Musetta Lahna February 18, 2021 Spreadsheet
Designing a strong real estate spreadsheet requires some forethought about the uses, calculations, and net results you‘re looking for. This should be done before you ever get started. Here we demonstrate some key considerations by means of a case study. To demonstrate the proper approach to designing and building a real estate spreadsheet in Excel, let‘s use a residential multi‐unit rehabilitation project example. To keep it simple, let‘s assume it has 4 apartment units, was built 60 years ago, has 3 existing tenants, and requires new interior and exterior paint, some plumbing and electrical work to update the property to modern safety standards, and a partial re‐roofing to fix some water damage.
Finally, when applying discount factors, where do you intend to get your discount numbers? For a company with existing debt and equity capital you can calculate WACC and use that. For a startup company you need to figure out a risk‐adjusted cost of capital that makes sense. Usually this is not just a risk‐free rate which only the largest companies in the world have access to. It‘s probably something higher.
Our first step is to capture non‐quantitative data in the spreadsheet, so we reserve a worksheet for that. This is used for location and condition information such as address, zoning category, residential vs. commercial, neighborhood, occupancy in the building and surrounding area, school district, etc. This will all be useful for financing and insurance purposes, as well as keeping track of a number of properties if you have a large real estate portfolio or a property management company. You might want to put it into a standard database format in case you want to save and analyze the information later.
First, databases are still tricky for some people to understand. While relational databases can be thought of as tables that have several indexes, this is more than many people want to deal with. Second, the collaboration tools are tough to learn and use. Look at how many people still use Lotus Notes for email and not much else. And since most of us are comfortable with email, using it as the transportation system isn‘t all that taxing. Until the day comes when three people are working on the same spreadsheet and make conflicting changes.
There are other ways to import data into your database, including using Web forms or setting up a special email inbox that will post the information automatically. These tasks will take some skill and some HTML knowledge, however. Other tools require more programming skill to do what Trackvia does with a few mouse clicks, or are more cumbersome to manipulate, or don‘t have the automatic defaults that make setup as easy as Trackvia. Did I mention the cost? $10 per month per user. This includes an unlimited number of databases and up to a GB of attachment storage (meaning that you aren‘t charged for the actual records themselves that are stored). If you sign up before October 1 for an account, the company will give you several additional features free.
Next, how much detail do you need in your cash flow template Excel spreadsheet at the individual line item level? Is cash from financing sufficient or do you need equity financing, debt financing, interest earned, etc. Also how do you intend to handle depreciation and amortization, since these are non‐cash items that are typically added back to the income statement entries when determining the cash effect.