Comparing IRR Vs. ROI

by | Apr 4, 2024 | blog

Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Return on Investment (ROI) are financial metrics that serve to evaluate the prospective yield of investments. They provide stakeholders with a forecast of potential returns and the soundness of investment opportunities.
Due to their similar roles in assessing financial performance, it is not uncommon for new investors to find it challenging to distinguish between the two. So, let’s place them side by side and see their similarities and differences and how they can be effectively applied.

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Investing in a mortgage note fund is an investment strategy for investors looking for a hands-off approach to investing. For more information about how to build wealth from a mortgage note fund, speak with a team member today. Now, let’s look at IRR vs. ROI.

What is IRR?

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a metric that calculates the annual growth rate of an investment, thus aligning the net present value of all projected cash flows with the original investment outlay. To put it simply, IRR can be equated to the interest rate received from a bank—representing what the bank pays over time for the use of deposited funds, similar to how IRR reflects the yield on an investment over its duration.

When deliberating on a project or investment, the IRR provides an estimate of the annual percentage yield one might anticipate throughout the investment. A higher IRR suggests a more attractive investment, as it implies a greater return relative to the initial investment.

Incorporating the time value of money, the IRR assists investors in appraising the profitability of ventures and in comparing these to alternative investments or a benchmark return rate. It is frequently employed in conjunction with additional financial indicators such as Net Present Value (NPV), Payback Period, and ROI, to furnish a thorough perspective on the prospective earnings and practicality of an investment.

How to Calculate IRR: Practical Example

Suppose an investor is considering purchasing a commercial property. The initial purchase price of the property is $1,000,000. The investor expects the following cash flows from rental income and eventual sale of the property:

  • End of Year 1: $100,000
  • End of Year 2: $150,000
  • End of Year 3: $150,000
  • End of Year 4: $150,000
  • End of Year 5: $1,200,000 (this includes the sale of the property)

To calculate the IRR, one would find the discount rate that makes the net present value (NPV) of these cash flows equal to zero. The IRR formula is as follows:

NPV = sum [C(t)]*[(1 + IRR)^t] – Initial Investment = 0


C(t) = Cash flow at time (t)

IRR = Internal rate of return

(t) = Time period

The IRR cannot be solved analytically and is typically calculated through numerical methods such as the Newton-Raphson method or using financial calculators or spreadsheet programs that have built-in functions to compute IRR.

In this example, one would input the cash flows into a financial calculator or a spreadsheet as follows:

Initial Outlay (Year 0): -$1,000,000

  • Year 1 Cash Flow: $100,000
  • Year 2 Cash Flow: $150,000
  • Year 3 Cash Flow: $150,000
  • Year 4 Cash Flow: $150,000
  • Year 5 Cash Flow: $1,200,000

Using the IRR function in a spreadsheet, it would look something like this in Microsoft Excel:


Where A1:A6 contains the cash flows from Year 0 to Year 5.

Suppose the IRR calculated is approximately 12%. This would mean that the investment’s projected cash flows have a 12% annual growth rate, which can be interpreted as the expected annual return on the investment over the 5 years.

An investor could then compare this 12% to the required rate of return to decide whether to proceed with the investment. If the investor’s required rate of return is 10%, then this investment would be considered attractive since its IRR exceeds the required rate of return.

Advantages of Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

  1. Recognition of the Time Value of Money: The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) duly acknowledges the time value of money, which is a pivotal advantage. By integrating the timing of cash flows, the IRR offers a nuanced perspective on the potential yield of investment across its tenure.
  2. Comparability of Investments: IRR equips investors with the means to assess the prospective profitability of diverse investments on an equitable basis. Independent of variances in magnitude, duration, or cash flow configurations, IRR permits a straightforward comparison.
  3. Utility in Project Assessment: The IRR metric finds significant utility in appraising long-duration projects. When a project’s IRR surpasses the required rate of return stipulated by an entity, the project is typically deemed feasible, thus facilitating more streamlined decision-making processes.
  4. Scale Neutrality: IRR remains a steadfast and unbiased indicator, whether it is applied to evaluate modest initiatives or extensive infrastructural undertakings. The metric is unaffected by the project’s scale.
  5. Capital Budgeting: Serving as a foundational aspect of capital budgeting, IRR assists corporations in identifying projects or investments with the most auspicious return prospects, enhancing the efficiency of capital distribution.
  6. Insights into Break-even Analysis: IRR delineates the break-even rate of return, representing the interest rate at which the net present value of an investment is zero. This analysis is crucial for gauging both risk and expected returns.

