IRR vs. AAR: A Guide for Multifamily Investors

As a multifamily real estate investor, it’s essential to comprehend various financial metrics that can help you make informed decisions about your investments. Two key metrics, Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Average Annual Return (AAR), play crucial roles in evaluating the profitability and performance of investment opportunities. In this article, we will explore the key differences between IRR and AAR and understand their applications in multifamily real estate.

Understanding IRR (Internal Rate of Return)

What is IRR?

IRR is a financial metric used to estimate the profitability of an investment over time. It represents the discount rate at which the net present value (NPV) of all future cash flows from the investment becomes zero. In other words, it is the rate at which an investment breaks even.

How is IRR calculated?

To calculate IRR, one needs to consider the initial investment amount and the projected cash flows generated by the investment over its holding period. By iterating through different discount rates, the one that results in an NPV of zero is determined as the IRR.

Advantages of IRR

– IRR accounts for the time value of money, providing a more accurate picture of an investment’s potential returns.

– It allows investors to compare different investment opportunities by evaluating their internal rates of return.

Limitations of IRR

– IRR assumes that all future cash flows can be reinvested at the same rate, which may not be feasible in the real world.

– When evaluating investments with multiple internal rates of return, IRR can lead to ambiguous results.

Understanding AAR (Average Annual Return)

What is AAR?

AAR, also known as the arithmetic mean return, is a straightforward method to calculate the average annual return of an investment over a specified period.

How is AAR calculated?

To calculate AAR, you divide the total return over the holding period by the number of years and express it as a percentage.

Advantages of AAR

– AAR is easy to calculate and understand, making it a popular metric for quick evaluations.

– It provides a simple representation of an investment’s average performance over time.

Limitations of AAR

– AAR does not account for the impact of compounding, leading to a less accurate representation of long-term returns.

– It fails to consider the volatility of returns, which is essential when assessing risk.

Comparative Table: IRR vs. AAR

Here’s a comparative table highlighting the key differences between IRR and AAR:

Metric IRR (Internal Rate of Return) AAR (Average Annual Return)
Calculation Method NPV of cash flows set to zero Total return divided by the number of years
Time Value of Money Accounts for the time value of money Does not account for the time value of money
Compounding Effect Considers the impact of compounding Ignores the impact of compounding
Representativeness Provides an accurate representation of returns Provides a simple representation of returns
Applicability Preferred for long-term and complex investments Suitable for quick evaluations and comparisons

Case in Point

Let’s consider a real-life example to better understand the difference between IRR and AAR. Suppose you invest $100,000 in a multifamily property, and after 5 years, you receive the following cash flows:

| Year  | Cash Flow |

| Year 1| $10,000   |

| Year 2| $12,000   |

| Year 3| $15,000   |

| Year 4| $18,000   |

| Year 5| $22,000   |

To calculate IRR, we find that the IRR for this investment is approximately 15%.

To calculate AAR, the average annual return over the 5-year holding period is ($10,000 + $12,000 + $15,000 + $18,000 + $22,000) / 5 = $15,400.


Both IRR and AAR are valuable tools in a multifamily investor’s arsenal. IRR takes into account the time value of money and compounding effects, making it suitable for long-term and complex investments. On the other hand, AAR provides a quick and simple representation of an investment’s average performance. As a prudent investor, understanding the distinctions between these metrics will empower you to make well-informed decisions that align with your investment goals.


  1. **Which metric is better, IRR, or AAR?**

The choice between IRR and AAR depends on your investment objectives. For long-term investments and projects with varying cash flows, IRR is more appropriate. For quick evaluations and simple representations of performance, AAR can be useful.

  1. **Can IRR be negative?**

Yes, IRR can be negative, which indicates that the investment is not profitable and does not meet the desired return threshold.

  1. **Does AAR consider the risk associated with an investment?**

No, AAR does not consider the risk associated with an investment. It only provides an average annual return without factoring in volatility.

  1. **Is a higher IRR always better?**

Not necessarily. While a higher IRR is generally preferred, it should be assessed alongside other factors such as risk, investment horizon, and market conditions.

  1. **What is the major drawback of relying solely on AAR for investment decisions?**

AAR fails to consider the impact of compounding, which can lead to inaccurate representations of long-term investment performance.


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About Jake & Gino

Jake & Gino are multifamily investors, operators, and mentors who have created a vertically integrated real estate company. They control over $250M in assets under management. They have created the Jake & Gino Premier Multifamily Community to teach others a simple three-step framework for investing in multifamily real estate.

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