Fund Financial Basics and Accounting Practices

Oct 10, 2023

Fund Financial Basics and Accounting Practices

Fund Financial Basics and Accounting Practices

Real estate investing can be significantly enhanced by acquiring a thorough understanding of financial reports and key financial concepts. By understanding and analyzing these crucial pieces of information, fund managers can gain valuable insights into their existing investments and develop the necessary skills to assess potential deals in the future. These reports and concepts serve as a comprehensive guide to a portfolio's financial health, such as its income, expenses, and profitability. By mastering financial statement analysis and understanding its key terms, fund managers can make well-informed decisions about both existing and future deals.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that presents a comprehensive overview of a fund's financial position at the end of a specified accounting period. It displays the fund's cash balances and the book value of all assets, including cash on hand, receivables to be collected, and fixed assets. These are balanced against the fund’s debt, known as liabilities, and its equity. Equity is the net value attributable to the owners of the entity after reducing for liabilities. The simple accounting equation of the balance sheet is Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

One primary benefit of a balance sheet is that it offers insight into the fund's liquidity or its ability to meet its cash requirements. This information is vital for stakeholders who need to evaluate the project's financial health and stability. Another advantage of a balance sheet is that it provides a view of the fund's leverage, which is the extent to which it relies on borrowed funds to finance its activities. Understanding leverage is critical, as excessive borrowing can lead to financial distress and potentially jeopardize the fund's success.

There are some limitations to the balance sheet. Firstly, it only presents a snapshot of the business at a specific moment in time, which may not fully capture prior growth or losses. Additionally, a balance sheet may have limited predictive capacity in terms of forecasting the future value of the assets listed. As a result, while the balance sheet is an invaluable tool for understanding a fund's financial standing, it should be used in conjunction with other financial statements and indicators to form a complete picture of the fund's overall performance and prospects.

Income Statement

The income statement (also known as profit and loss) provides a comprehensive overview of the various sources of income, as well as the different expenditures incurred by the project. The income statement typically views the income and expenditures over a period of time. By comparing the current income statement to those of previous periods, valuable insights can be gained as to the emerging trends within the portfolio. For instance, examining the income statement can help determine whether a fund's revenues are on the rise, indicating growth, or on the decline, indicating regression or issues that may need to be addressed. Additionally, it allows for the evaluation of expense management, ensuring that costs are being effectively monitored and controlled to maintain a healthy financial state. Another aspect that can be assessed through the income statement is the project's ability to generate sufficient cash flow to cover its financial obligations, such as loan interest payments.

It is important to note that each fund will have its own unique business plan, which should be considered when analyzing the profit and loss statement. By evaluating the income statement, managers can identify trends, monitor expenses, assess cash flow, and ensure alignment with individual project business plans.

Capital Account Statement

A capital account statement outlines the amount of capital contributed to a project, as well as the current market value of that contribution if the project is open-ended. For closed-ended projects or syndications, the capital account statement may display the initial contribution along with the cumulative profits or losses, minus any distributions throughout the fund's lifespan.

In the context of an open-ended investment, the capital account statement serves as a valuable tool for demonstrating the accumulated growth (or decline) in the value of your investment over time. However, for closed-ended projects, the capital account statement may not be as insightful, since the final value of the portfolio could significantly differ from the current accumulation of profits or losses.

By providing a comprehensive overview of an investor's capital contributions and the performance of their investments, capital account statements play a role in helping fund managers make informed decisions regarding their financial commitments.

Net Asset Value

Net Asset Value (NAV) refers to the calculation of a fund's total assets minus its liabilities, which serves as the foundation for estimating the fund's fair value. One of the most complex aspects of managing an open-ended fund is accurately determining the current value of illiquid assets – those that cannot be easily bought or sold in the market without affecting their price.

To establish the most accurate estimate of values within a fund, it is crucial to employ a consistent methodology for valuing the portfolio's assets, while also selectively applying managerial judgment when necessary. Accurate NAV calculations are essential for fund managers to ensure that both existing and new investors are treated equitably. This, in turn, contributes to a transparent and well-functioning financial market, fostering trust among stakeholders.

Preferred Return

A preferred return (commonly referred to as “pref”) is a financial term that refers to the prioritized distribution of profits to equity members or the manager in an investment venture. This concept is often employed as a way of assuring investors that the manager must achieve robust returns before participating in any profit-sharing arrangements. However, a common misconception surrounding preferred returns is the notion that they guarantee a fixed return on investment. This is not the case, as preferred returns are only paid out if there is cash available to do so. Essentially, if profit is available to distribute in an investment venture, the preferred return serves as the first financial milestone a manager needs to reach before they can participate in additional profit splits.

Hurdle Rate

A hurdle rate is a predetermined minimum level of performance that a manager must achieve before they are allowed to participate in the profit splits from a project. This ensures that the manager is held accountable for delivering satisfactory results, and it provides a benchmark for evaluating the success of the investment. Typically, the first hurdle is the preferred return. In some cases, there may be additional hurdles in place, each with their own specific return targets. These subsequent hurdles serve to allocate an increased percentage of profits to the manager once the fund surpasses certain performance milestones.

For instance, consider a deal with an 8% preferred return as the first hurdle. Once this threshold is met, the profit split between investors and the manager might be set at 80%/20%. This means that 80% of any profits exceeding the 8% preferred return will be distributed to investors, while the remaining 20% is allocated to the manager. If there are further hurdles in place, the manager's share of profits may increase as the investment continues to perform above and beyond the established targets.


Promote is a term frequently used in the investment industry to describe the manager's share of profits, which is allocated once specific performance criteria have been met. This concept is based on the idea that the manager's interest is "promoted" ahead of the common investors when certain thresholds are surpassed, incentivizing the manager to work towards achieving optimal results for the investment.

In the example previously provided, the manager's promote kicks in once an 8% preferred return has been attained. At this point, the manager becomes entitled to 20% of the profits above the preferred return, while the remaining 80% is distributed among the investors. Several synonyms can be used interchangeably with the term "promote," including carried interest, GP (General Partner) interest, profit sharing, and manager's interest.


Waterfall is a term used to describe the process of distributing funds generated by an investment. This distribution method can be found in the operating agreement, which outlines the specific details regarding the allocation of money. The agreement stipulates which expenses are permissible, the timeline for disbursing funds to investors, and the manner in which profits will be shared among the stakeholders. The waterfall structure also typically includes a description of the preferred return, the hurdle rate, and the priority order for making payments. The waterfall distribution method is a significant aspect of project financing, as it establishes a clear framework for allocating funds, protecting investments, and ensuring a fair distribution of profits among investors and sponsors.


It is important to understand the nuances of balance sheets, income statements, capital account statements, net asset values, preferred returns, hurdle rates, promotes and waterfalls when managing investments. Private equity is not without risk, but a well thought out strategy aided by understanding basic financial concepts can help a fund manager understand their investments and make decisions. As always, it is essential to do thorough due diligence and speak to your financial, tax, and legal professionals prior to making any investment or starting a fund.

Nothing in this blog is or should be construed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation of offers of investments. Both Real Estate Investments and Securities offerings are speculative and involve substantial risks. Risks include but are not limited to illiquidity, lack of diversification, complete loss of capital, default risk, and capital call risk. Investments may not achieve their objectives. Investors who cannot afford to lose their entire investment should not invest in such offerings. Consult with your legal and investment professionals prior to making any investment decisions.