What Is A Preferred Return In Real Estate? [Guide 2023]

Understanding Preferred Return in Real Estate Investments

In the world of real estate investments, it’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of various financial terms and concepts. One such term that often comes up in discussions about real estate investments is the “preferred return.” In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into what a preferred return in real estate is and how it impacts real estate investors. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of this crucial concept, enabling you to make more informed investment decisions.

What Is a Preferred Return?

A preferred return, also known as a preferred yield or a preferred dividend, is a contractual agreement between real estate investors and sponsors or managers of a project. It represents a specific rate of return that investors receive before any profits are distributed to other stakeholders. Essentially, it ensures that investors have a priority claim on profits generated by a real estate investment.

How Does a Preferred Return Work?

When investors contribute capital to a real estate project, they do so with the expectation of earning a return on their investment. A preferred return serves as a mechanism to provide investors with this return, regardless of the performance of the investment. It guarantees them a fixed percentage of their initial investment, typically on an annual basis, before any other distributions are made.

Key Features of Preferred Return

To gain a deeper understanding of the preferred return concept, let’s explore its key features:

1. Priority Distribution

The primary feature of a preferred return is that it grants investors priority distribution rights. In other words, when profits are generated from a real estate investment, the preferred return ensures that investors receive their designated percentage of the profits first before any other stakeholders receive their share.

2. Fixed Percentage

The preferred return is usually expressed as a fixed percentage, typically ranging from 6% to 12%. This percentage represents the minimum return that investors will receive on their investments. It is important to note that while the preferred return offers a minimum guarantee, it does not limit the overall return potential of the investment.

3. Accrual and Payment

Preferred returns can accrue on a cumulative or non-cumulative basis. In cumulative preferred returns, any unpaid amounts accumulate and must be paid in subsequent periods before any other distributions can be made. On the other hand, non-cumulative preferred returns do not accumulate, and if not paid in a particular period, they are forgone.

4. Hurdle Rate

In some cases, the preferred return may be subject to a hurdle rate. A hurdle rate is a minimum rate of return that a real estate investment must achieve before the preferred return kicks in. If the investment fails to meet the hurdle rate, investors may not receive their preferred return until the investment reaches or surpasses the specified threshold.

Advantages of Preferred Return for Investors

Now that we have a solid understanding of what a preferred return entails, let’s explore the advantages it offers to real estate investors:

1. Consistent Income Stream

A preferred return provides investors with a predictable and steady income stream. By receiving a fixed percentage return on their investment, investors can plan and budget accordingly, knowing that they will receive a minimum return on an annual basis.

2. Risk Mitigation

Since the preferred return is paid to investors before any profits are distributed to other stakeholders, it offers a layer of protection against investment risks. Even if a real estate project underperforms, investors are still entitled to their preferred return, reducing the impact of potential losses.

3. Attractiveness to Investors

The inclusion of a preferred return structure can make a real estate investment more appealing to potential investors. It demonstrates a commitment to investor satisfaction and aligns the interests of sponsors and investors, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.


In conclusion, a preferred return is a crucial concept in real estate investments. It ensures that investors receive a fixed percentage return on their investment before any profits are distributed to other stakeholders. By offering consistent income, risk mitigation, and increased investor attractiveness, the preferred return serves as a valuable tool for both investors and sponsors alike.

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