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Operating Expense Ratio


The Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is a financial metric that assesses the operating costs of running a business relative to its income. It is calculated by dividing total operating expenses by its gross operating income. A lower ratio typically indicates the company is economically more efficient from an operational standpoint.


The phonetics of “Operating Expense Ratio” are:Operating: /ˈɑː.pə.reɪ.tɪŋ/Expense: /ɪkˈspɛns/Ratio: /ˈreɪ.ʃi.oʊ/

Key Takeaways

1. Definition: The Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is a measurement of the cost to operate a piece of property, compared to the income that the property brings in. It gives investors, owners and managers an idea of how much they are spending to operate each property.2. Calculation: It is often expressed as a percentage, calculated by dividing a property’s operating expense (excluding mortgage costs and depreciation) by its gross operating income. 3. Implications: This ratio is used in real estate to understand the financial efficiency of a property. A high OER means higher costs and lower profitability, which can impact investment decisions. Lower OERs are usually more desirable, indicating that a property is being operated efficiently.


The Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is a significant financial metric in business as it provides insights into a company’s operational efficiency in relation to its revenue generation. It is computed by dividing the total operating expenses by the company’s net sales. This ratio measures the proportion of revenue a company spends on expenses unrelated to production, such as administrative and marketing costs. A lower OER generally implies greater efficiency and profitability, as a smaller portion of income is being consumed by running costs. However, if the OER is high, it suggests the firm requires a larger percentage of revenue to cover its operating expenses, which can raise sustainability concerns. Consequently, understanding and optimizing the OER is essential for any business to maximize its operational effectiveness and profitability.


Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is a key metric that businesses and investors often use to understand how efficiently a company or a property is being run. Its purpose is to measure a company’s operational efficiency by comparing the total operating costs to the gross income. This result can be used to determine the proportion of a company’s revenue that is spent on operating costs — these can include rent, salaries, maintenance, utilities, and other overhead expenses. The lower the OER, the greater the company’s operational efficiency, which potentially leads to more profits.One of the primary uses of the OER is in comparing the operational efficiency of different companies within the same industry, or in assessing the performance of a company over time. Understanding this ratio can offer insight into management’s efficiency and whether the company’s revenue is being utilized effectively. For instance, investors can use the OER to compare investment opportunities in the real estate sector, where the OER is prevalent. A high OER in this context might suggest a property is costly to manage and may not be a good investment. In the broader context of business analysis, the OER provides an essential tool for determining a company’s profitability and financial health.


Operating Expense Ratio (OER) pertains to the operating costs of a business in relation to its gross income. It’s typically used to analyze how efficiently a company is operating, where a lower ratio suggests more efficiency (i.e. less money spent on operating expenses for every dollar of revenue). Here are three real-world examples of the application of this business/finance term.1. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): These trusts often use the OER to analyze the costs of managing their properties versus the rental income they’re generating. For example, if a REIT manages a property that annually costs $500,000 to operate and fetches $1,000,000 in rental income, the OER would be 0.50 or 50% ($500,000 / $1,000,000).2. Manufacturing Company: A manufacturing company earned $5 million in gross income last year, but the operating expenses (raw materials, labor, rent for the warehouse, utilities, etc.) came to $3.5 million. Here, the operating expense ratio would be 0.7 or 70%. This might prompt the company to take measures to reduce operating expenses and improve efficiency.3. Retail Business: A clothing store had gross sales of $200,000 last year, but it cost $120,000 to operate the store (paying employees, electricity, rent, etc). The OER is 0.60 or 60%. The store owner may decide to reassess suppliers or negotiate rent to lower this ratio and increase profit margins.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Operating Expense Ratio?

Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is a measurement of the cost to operate a property, company, or business compared to the income it generates. It’s normally expressed as a percentage and determined by dividing the operating expenses by the net operating income.

How is Operating Expense Ratio calculated?

The Operating Expense Ratio can be calculated by dividing the total operating expenses of a company by its gross operating income. The formula is: OER = Total Operating Expenses / Gross Operating Income.

What is considered an operating expense?

Operating expenses include any spending that a business incurs as a result of performing its normal business operations. These could include costs like rent, utilities, payroll, maintenance, insurance, and marketing.

Why is the Operating Expense Ratio important?

The Operating Expense Ratio is important as it helps evaluate a company’s efficiency. Lowering the OER can make a company more profitable and attractive to investors. It gives investors a clear insight into the management’s efficiency and the cost effectiveness of the operation.

How to improve Operating Expense Ratio?

An Operating Expense Ratio can be improved by reducing operating costs, increasing gross operating income, or a combination of both. This might involve strategies such as cost-cutting measures, increasing productivity, or optimizing prices to generate more income.

What is a good Operating Expense Ratio?

It largely depends on the specific industry and the nature of a company’s operations. Generally, however, a lower OER is more desirable as it indicates that a company is spending less to generate each dollar of income.

Are one-time expenses included in the Operating Expense Ratio?

No, the Operating Expense Ratio only considers recurring operational expenses. Expenses that are one-off, non-recurring, or irregular, are not included in the calculation.

Is it possible for an Operating Expense Ratio to exceed 100%?

Yes, it’s possible. An Operating Expense Ratio over 100% indicates that a company is spending more in operating costs than it is generating in gross operating income, which is not a healthy sign for a business.

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