let’s say 20% from the landlord, would be deemed as double dripping.


They are mostly mentioned in the contract, which clarifies who is responsible for paying for natural gas, gas, and water, whether the landlord or a separate meter would be installed for every tenant to make him responsible for paying the bill. Depending on the scenario, the lease agreement should be vocal to save you from extra charges in the form of operating expenses.

Tenant Audit Rights:

Don’t forget to refer to the tenant audit rights in your lease agreement. It provides you backup to save your money, which is lost in the form of spare charging. It will enable you to examine the record-keeping book of the landlord, or you can demand any document related to the expanses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common operating expenses for commercial property?

General operating expenses for a commercial property such as a company include utilities,rent, insurance, payroll, travel, property taxes, maintenance and repairs, office supplies, employee incentives, depreciation and marketing expenses.

What is the operating expense ratio?

It is mostly expressed as a percentage, the net amount of operating expense minus depreciation and omitting interest, and then divided by the gross income to give the operating expense ratio. The point to be noted is that a normal operating expense ratio range is between60% to 80%, and the better it is, the lower.

What are the primary operating costs, especially as a real estate investor?

Some operating costs might be mandatory, and some are optional. The additional operating expenses for the investors need to figure into the OER are given asproperty management fees, attorney fees, landscaping, basic property insurance, and landlord insurance.

Is rent encompasses operating expense?

Normally, rent does not come under the operating expense of the commercial real estate. In leasing, agreement rent is mentioned in a distinct clause while other expenses like the insurance, tax (mandatory), utilities, and administrative charges (non-mandatory) are mentioned separately.

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What is a good operating expense ratio commercial real estate? ›

OER is used for comparing the expenses of similar properties. An investor should look for red flags, such as higher maintenance expenses, operating income, or utilities that may deter him from purchasing a specific property. The ideal OER is between 60% and 80% (although the lower it is, the better).

What is a good percentage for operating expenses? ›

The normal operating expense ratio range is typically between 60% to 80%, and the lower it is, the better. “Below 70%, you're doing a really good job of controlling expenses,” says Vice President AgDirect Credit Jerry Auel.

How much are operating expenses in real estate? ›

Simply put, the rule states that operating expenses are equal to ½ of the gross annual rental income. So, if a property generates a rental income of $18,000 per year, operating expenses should be about $9,000 per year, excluding the mortgage payment and capital expenses.

What is a good operating expense ratio for rental property? ›

To calculate the OER of a property, you just divide a property's operating expense (minus depreciation) by its gross operating income. The OER can help pick up on any red flags such as high maintenance costs and low income. The ideal OER is around 60-80%. Lower is better than higher.

Is a 0.29 expense ratio good? ›

High and Low Ratios

A number of factors determine whether an expense ratio is considered high or low. A good expense ratio, from the investor's viewpoint, is around 0.5% to 0.75% for an actively managed portfolio. An expense ratio greater than 1.5% is considered high.

What are average operating expenses? ›

Typical operating expenses include rent, payroll, utilities, printing, postage, and property taxes. Many, if not all, of these expense categories have a separate expense account in the general ledger.

Is 1% expense ratio too high? ›

Typically, any expense ratio higher than 1% is high and should be avoided, however it's important to note that many investors choose to invest in funds with high expense ratios if it's worth it for them in the long run.

What is high operating expense ratio? ›

The Operating Expense Ratio is the ratio between the cost of operation to the net revenue. It is typically used in evaluating real estate properties, where a higher Operating Expense ratio means higher operating expense than its property income and serves as a deterrent.

What is the average expense ratio for multi family? ›

While ratios can vary widely, 35% to 45% serves as a common OpEx ratio range for multifamily properties.

What is operating expenses per square foot? ›

Per Square Foot Operating Expenses means the amount of Operating Expenses for any Adjustment Year divided by the number of square feet comprising the rentable area of the Building, or the Complex, as applicable.

What is the largest expense category for most commercial properties? ›

Commercial Real Estate: Building Operating Cost Breakdown

The largest expenses a small business office building owner incurs are real estate taxes and fixed expenses like building insurance. Those expenses make up more than half of the total operating costs for most commercial office building owners.

What is the rule of thumb for rental property expenses? ›

The 2% rule states that the monthly rent for an investment property should be equal to or no less than 2% of the purchase price.

What are operating expenses for a commercial lease? ›

Examples of valid operating costs include property taxes, property insurance, maintenance, utilities, landscaping (which includes snow removal) and garbage collection. Valid operating costs will benefit all of the tenants in a commercial property—not just one or two.

What is a reasonable expense ratio? ›

A good rule of thumb is to not invest in any fund with an expense ratio higher than 1% since many ETFs have expense ratios that are much lower. Also, ETFs tend to be passively managed, which keeps the management fee low.

What is a .75 expense ratio? ›

For example, if a fund had an annual expense ratio of 0.75%, it would cost “$7.50 for every $1,000 invested over the course of a year—that's what you are paying a manager to manage a fund and provide you with the strategy you're accessing,” Sachs says.

What is Fidelity expense ratio? ›

It's the percentage of assets paid to run the fund. Many costs are included in the expense ratio, but typically only 3 are broken out: the management fee, the 12b-1 distribution fee, and other expenses.

