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Education Briefing: A review of problematic investment selection issues associated with IRR and NPV benchmarks

James E. Larsen (Department of Finance and Financial Services, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Property Investment & Finance

ISSN: 1463-578X

Article publication date: 13 June 2024




The aim of this Education Briefing is to comment on the problematic issues that sometimes arise when using the internal rate of return (IRR) and/or the net present value (NPV) as a measure of expected investment performance. The briefing looks at the sometimes conflicting signposts that each benchmark presents and highlights ways that decision-makers can overcome or mitigate the effects of those problematic issues.


After a short review of the IRR and NPV techniques, this Education Briefing provides numerous examples of problematic issues that arise with certain cash flow profiles and suggests how to address them.


Both the IRR and NPV provide simple benchmarks that can mislead the decision-maker who is not familiar with the nuances of both techniques.

Practical implications

This review should heighten the reader’s ability to spot characteristics of proposed investments that may signal that a quick decision based on performance metrics may lead to disappointing results. These characteristics include: scale effects, unusual cash flow patterns and/or investments with dissimilar expected lives. Mutually exclusive investments merit special attention.


This is a review of existing performance measurement models.



Larsen, J.E. (2024), "Education Briefing: A review of problematic investment selection issues associated with IRR and NPV benchmarks", Journal of Property Investment & Finance, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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