Breakeven Occupancy Rate: What It Is and Why It Matters

Eric Wilson


July 10, 2023

3 min read

Eric Wilson


July 10, 2023

5 min read

Breakeven Occupancy Rate (BER), a less widely discussed but crucial measure in multifamily real estate investing, provides a window into the financial health and stability of a property. It can be a vital signpost guiding investment decisions and risk assessment.

What is Breakeven Occupancy Rate?

Simply put, the breakeven occupancy rate is the minimum percentage of a property that needs to be occupied by paying tenants for the property to cover its operating expenses and debt service (mortgage payments). It's expressed as a percentage of the total available rental units or the total potential rental income.

How is BER Calculated?

There are two main ways to calculate the breakeven occupancy rate:

  1. Based on Units: The formula is (Operating Expenses + Debt Service) / Potential Gross Income per Unit.
  2. Based on Income: The formula is (Operating Expenses + Debt Service) / Potential Gross Income.

It's essential to remember that these calculations should include all costs associated with running the property, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and management fees.

Why is Breakeven Occupancy Rate Important?

Understanding the breakeven occupancy rate can provide investors with several key insights:

  • Risk Assessment: A lower breakeven occupancy rate signifies a lower risk, as the property can cover its costs with fewer tenants. This metric becomes especially crucial during economic downturns when vacancy rates can increase.
  • Financial Health: Tracking the BER against the property's actual occupancy rate can provide an ongoing snapshot of the property's financial health. If the actual occupancy rate dips below the BER, the property could be in financial trouble.
  • Investment Decisions: Comparing the BER of potential investment properties can help investors determine which properties are more financially stable and potentially a safer investment.
  • Pricing Strategy: For property managers, understanding the BER can help them make informed decisions about rental rates. If the property has a high BER, it may be necessary to adjust rental prices to attract more tenants.


While other metrics often take the spotlight, the breakeven occupancy rate offers unique insights into a property's financial stability and one that we monitor very closely on all our assets. This vital metric can guide investors towards safer investments, provide an early warning sign of financial distress, and inform rental pricing strategies.