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What is IRR? Everything You Need to Know about Internal Rate of Return

What is IRR? IRR stands for Internal Rate of Return – It is the rate at which a commercial real estate investment’s cash flows match its initial investment. It’s important to understand IRR because it’s a key metric that commercial real estate investors use to assess whether or not to invest in a property. IRR can give you a more accurate picture of a property’s profitability than other measures. The IRR is a metric used in capital budgeting to estimate the return on potential investments.

In this blog post, we share everything you need to know about the Internal Rate of Return in order to make informed investment decisions.

what is the internal rate of return on an investment with the following cash flows?

What is IRR (Internal Rate of Return)

What does IRR stand for? Internal Rate of Return

It is a tool that helps evaluate the attractiveness of a property or investment. The higher the Internal Rate of Return, the more attractive the investment is.

What does IRR tell you? It’s the estimated compound annual rate of return earned on a property or investment. It refers to the fact that external variables such as the risk-free rate, inflation, cost of capital, or financial risk are ignored in the calculation. In other words, the discount rates make all project cash flows’ net present value equal to zero.

How to explain IRR?

The differences between IRR and ROI (and other financial metrics like NPV) are important to understand. Where ROI and NPV only take into account the cash flows of a project, IRR considers the timing of those cash flows.

IRR in Commercial Real Estate

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a wonderful tool for calculating real gains accrued from existing holdings. However, it is particularly valuable for real estate investors seeking to forecast future returns on prospective purchases. This is because, in most circumstances, estimating the financial success of a real estate project would require much guesswork.

Regarding real estate investment, IRR is used in two distinct situations: they are contemplating investing in a property, or they already have a property investment and want to know what to do with it.

How Do You Calculate the Internal Rate of Return?

Does IRR include initial investment? Firstly, the IRR is the discount rate that makes all project cash flows equal to zero in the Net Present Value (NPV). To calculate IRR, we need the following four pieces of information:

  • Initial investment: The amount of money you spend upfront on a project or investment cash flows The inflows and outflows of cash associated with the project or investment. These usually come in the form of revenue and expenses.
  • Discount rate: The interest rate discounts future cash flows to present value. The discount rate determines the present value of future cash flows.
  • Cash flows from the project: These are the inflows and outflows of cash associated with the project or investment.
  • The number of periods: The number of periods is the years over which the investment will occur.

Internal Rate of Return Equation


  • Ct=Net cash inflow during the period t
  • C0​=Total initial investment costs
  • IRR=The internal rate of return
  • t=The number of periods

The IRR formula might be hard to grasp because you must first understand the Net Present Value (NPV). You cannot apply this tool in isolation. NPV is required for calculation.

What is NPV, and what does it signify to set the NPV equal to zero?

Looking for a positive Net Present Value? NPV is the present value of all future cash inflows (benefits) minus the present value of all future cash outflows (costs). In other words, NPV assesses the present worth of the advantages minus the present worth of the expenses:

NPV = Benefit – Cost

Another way to understand the IRR formula

Another way to interpret the IRR calculation is to consider it a method for finding the interest rate that makes the present value of all positive cash flows equal to the present value of all negative cash flows. When this happens, the net present value will be zero:

NPV = Present Value – Present Cost = 0

This is what balancing NPV means.

To determine IRR, we must first establish an interest rate that makes the positive cash flows equal to the negative cash flows.

IRR versus NPV

The IRR tells us what return we can expect from an investment and helps evaluate potential investments. The NPV is zero when the IRR equals the discount rate, which results in a zero return.

Three steps to calculate IRR

It is setting the NPV equal to zero means that we are only interested in projects or investments that will exactly cover their costs. Any project or investment with a positive NPV will earn more than its cost, and any project with a negative NPV will earn less. The Internal Rate of Return formula is used to find that discount rate.

To calculate the Internal Rate of Return, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Determine the cash flows associated with the project or investment.
  2. Discount the cash flows at a range of different discount rates.
  3. Find the discount rate that makes the NPV equal to zero.

