Understanding the Capital Stack: A Comprehensive Guide

May 28, 2024

Understanding the Capital Stack: A Comprehensive Guide

When investing in real estate, understanding the capital stack is crucial. The capital stack refers to the layers of financing that fund a real estate project. Each layer has its own risk and return profile.

Investors need to know where they fit within the capital stack. This knowledge helps them assess risk and potential returns. Let's break down the main components of the capital stack.

real estate

the foundation of the capital stack. It represents ownership in the property. Equity holders are the first to absorb losses but also have the highest potential returns. There are two main types of equity: common equity and preferred equity.

Common equity holders have voting rights and share in the profits after all other obligations are met. Preferred equity holders have a fixed return but usually do not have voting rights.

Mezzanine Debt

Mezzanine debt sits above equity in the capital stack. It is a hybrid of debt and equity financing. Mezzanine debt holders have a higher claim on assets than equity holders but lower than senior debt holders.

investment chart

with more risk.

Senior Debt

Senior debt is the safest layer in the capital stack. It has the first claim on the property’s cash flow and assets. Because of its lower risk, it offers lower returns compared to equity and mezzanine debt.

Lenders of senior debt are typically banks or institutional investors. They provide financing with strict terms and lower interest rates.

Understanding Risk and Return

Each layer of the capital stack has different risk and return profiles. Equity holders face the highest risk but also have the potential for the highest returns. Senior debt holders face the least risk but have lower returns.

risk management

helps them make informed decisions and balance their investment portfolios effectively.


Understanding the capital stack is essential for real estate investors. It helps them assess risk, potential returns, and their position in the investment. By knowing the different layers, investors can make better decisions and achieve their financial goals.