Deciphering Debt Risk in Private Real Estate Investments: The Role of WACC

Eric Wilson


February 13, 2023

5 min read

Eric Wilson


February 13, 2023

5 min read

Risk management is an integral part of any investment decision, and real estate is no exception. Especially when it comes to private real estate, understanding debt risk becomes crucial. One tool that can help us evaluate this risk is the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC). Let's explore what WACC is and how it can be applied to private real estate investments.

What is Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)?

WACC is a financial metric that calculates the average rate of return a company is expected to provide to all its security holders, including debt holders and equity investors. Essentially, it reflects the cost of capital from all funding sources. The formula for WACC is:

WACC = (E/V) * Re + (D/V) * Rd * (1 - Tc)


E = Market value of equity

V = Market value of equity + market value of debt

Re = Cost of equity

D = Market value of debt

Rd = Cost of debt

Tc = Corporate tax rate

WACC and Debt Risk in Private Real Estate Investments

Understanding the Risk

Debt can enhance returns in real estate investing, but it comes with its own set of risks. Higher levels of debt can lead to higher financial risk due to the obligation to make interest payments and repay the principal amount. If these obligations are not met, it can lead to financial distress and potentially bankruptcy.

The Role of WACC

WACC can be an effective tool to understand this risk. A lower WACC indicates a lower cost of capital and, therefore, a less risky investment, all else being equal. It signifies that the firm or investment project is efficiently using its mix of debt and equity financing.

If a private real estate investment project's expected rate of return is higher than the WACC, it indicates that the project is expected to create value and that the returns compensate for the risk level. Conversely, if the project's expected return is lower than the WACC, it implies the project is not generating sufficient returns for the level of risk, which may deter investors.

Key Considerations

While WACC is a useful tool, it's essential to consider the following:

  • WACC is a firm-level metric: It's used to evaluate the risk and return characteristics of an entire company rather than individual projects. However, the concept can be applied to specific investment projects by considering the project's unique debt and equity mix.
  • Estimations are involved: Calculating WACC involves estimating the cost of equity and the cost of debt, which can be subject to biases and inaccuracies.
  • Market conditions: WACC doesn't factor in changes in market conditions. In the dynamic world of real estate, this can be a significant limitation.


While understanding WACC and its implications on debt risk is crucial for private real estate investors, it is one piece of the puzzle. A comprehensive analysis should include a review of other risk factors such as market conditions, property location, asset quality, and management expertise. It's also advisable to seek advice from real estate professionals to better understand the intricacies of private real estate investing and the associated risks.