The cash flows merely reflect the project’s performance. They’re simply estimates of what the project will or may require as a capital investment in the future.

IRR is a complex formula

Owing to the formula’s complexity, IRR can’t be readily calculated analytically and must be calculated iteratively via trial and error or by using software designed to calculate IRR.

The Internal Rate of Return is a powerful tool, but it’s important to understand IRR limitations. The most significant limitation is that it only considers cash flows and ignores other factors, such as risks and opportunities. A limitation of the internal rate of return method is that it can: lead to sub-optimal decision-making if not used in conjunction with other tools and analyses.

how to calculate internal rate of return

Business Decision Criteria

When using the IRR to accept or reject investment decisions, the decision criteria are:

  • The project is accepted when the IRR is greater than the cost of capital.
  • The project is rejected if the IRR is less than the cost of capital.

These criteria ensure that the company earns at least its required return. This result should increase the company’s market value and, therefore, the wealth of shareholders.

Using IRR to Compare Two Scenarios

What does IRR tell us? IRR is more useful when it’s used to compare two investments. When IRR is utilized alone, it has less impact.

Ideal IRR rate

What is a good IRR in real estate? The IRR rule of thumb is that a lower IRR might be best if you’re looking for investment stability. A higher IRR might be best if you’re looking for growth. The IRR percentage is when an investment’s present value equals its future value. The highest IRR, the better.

Investing Based on IRR

You can use different strategies based on your business goals and risk tolerance. One such strategy is investing based on IRR. This approach seeks to maximize the return on investment by selecting projects with the highest IRR than the required rate of return.

This approach is often used in venture capital and private equity investments, where the goal is to grow the investment rapidly. While this strategy can be successful, it’s important to remember that it comes with more risk than traditional investing. As a result, it’s important to speak with a financial advisor to see if this approach is right for you. Check out or article on investing on commercial properties for more information.

Internal Rate of Return vs. Required Rate of Return

The Internal Rate of Return is not the same as the Required Rate of Return. The minimum acceptable rate of return on an investment is the Required Rate of Return, also known as the “hurdle rate.”

  • If the Internal Rate of Return is greater than the Required Rate of Return, the investment is worth pursuing.
  • If the Internal Rate of Return is less than the required rate of return, the investment is not worth pursuing.


As we have discussed before, IRR is a measure of the return on investment over the life of the investment. NPV is a measure of the present value of an investment. In other words, IRR assesses how much money you will make on investment over time, while NPV assesses how much money you will make on an investment upfront.

Internal rate of return vs NPV. Both IRR and NPV are important considerations when making decisions about investments. However the differences between IRR and NPV are IRR may be more suited for short-term investments, while NPV may be more suited for long-term investments. 


ROI, or Return on Investment, is another metric used to evaluate investment performance. Unlike IRR, ROI does not consider the time value of money. Instead, it measures the amount of money an investor will earn from their initial investment.

Both IRR and ROI are important metrics, however, IRR is generally considered a more accurate measure of profitability since it considers the time value of money. As a result, IRR is often used as the primary metric when comparing different investment opportunities.


The IRR is a helpful number when you are considering an investment decision, however, there is one crucial detail to keep in mind about IRR. It does not always equal the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) on an initial investment. CAGR is another performance measure. CAGR measures the annualized returns of an investment over time. 

CAGR does not account for the time value of money or reinvestment of profits. Instead, CAGR measures the annualized return of an investment over time:

  • IRR provides a complete picture of an investment’s potential return.
  • CAGR offers a simpler way to track an investment’s performance over time.
  • Businesses should use both IRR and CAGR to make informed investments.
internal rate of return (irr)

Programs to Calculate IRR

You can use many different software programs to calculate the Internal Rate of Return. Some of these programs are:

  • Excel
  • TI-83/84 Plus
  • IRR on a financial calculator
  • Online Internal Rate of Return calculator

Advantages of the Internal Rate of Return

The Internal Rate of Return has several advantages, including:

  • It is the perfect approach for comparing projects when calculating their rates of investment return.
  • It allows the investor to get a sneak peek into the potential returns of the project before it begins.
  • It considers the time value of money, which is a measure of the future earning potential of money.
  • This makes the process of evaluating returns more accurate and credible.
  • The concept of IRR is easy to understand, and the calculations are simple.
  • It can use for both regular and irregular cash flows.

