What is a Net Lease in Real Estate?

Read our Advertiser Disclosure.
Contributor, Benzinga
August 6, 2023

Imagine having a real estate rental property where the tenants pay property taxes, insurance and maintenance. That’s what a net lease property offers investors. You can choose to have single, double or triple net leases to shift the maintenance and management burden to tenants. Tenants like control over their spaces, long-term commitment and lower rent. As a real estate investor, net leases can allow you to pass off much of the property management to tenants while securing long-term returns on assets. Read on to understand net lease real estate opportunities. 

Understanding a Net Lease in Real Estate

The net lease real estate definition is that tenants pay for some expenses that would normally be covered by property owners. In exchange for this, tenants usually pay a lower base rent. Net leases usually also have longer terms than other lease agreements, often for 10 to 15 years or more, and simplify rental management. There are three common types of net lease real estate:

  • With a single-net lease, the tenant pays property taxes.
  • In a double-net lease, the tenant pays property taxes and insurance premiums.
  • In a triple-net lease, the tenant pays property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs.

The Benefits of a Net Lease Real Estate

The benefits of a net lease for investors are steady cash flow and reduced out-of-pocket costs. Here are five benefits you can expect:

1. Steady Cash Flow

Net leases are generally applied to long-term leases. With long-term leases often spanning 10 to 20 years, investors can enjoy a predictable and steady cash flow without worrying about vacancies.

2. Limited Landlord Responsibilities

Unlike traditional property management, where landlords handle maintenance and expenses, net lease investors have minimal management duties as tenants bear most property-related costs. This reduces your monthly involvement, time commitment and costs.

3. Hedge Against Inflation

Net lease contracts typically include rent escalation clauses, allowing landlords to protect their investments against inflation and increase rent appropriately over time. 

4. Appreciation Potential

Depending on the location and property type, net lease real estate can appreciate over time, offering potential capital gains. If you don’t sell the property, you can pass on that asset value to heirs or sell it later for significant gains. 

5. Tax Benefits

Investors may benefit from certain tax advantages, such as depreciation deductions and 1031 exchanges. With the 1031 exchange, you can purchase a comparable or “like-kind” property with income from the sale of a property and defer capital gains taxes. This is a strategy many investors use to build a large real estate investment portfolio over time. 

Types of Net Lease Real Estate

Here’s a deeper look at the types of net lease opportunities available to investors:

1. Single-Net Lease (N Lease)

In a single-net lease, the tenant is responsible for paying the property taxes on top of the base rent. The landlord typically covers other property expenses like insurance, utilities and maintenance.

2. Double-Net Lease (NN Lease)

In a double-net lease, the tenant is responsible for property taxes, insurance and base rent. The landlord remains responsible for structural repairs, maintenance and utilities.

3. Triple-Net Lease (NNN Lease)

Triple-net lease real estate is the most common type of net lease real estate. In this arrangement, tenants are responsible for property taxes, insurance and all maintenance costs, leaving the landlord with minimal responsibilities beyond utility payments.

4. Absolute Net Lease

In an absolute net lease, the tenant assumes complete responsibility for all property-related expenses, including structural repairs. This type offers the least amount of landlord involvement and the greatest long-term stability.

Risks and Considerations in Net Lease Real Estate

While a net lease may seem like the perfect hands-off solution for rental real estate, it’s important to understand the risks associated with this option, including:

1. Creditworthiness of Tenants

The tenant’s financial strength is crucial, as their ability to meet lease obligations directly impacts the investor’s income. If tenants are responsible for taxes and fail to pay them, the repercussions will fall on the landlord. Likewise, tenants choosing to defer necessary maintenance can lead to long-term structural property damage. 

2. Lease Terms and Duration

Analyzing lease terms, renewal options and expiration dates is essential to assess the long-term profitability of the investment. Ensure that your investment can stay ahead of inflation and that you have appropriate measures in place to adjust rental prices to market norms.

3. Market Conditions

Like any real estate investment, net lease properties are influenced by market conditions, and fluctuations can affect rental income and property value. When rental demand decreases, or prices decline, you could face tenants breaking a lease unexpectedly, vacancies or loss of profits.

4. Location and Property Type

The location and type of property play a significant role in determining the success of the investment. Conduct thorough research on the area’s demographics and economic trends to understand the potential. As a tenant’s creditworthiness is essential to long-term rental viability, consider mid-range and high-end properties for net lease real estate agreements. 

5. Exit Strategy

With any real estate investment, investors should have a clear exit strategy in place, such as selling the property or executing a 1031 exchange, in case they decide to divest. Consider your exit plan and what market conditions would trigger implementation. 

6. Lease Negotiation

Skillful negotiation is vital to secure favorable lease terms and protect the investor’s interests. Consider hiring a property manager or real estate agent to advocate on your behalf and ensure you reach sustainable long-term investment terms. 

Gross Lease vs. Net Lease Real Estate

With a gross lease, the tenant pays a flat annual fee. This leaves all property management and related expenses to the property owner. A net lease benefits the investor from a long-term rental contract and fewer management costs. Net lease real estate can offer real estate investors positive cash flow and long-term stable returns. Ready to get started? Learn how to buy your first rental property here

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What are the different types of net leases?

A

There are single-, double- and triple-net leases that add expenses to the tenant’s list of responsibilities. With single-net leases, tenants pay property taxes; double-net leases add insurance; and triple-net leases require tenants also to cover maintenance.

Q

What are the advantages of investing in net-lease real estate?

A

Net-lease real estate offers investors low maintenance, low vacancies and often long-term rental contracts for stable long-term cash flow and returns.

Q

What are the different types of net leases?

A

Three types of net leases are single-net lease (N), double-net lease (NN) and triple-net lease (NNN).

About Alison Plaut

Alison Kimberly is a freelance content writer with a Sustainable MBA, uniquely qualified to help individuals and businesses achieve the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and financial profitability. She has been writing for various non-profit organizations for 15+ years. When not writing, you will find her promoting education and meditation in the developing world, or hiking and enjoying nature.