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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Recommended Commercial Building Replacement Reserves by Property Type

Adequate replacement reserves are crucial for ensuring the long-term financial stability and success of a commercial real estate investment.

Replacement reserves are funds set aside to cover the costs of significant repairs, replacements, or improvements to a commercial property.

This article will outline the recommended replacement reserve allocations for various commercial property types, including office buildings, retail centers, industrial properties, and multi-family properties. It is important to note that these recommendations may vary based on factors such as location, age, and specific usage of the building.

Office Buildings

Office buildings often require significant capital expenditure to maintain their functionality and marketability. The recommended replacement reserve allocation for office buildings varies depending on the class of the building. For Class A office buildings, it is recommended to allocate between $0.15 and $0.25 per square foot per year. For Class B and C office buildings, a slightly lower range of $0.10 to $0.20 per square foot per year is suggested.

Key components to consider for replacement reserves in office buildings include HVAC systems, roofing, elevators, common area improvements, and parking structures.

Retail Centers

Retail centers, such as shopping malls and strip centers, require a different reserve allocation strategy due to their unique tenant mix and greater emphasis on appearance. Recommended replacement reserve allocations for retail centers range from $0.20 to $0.35 per square foot per year.

Key factors to consider for retail center replacement reserves include exterior and interior improvements, landscaping, parking lots, lighting, and signage. Additionally, it is essential to account for the potential tenant improvement allowances and leasing commissions associated with maintaining a stable tenant base.

Industrial Properties

Industrial properties, including warehouses and distribution centers, generally have lower capital expenditure requirements than office or retail properties. The recommended replacement reserve allocation for industrial properties is between $0.05 and $0.15 per square foot per year.

Major components to consider for industrial property replacement reserves include roofing, paving, exterior painting, and dock equipment. Additionally, consider allocating reserves for potential environmental remediation costs, as industrial properties are often more susceptible to environmental concerns.

Multi-Family Properties

Multi-family properties, such as apartment complexes, have unique replacement reserve needs due to the high turnover of tenants and the need to maintain individual units' condition. The recommended replacement reserve allocation for multi-family properties ranges from $250 to $400 per unit per year.

Key factors to consider for multi-family property replacement reserves include unit renovations, common area improvements, HVAC systems, roofing, and exterior painting. Additionally, it is essential to account for the potential tenant improvement allowances and leasing commissions associated with maintaining a stable tenant base.

Above or below the line?

A common question in our CRE industry is do the replacement reserves go above the line or below the line. The line is Net Operating Income (NOI). In financial statements, the term "above the line" and "below the line" is often used to differentiate between operating and non-operating activities.

Replacement reserves are funds set aside to replace or repair major capital items in real estate, such as roofs, HVAC and other major building components. Sellers and listing brokers will typically underwrite the replacement reserves below the line, not including them in the NOI. Since NOI is used to determine the value of an investment property, having the reserves below the NOI line will help increase the value.

However, the exact presentation of replacement reserves can vary depending on the accounting standards being followed and the specific context. For example, many commercial lenders will include reserves in the NOI (above the line) to ensure the property will meet debt coverage requirements with the reserves included. It is important to review the financial statements and related notes to understand how you should treat its replacement reserves.

By default, TheAnalyst PRO will include the Replacement Reserves and Capital Expenditure expenses below the NOI line. If you prefer to include the reserves in your NOI, simply customize the Line-Item Expense as Replacement Reserves.  

Capital Expenses / Replacement Reserves in TheAnalyst PRO


Properly allocating replacement reserves is a critical component of managing a successful commercial real estate investment. By considering the unique factors and requirements of each property type, investors can make informed decisions about the appropriate level of reserves to ensure their properties remain competitive and financially stable in the long term. It is essential to regularly reevaluate reserve allocations based on changes in the property's condition, market dynamics, and other factors to ensure adequate funding for necessary capital expenditures.