Disadvantages and Limitations of the Internal Rate of Return

There are some disadvantages and limitations of using IRR:

  • The method does not consider important factors like project duration, future costs, or project size.
  • It compares the project’s cash flow to the project’s existing costs, excluding these factors. 
  • It doesn’t consider the risk of the investment.
  • It can give conflicting results when applied to different projects.
  • You can’t use it on every occasion. This measure is ineffective in certain situations, including those with a variable life span and unpredictable cash flow.
  • It disregards the cash flows’ future costs and reinvestment rate, failing to represent the company’s true profitability.
  • It assumes that all cash flows are reinvested at the same rate, which may not be realistic.
  • It can produce multiple solutions for a given cash flow set, making interpretation difficult.

IRR Example

Now that we know how to calculate IRR, let’s look at an example. Assume you are considering investing in a new project. The project has the following cash flows. What is the internal rate of return?

  • Year 0: -$1,000
  • Year 1: $200
  • Year 2: $300
  • Year 3: $400
  • Year 4: $500

Using the Internal Rate of Return formula, we can calculate the project’s IRR as follows:

IRR = -$1,000 + $200/(1+r)^1 + $300/(1+r)^2 + $400/(1+r)^3 + $500/(1+r)^4

After solving for r, we find that the Internal Rate of Return for this project is 20%

This example shows how you can use the Internal Rate of Return to evaluate an investment opportunity. As you can see, it is helpful when deciding whether to invest in a project. However, remember that the Internal Rate of Return is simply one tool in your investment decision-making toolbox.

internal rate of return

What is a good IRR percentage?

What is a good irr for real estate? An IRR of 10% or less may be enough for a risk-averse investor, while it may only find a balanced blend of risk and the potential return in investments with a projected IRR of 20% or more. The lower the IRR, the greater one’s return on investment. In commercial real estate, an IRR of 20% is considered good, but it’s also important to remember that it’s always compared to the cost of capital. A good IRR is greater than or equal to the project’s original investment.

When it comes to IRR, “good” is a subjective term. The phrase implies that you feel the proposed return on investment meets your expectations, implying there isn’t necessarily a specific figure that can be deemed acceptable as a general rule of thumb. It is subjective since it relies on an initial investment amount and personal preferences. IRR is represented as percentages, therefore if the IRR is greater than the discount rate, it implies that the project should not be losing money.

In Conclusion

We have looked at the IRR definition and found that IRR is a powerful tool for managing cash flow in commercial real estate and making investment decisions. However, it is important to remember that IRR is only one metric among many and should not be used in isolation. When making investment decisions, it is always wise to consider a range of factors before committing to anything.

About The Author

Jesse Shemesh

With a wealth of experience in nurturing diverse commercial real estate investment portfolios across multiple markets, I actively engage in the development and execution of deals spanning all asset classes. My expertise lies in collaborating with strategic partners, including corporate real estate professionals, fund managers, developers, and investors, to source, identify, and entitle opportunities. At Point Acquisitions, we take pride in our unique, proprietary platform that specializes in property acquisitions, generating a steady stream of organic deal flow that sets us apart from the competition. As a seasoned professional in the real estate industry, I am dedicated to creating lasting partnerships and delivering exceptional results for all stakeholders.


Please note that Point Acquisitions is not a tax expert or tax advisor. The information on our blogs and pages is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or accounting advice. Any information provided does not constitute professional advice or create an attorney-client or any other professional relationship. We recommend that you consult with your tax advisor or seek professional advice before making any decisions based on the information provided on our blogs and pages. Point Acquisitions is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided on our blogs and pages.

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