Challenges Associated with Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

  1. Occurrence of Multiple IRRs: Projects characterized by unconventional cash flow sequences, which alternate direction more than once, may result in multiple IRRs. This scenario poses a challenge in pinpointing the accurate IRR, thereby introducing a degree of uncertainty into the decision-making ambit.
  2. Reinvestment Rate Hypothesis: The IRR presupposes the reinvestment of interim cash flows at a rate equivalent to the IRR, an assumption that may not always align with real-world circumstances. This could lead to an overestimation of a project’s profitability due to the potential variance in actual reinvestment rates.
  3. Evaluation Across Differing Project Lifespans: IRR may not always convey the complete picture when comparing projects with dissimilar lifespans. A project with a shorter duration and higher IRR may not be more profitable in absolute terms compared to a longer project with a lower IRR. For such instances, alternative measures such as the Modified Internal Rate of Return (MIRR) or Net Present Value (NPV) may provide enhanced clarity.

What is ROI?

The Return on Investment (ROI) is a metric that calculates the ratio of the net profit from the investment to the initial amount invested. ROI provides a straightforward percentage that indicates how much return the investment has generated relative to its cost.

Essentially, ROI allows an investor to quickly gauge the success of an investment relative to its original value, offering a snapshot of the investment’s performance and aiding in the comparison with other investment opportunities.

How to Calculate ROI: Practical Example

Imagine you decide to invest in a rental property. You purchase the property for $200,000. After owning it for a year, you’ve earned $24,000 in rental income and have incurred expenses of $4,000.

To calculate the ROI:

1. First, determine your net profit.

Net Profit = Rental Income – Expenses – Original Investment

Net Profit = $24,000 – $4,000 – $200,000 = -$180,000

2. Next, apply the ROI formula:

ROI = (Net Profit / Initial Investment Amount) x 100%

ROI = (-$180,000 / $200,000) x 100% = -90%

In this case, the ROI is -90%. The negative ROI indicates a loss on the investment during the first year. An investor would use this metric to determine the property’s performance and compare it with other potential investments or market benchmarks.

Advantages of ROI

  1. Simplicity: ROI offers a straightforward calculation that’s easy to understand, making it accessible for both seasoned investors and novices. It’s simple formula provides a direct percentage result, allowing for quick insights.
  2. Versatility: One of the most notable strengths of ROI is its versatility. It can be applied across a broad range of investments – from stocks and real estate to marketing campaigns and business projects – enabling investors to compare diverse opportunities using a common metric.
  3. Decision-Making: ROI serves as a fundamental tool in the decision-making process. By quickly assessing the profitability of an investment relative to its cost, investors can make informed choices about where to allocate their funds.
  4. Performance Tracking: ROI isn’t just for assessing potential investments; it’s also invaluable for tracking the performance of existing ones. Over time, regularly calculating the ROI can help investors monitor and adjust their portfolios or strategies based on actual returns.
  5. Benchmarking: ROI aids in benchmarking or comparing an investment’s performance against market standards, industry averages, or competing investments. This contextual understanding provides investors with a clearer picture of how their investments are faring in the broader market landscape.

