Depreciation decreases the accounting value of the physical structure of a real estate asset, as most assets decline in value over time, but does not affect the market value of a property. In its most basic form, the physical improvements of a property may be depreciated over a 27.5-year period in an accounting method referred to as “straight line depreciation.” However, certain improvements (e.g. appliances and flooring) may be depreciated over a period as short as five years. Depreciation is utilized by real estate operators as a tax benefit tool, which allows an investor to utilize a passive “loss” from depreciating improvements to offset other passive income. The net result is a higher after-tax yield. As the tax benefits of depreciation are dependent upon an individual’s or entity’s taxable income, investors are strongly encouraged to consult a tax advisor.
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