Equity Multiple vs IRR

Equity multiple and IRR (internal rate of return) are two of the many indicators used by real estate investors to assess future returns. Even if the equity multiple is high, investors may instantly rule out a property with a low IRR. The idea for this is that if the IRR isn’t high enough, the trade may not be worthwhile. However, this isn’t always the case. In this post, we’ll look at the differences between equity multiples and internal rate of return, as well as why a high IRR isn’t always a good thing.

What does it mean to have an equity multiple?

An equity multiple compares all of an investment’s cash payouts – both recurring cash flows and the return on the initial investment – to the entire equity invested. The equity multiple is a ratio of investment returns to the amount of money invested in a project.

An investment’s equity multiple is comparable to a property’s cash-on-cash return. The difference is that, whereas cash-on-cash returns are normally presented as a percentage on an annual basis, equity multiples are provided as a ratio throughout the course of an investment’s multi-year holding term.

What is the difference between an equity multiple and an internal rate of return (IRR)? Because the internal rate of return (IRR) and the equity multiple are generally reported side by side to investors, it’s simple to mix them up. Because one computation gives information that the other does not, the equity multiple and IRR are displayed together. The IRR calculation, for example, considers the temporal value of money (TVM), whereas the equity multiple calculation does not. However, the equity multiple reports an investment’s total cash return, but the internal rate of return does not. Another way to think about the distinction between IRR and equity multiple is that IRR shows the percentage rate of return on each dollar invested for each investment period. Over the life of the investment, the equity multiple illustrates how much cash an investor will receive for the equity invested.

Example of Equity Multiple vs. Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

 A property with a high IRR may return more money to investors more quickly, but it does not necessarily mean that it will yield more money altogether. Here are two possible scenarios, each with a $2 million total equity investment and a 5-year hold period:




Year 0



Year 1



Year 2



Year 3



Year 4



Year 5




Equity Multiple






A larger IRR may or may not indicate a better investment, depending on the investor’s strategy. Property #1, for example, returns more cash to an investor faster, but it also returns less cash over the course of a 5-year investment horizon.

Property #2 may be the superior option if you’re looking for a long-term buy-and-hold plan. However, if the total cash returns of Property #2 are unknown, an investor might prefer Property #1’s larger first-year return. When deciding between a higher IRR and a larger stock multiple, investors should keep in mind that an IRR is easy to manipulate due to its sensitivity to cash flow timing.

To increase the IRR, the owner of Property #1, for example, may postpone critical capital repairs in exchange for a reduced sales price. Property #2’s owners, on the other hand, are willing to invest in capital improvements in exchange for a lower IRR but a higher sales price, a greater equity multiple, and a better cash return to investors.

While both metrics are useful to investors, the equity multiple and IRR look at two separate aspects of a real estate investment:

  • IRR may be more essential for investors who want to calculate return over a short period of time.
  • For investors seeking a higher return on their initial investment over a longer holding period, the equity multiple may be the best statistic.

The amount of cash received by an investor in exchange for equity invested is measured by the equity multiple. Both IRR and equity multiple are crucial financial measures to evaluate, but if investors place too much emphasis on IRR, they may ignore opportunities that provide higher equity returns.

  • Over the course of a holding term, the equity multiple measures all cash returned to the investor.
  • An equity multiple is similar to an investment’s overall cash-on-cash return.
  • The annualized rate of return (IRR) is calculated for each investment period.
  • The equity multiple is the ratio of total cash received to total equity invested over the investment’s lifetime.
  • The IRR can be modified by adjusting the time of the cash flows.
  • For investors looking for a higher return over a longer time horizon, an equity multiple may be preferable.

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MarketSpace Capital, LLC is a Houston, Texas-based private equity real estate development firm focused on ground up developments and value-add investments throughout the United States.

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Disclaimer: *For sold properties, actual sales price is reported. For active investments, the Estimated Current Value is based on the Managing Member’s estimate of current value. Recent acquisitions are generally valued at the acquisition price. Values may be internally prepared. This web-page/website is for informational purposes only and is qualified in its entirety by reference to the Confidential Private Placement Memorandum (as modified or supplemented from time to time, the “Memorandum”) of any offering of MarketSpace Capital.