Limitations of ROI

  1. Consideration of Duration: While ROI delivers a clear snapshot of returns, it remains silent on the timeline of such gains. Identical ROI percentages can stem from vastly differing investment periods — one materializing in mere months, the other over years. Such temporal distinctions are pivotal, yet they elude ROI’s grasp, necessitating a more nuanced temporal analysis for a fuller investment appraisal.
  2. Exclusion of Time Value of Money: ROI’s calculus does not engage with the time value of money, a fundamental financial principle that distinguishes between present and future cash flows. This absence can lead to a flat representation of an investment’s performance, potentially misrepresenting long-term profitability.
  3. The Pitfalls of Simplicity: The straightforward nature of ROI, while beneficial for swift assessments, may inadvertently gloss over the multifaceted dimensions of an investment, such as liquidity considerations, risk exposure, or the longevity of returns.
  4. Variances in Calculation: The lack of a universally accepted method for computing ROI can yield divergent results. Especially in complex investments, the subjective determination of ‘return’ and ‘cost’ can skew ROI, necessitating standardization for cross-comparison integrity.
  5. Assumption of Reinvestment Rate: The silent assumption that reinvested returns mirror the original ROI can distort investment comparisons, especially when actual reinvestment opportunities present differing yields.
  6. The invisibility of Non-Financial Gains: ROI’s lens focuses narrowly on financial outcomes, rendering it oblivious to the intangible yet substantive gains like brand enhancement, customer satisfaction, or strategic positioning, which, while eluding immediate quantification, contribute materially to an investment’s overarching value proposition.

About 7e Investments

As in the case of many alternative real estate investments, a mortgage note fund often allows you to invest in real estate passively. This is a viable strategy for investors looking to expand their portfolios without the hassle of property ownership or management.

7e Investments runs a mortgage fund that buys distressed mortgage notes from the secondary market for purposes of investment. The notes are bought at a discounted rate and the payments are restructured to allow the borrower to resume making payments.

Profits are realized from the restructured payment and are distributed to investors of the fund every month. Investors are projected to receive an 8 – 10% ROI. These returns are distributed as dividends allowing you to keep more money in your pocket after taxes. Speak to a team member or CEO, Chris Seveney about building wealth by investing in mortgage notes.

Popular Questions about IRR Vs. ROI

Should I use ROI or IRR?

Whether you should use Return on Investment (ROI) or Internal Rate of Return (IRR) depends on the specifics of the financial situation and the objectives of the analysis. ROI is a straightforward metric that measures the profitability of an investment as a percentage of the initial investment. It is often used for comparing the efficiency of different investments or for a quick assessment of an investment’s profitability.

IRR, on the other hand, is a more complex metric that calculates the rate of return at which the net present value (NPV) of all the cash flows (both inflow and outflow) from a project or investment equals zero. It is particularly useful when evaluating the viability of projects with multiple future cash flows and for comparing the profitability of investments over time.

How do you convert IRR to ROI?

IRR and ROI are fundamentally different measures and cannot be directly converted from one to the other because they involve different input variables and calculations. IRR is derived from the equation that sets the NPV of cash flows equal to zero, whereas ROI is calculated by dividing the net profit of an investment by the initial investment cost.

To relate them, you could potentially use the IRR to calculate the expected total return over a project’s life, and then compare this to the initial investment to get an ROI-like figure, but this would not be a true conversion.

Why is ROI better than residual income?

ROI is generally considered a more accurate measure of an investment’s profitability because it relates the gain from an investment directly to the cost of the investment. It gives investors a percentage return which is easy to compare with other investments.

Residual income, which is the net income earned beyond the minimum rate of return, doesn’t provide the percentage return and might not account for the size of the investment. Therefore, ROI can be more informative when comparing different investments.

What is the biggest problem with IRR?

The biggest problem with IRR is its assumption that the cash inflows generated by an investment can be reinvested at the project’s own IRR. This assumption might not be realistic, particularly for projects with an unusually high IRR.

Also, IRR does not consider the scale of the project; a smaller project may have a higher IRR but contribute less overall value than a larger project with a lower IRR. Additionally, for projects with irregular cash flows or multiple sign changes in cash flow, there can be multiple IRRs, which makes the decision-making process ambiguous.

Why shouldn’t you use ROI?

Consult a financial advisor prior to making any investment based off your calculations. ROI may not always be the best metric to use for several reasons. First, it does not take into account the time value of money—cash flows that occur at different times are not considered equally valuable. Second, ROI does not provide any indication of the risk associated with an investment.

Third, if the investment involves multiple cash flows over time, ROI does not reflect the timing and magnitude of these cash flows. Finally, ROI does not account for the opportunity cost of capital and can oversimplify complex investment decisions.