What is ideal operating ratio? ›

What is the Ideal Operating Ratio? Companies generally prefer to keep their operating ratio between 60% to 80%. An operating ratio above 80% is not considered good. But generally, the smaller the value of the operating ratio, the better it is for the business.

What is typical overhead for small business? ›

A good overhead percentage for small businesses is typically between 10-30%. This will depend on the industry and type of business. For example, a service-based business will have a lower overhead percentage than a manufacturing company. Lower overhead costs mean that there is more profit for the business.

What is a reasonable fee for a managed fund? ›

Management fees, whether paid as a mutual fund expense ratio or a fee paid to a financial advisor, typically range from 0.01% to over 2%. Generally, the range in fee amount is due to management strategy.

What is the QQQ expense ratio? ›

Source: Bloomberg L.P., Data is as of Dec 31, 2022. Fund performance shown at NAV. Invesco QQQ's total expense ratio is 0.20%.

Is depreciation an operating expense for commercial real estate? ›

To be considered a real estate operating expense, an item must be necessary to maintain a piece of a property and to insure its ability to continue to produce income. Loan payments, depreciation and capital expenditures are not considered operating expenses.

What is a good operating profit margin? ›

What is a good Operating Margin? Ideally companies want an operating margin of 15% or higher. 10% is considered average. A lot of evaluating a company's operating margin depends on what sector the company is in, as well as macro trends to see if margins are going up or down.

What are examples of operating expenses? ›

The following are common examples of operating expenses:
  • Rent and utilities.
  • Wages and salaries.
  • Accounting and legal fees.
  • Overhead costs such as selling, general, and administrative expenses (SG&A)
  • Property taxes.
  • Business travel.
  • Interest paid on debt.
  • Research and development (R&D) expenses.

What is a good ROI on multi family? ›

What is a good ROI for multifamily? A good return on investment (ROI) for multifamily investment could be between 14% and 18%. Factors like the local real estate market and asset class will affect this. For example, if you invest in a growth market, your initial ROI will be on the lower end.

What is typically the largest expense for a family? ›

The largest expense for most Americans is housing. At $1,050 per month, the cost of having a roof over our heads accounts for 21% of a household's monthly budget. Percentage of income is based on after-tax income.

What is the formula for operating expenses? ›

Operating Expense Ratio = Operating Expense ÷ Total Revenue

The higher the operating expense ratio is, the higher the operating expense is in relation to its total revenue.

What are the two highest expenses when operating a business? ›

Top 7 Small Business Expenses and How to Reduce Them
  • 1) Labor. Hands down, labor is the most expensive cost you'll shoulder. ...
  • 2) Business vehicles. Business vehicles cost a lot of money, as fuel, insurance, repairs and downtime all add up quickly. ...
  • 3) Supplies. ...
  • 4) Rent or mortgage costs. ...
  • 5) Utilities. ...
  • 6) Insurance. ...
  • 7) Taxes.

What type of commercial property is most profitable? ›

Properties that are capable of bringing in the highest return on investments are typically those with the highest number of tenants. These commercial real estate properties can include multifamily projects, student housing, office space, self storage facilities, and mixed use buildings.

Is the 30% rent rule outdated? ›

The 30% Rule Is Outdated

The 30% Rule has roots in 1969 public housing regulations, which capped public housing rent at 25% of a tenant's annual income (it inched up to 30% in the early 1980s).

What is the 2 rule for rental property? ›

This is a general rule of thumb that determines a base level of rental income a rental property should generate. Following the 2% rule, an investor can expect to realize a gross yield from a rental property if the monthly rent is at least 2% of the purchase price.

Do rental expenses offset rental income? ›

All rental income must be reported on your tax return, and in general the associated expenses can be deducted from your rental income. If you are a cash basis taxpayer, you report rental income on your return for the year you receive it, regardless of when it was earned.

Are operating lease expenses tax deductible? ›

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for renting or leasing property used in a trade or business. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer's trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business.

Is rent considered an operating expense? ›

Key Takeaways

An operating expense is an expense that a business incurs through its normal business operations. Operating expenses include rent, equipment, inventory costs, marketing, payroll, insurance, step costs, and funds allocated for research and development.

Are operating lease payments tax deductible? ›

The tax advantages of operating leases are especially significant for fixed assets such as lighting that are generally depreciated over a very long term (39 years), since the entire lease payment is tax deductible.

Is 2% a high expense ratio? ›

Typically, any expense ratio higher than 1% is high and should be avoided, however it's important to note that many investors choose to invest in funds with high expense ratios if it's worth it for them in the long run.

Is a high operating expense good? ›

An increase in operating expenses means less profit for a business. Often operating expenses receive the most scrutiny from a company, as these types of costs may be less fixed than their non-operating expenses, manufacturing costs and capital expenditures.

What is the average expense ratio for a 401k? ›

The average 401(k) expense ratio is 1%, but it can be higher or lower depending on the size of the plan and the investments offered. You may be able to lower your fees by choosing cheaper investment options, such as low-fee funds.

What 3 types of expenses make up operating expenses? ›

Some of the most common operating expenses include rent, insurance, marketing, and payroll.

What is operating expense ratio for multifamily? ›

What is a typical operating expense ratio in multifamily? For apartment buildings, a good operating ratio usually falls between 35% and 45%. However, it's important to compare properties locally as expenses can vary between municipalities.


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