The total unlevered (before debt) pre-tax cash flow of a real estate project divided by the total capital invested, generally expressed as a percentage on an annual basis. To clarify, the numerator is typically total unlevered pre-tax cash flow in a given year, while the denominator contains the total amount of capital invested assuming there is no debt. While the Free and Clear Return does not account for taxes and does not take into account the time value of money, it is a useful screening tool used by investors when evaluating potential investments. The Free and Clear Return is the unlevered equivalent of the Cash-on-Cash Return, and thus sometimes referred to as the Unlevered Cash-on-Cash Return.
The Free and Clear Return of an investment is especially important to core investment strategy investors more interested in stable cash flow than in asset appreciation. The Free and Clear Return is typically used alongside other return metrics such as the Equity Multiple and Internal Rate of Return to appropriately assess an investment.
Click here to get this CRE Glossary in an eBook (PDF) format.